Month: August 2022

East Texas planter discovers compelling— and surprising—need in hometown

When God called Teddy Sorrells to plant a church in 2020, he expected to be sent to San Francisco or Denver, one of the popular church planting cities. Instead, a quick demographics study led him to plant in the small East Texas town he’d been trying all his life to leave.

“I was born in Gladewater. I joined the Army to leave Gladewater. I came back to Gladewater and raised my sons here. I pastored a little country church just south of Gladewater. I thought, ‘Now is the time for me to leave Gladewater,’” Sorrells said. 

At his wife Marilyn’s prompting, Sorrells requested demographics data on Gladewater from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. “I didn’t think I was going to read through it and find anything surprising because I’d been in Gladewater my whole life,” he said.

God used two statistics in particular about the town of 8,000 to grab Sorrells’s attention: half of the town’s residents are millennials or Gen Z, and a quarter of the homes are led by single mothers. 

“Marilyn was raised by a single mom. I was raised by a single mom. These families are next-generation families that need a church that will love them and care for them and minister to them,” said Sorrells, who was saved and called to the ministry 20 years ago at age 29.

He was surprised to learn of so many younger residents because he doesn’t necessarily see them around town, he said. Maybe that’s because 83 percent of homes in Gladewater are rentals housing laborers who commute to nearby Longview or Tyler. 

With a strong motivation to plant in Gladewater, Sorrells began building a core group and casting a vision. “I put the word out, and real fast God started bringing folks that were either in my past or folks that I had known just by acquaintance that wanted to be a part of what we were going to do.”

Living Water Church launched in September 2021 with 122 people attending the first day.

Living Water Church in Gladewater has baptized eight people since its launch a year ago. They use a local lake for baptisms. Photo Submitted

Something unique is that they started with a building and with two services. Sorrells had driven by a Family Video store in Gladewater and mentioned to Marilyn that he didn’t see how they could stay in business with so few people renting videos anymore. 

Days later, a “going out of business” sign appeared, and Sorrells was able to lease the building for his church plant. Now the church has a prime location on the main road in Gladewater. 

“God has met and exceeded every expectation we’ve set in planting Living Water Church.”

Also, the worship space accommodates 70 chairs, so two services allow room for growth. Living Water is averaging 70 people between the two services now, and they’ve baptized eight people.

“One of the things I wanted to do was partner with our city,” Sorrells said. “I wanted people to come to our church on Sundays, but I wanted people to know us by what we’re doing in our city.”

They’ve had multiple block parties, and for teacher appreciation week they provided food for teachers at the local middle school and gave them gift baskets. Sorrells was invited to be the chaplain for the high school football team.

“It just blows me away how many students we have in Gladewater that have no idea who Jesus is,” he said. At the end of football season, the church hosted the players and coaches and offered games, food, a worship time, and a gospel presentation. Four students were saved and six rededicated their lives to Christ.

"I wanted people to come to our church on Sundays, but I wanted people to know us by what we’re doing in our city."

Teddy Sorrells, pastor of Living Water Church in Gladewater, tried to leave his hometown, but God set his heart on fire for the people there.

Sorrells contacted the local code enforcement office to ask if any residents were having trouble getting their homes in compliance. A missions team from a partner church helped an elderly couple clean up their home and yard as “the hands and feet of Jesus.” 

“Our city is impoverished, so there are like five housing projects in our city, and low-income earners live in our city,” Sorrells said. “There are not a lot of churches that are excited about reaching that demographic, but I am.”

Church planting is important even in a church-saturated small town like Gladewater, Sorrells has come to realize, because it’s biblical. God has called the church to advance the gospel, he said, and that means churches need to multiply exponentially.

The apostle Paul traveled to communities planting churches, Sorrells said, and that’s the model. 

“That’s why it’s important to plant churches in places like Gladewater, Texas, where in the middle of the Bible Belt you have 100 churches in our area that are either plateaued or dying because there hasn’t been a new work of God come through here in forever because we’ve quit multiplying,” Sorrells said.

“That’s small town and big town, rural and urban. All of those have the same problem: Lost people need Jesus, and God has called the church to go tell lost people about Jesus.” 

Block parties are one way Living Water Church in Gladewater is getting to know its community in order to share the hope of Christ.

Enthusiasm, hopes for ‘fertile soil’ highlight annual meeting planning in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS (BP)—The enthusiasm was as thick as the late summer air as hundreds of pastors and church leaders gathered at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) to prepare to welcome thousands of messengers to the Crescent City in 2023.

Local leaders believe the convention will make a tremendous impact on the city.

“There’s a new energy and new excitement. I’m expecting great things in this convention and in our cooperative work going forward,” said Jack Hunter, executive director of the New Orleans Baptist Association.

Jamie Dew, NOBTS president, believes the annual meeting’s return to the Gulf Coast will give Southern Baptists an opportunity to see urban evangelism, church planting and mercy ministry in a context where it makes a great impact.

“Those are things that matter to Southern Baptists very deeply, and they are natural opportunities here in our city,” Dew told Baptist Press.

SBC President Bart Barber revealed the theme for the 2023 Annual Meeting. Basing it on 2 Corinthians 4:5, he said it will be “Serving the Lord; Serving others.”

“I hope that we can show that through Crossover and through the things we do during the annual meeting as well,” Barber said.

Barber reflected on the impact the city has made on his wife, who has served on disaster relief teams numerous times over the years.

“I have a hope and belief that the seeds that have been planted during those disaster responses can be a harvest for us during Crossover this year,” Barber told Baptist Press.

The last time the meeting was in New Orleans was 2012. It was a historic year as Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, was elected SBC president. Luter became the first African American to be elected to the post.

He believes New Orleans can be the place where Southern Baptists are reminded of their primary focus on evangelism and discipleship.

“To have the convention back in New Orleans will be a great opportunity to get us back on the right foot,” Luter said.

Willie McLaurin, interim president/CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, served as emcee of the event that gave convention organizers an opportunity to talk about the key role local leaders play in the months leading up to the annual meeting.

“This is an opportunity to cast a vision for the upcoming annual meeting and to let local pastors and leaders know how important they are as we partner together,” McLaurin said.

He believes the meeting will have a great impact on the city.

“This will be an important opportunity for Southern Baptists from all across the country to come here to learn how they can partner locally to help get people off the road to hell and get on the road to heaven,” McLaurin told Baptist Press.

Hunter believes the city is ready for that impact. “We believe having Southern Baptists among will be a great encouragement to us,” he said. “Both through the Crossover event and the Serve Tour, just having them here among us will be a great blessing.”

New Orleans area pastor Jay Adkins is leading the Local Encouragement Team, a team that helps recruit local volunteers and spread the word about the annual meeting’s arrival. He says Southern Baptists serving the region after Katrina gave them an open door for Gospel conversations, and the city’s hosting the annual meeting could give them a second opportunity.

“My prayer is that we will have fertile soil from the work of the Serve Tour and Crossover,” Adkins said. “My hope is that people (messengers) will see this community … as a unique place with a unique history that is a blessing to serve.”

The 2023 meeting was originally scheduled to be held in Charlotte, N.C., but the SBC EC voted to move the meeting to New Orleans due to the need for more convention space necessitated by increased attendance the past few years.

Those attending the kickoff also heard a preview of the 2023 SBC Pastors’ Conference from Daniel Dickard, this year’s conference president. He said his primary focus is to encourage pastors to continue in faithful ministry.

“Since its inception in 1935, it’s always existed for that purpose,” Dickard said of the annual gathering.

He believes pastors are in great need of encouragement and pointed to how pastors have been stretched thin by the coronavirus pandemic and the turbulent cultural climate.

“We’re going to emphasize nine pastors, many of whom have retired or are retiring, as they have been faithful through the years,” Dickard said. “We want to hear from them, ‘This is what kept me in the ministry during the tough times.’”

Dickard plans to begin announcing conference speakers and more details later this fall.

The 2023 SBC Annual Meeting is set for June 13-14 at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

Seeing growth on the horizon, Quinlan church builds facility to reach community

QUINLAN—Small town life is good in Quinlan, a community of just over 1,400 in rural Hunt County near Lake Tawakoni. But that doesn’t mean Quinlan, as with any community, is free of problems. Grace Baptist Church hopes to address some of the town’s issues with the construction of its new multi-purpose facility.

“There are some of the sweetest people in the world in Quinlan,” said Eddie Singleton, pastor of Grace Baptist Church since 2018. “It’s a great mission field. … God does the picking. I go where He leads me.”

“There’s no better place than Quinlan to see lives changed,” added J.D. Points, the church’s volunteer associate pastor. “In Hunt County, there is a mix of problems: racism, drug addiction, mental health issues.”

Crime can be a factor. The church’s outside air conditioning unit was recently vandalized, as a perpetrator stripped its copper, temporarily sidelining some activities but not stopping worship.

Points, 56, a contractor with his family’s company Dalco, said Grace desires to keep growing in numbers to see lives changed. He and his wife, Carey, “fell in love with [the] little church” four years ago, when they moved from the Buffalo Creek community in Heath into their RV on Tawakoni, downsizing from 3,500 square feet to 400.

“We are having the time of our life,” Points said.

New pastor arrives

Shortly after J.D. and Carey joined Grace, the pastor, a friend from Criswell College, moved to Georgia, but this did not deter Points and his wife, who stayed to welcome Singleton as the new pastor.

Singleton, 74, who says with a chuckle that Johnny Cash’s song “I’ve Been Everywhere” could have been written about him, had retired four times before coming to Grace, where he and his wife, Carolyn, commute from their home in Farmersville, 30 minutes away.

The veteran pastor served churches in the Hunt Baptist Association, Grayson County, Red River County, and Dallas County, in addition to filling several interim positions, before coming to the Quinlan congregation.

“I never intended to get back into the full-time pastorate,” Singleton said. But God had other ideas.

When Singleton arrived, attendance at Grace, which was the product of a merger between the old Bridgeview and Faith Baptist churches some years before, had declined to fewer than 20 on Sundays.

The problem was not in the church’s location.

The church occupies a prime corner in Quinlan at the intersection of highways 276 and 751. Attempts to sell the property for several years fell short and the church remodeled the worship area and decided to revitalize.

Points came about this time, followed within a year by Singleton, who asked Points to serve as his associate.

“He came, we started reaching out,” Points said. People came. The congregation swelled to over 100.

Then COVID hit.

“COVID really zapped us,” Points said, noting that several COVID-related deaths sadly occurred among the congregation.

Recently, attendance has been again “knocking on the door of 100,” Points said. “We are getting younger, too,” with families joining.

Grace Baptist Quinlan hopes its new facility, partly financed through the Southern Baptists of Texas Foundation, will be used to reach the community. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Filling a church and community need

To encourage younger families to attend, and to serve a community need—Quinlan lacks a large indoor facility that teens and groups can use—the church voted to construct a new 10,000-square-foot building for education, offices, and fellowship.

“There will be a kitchen, too,” Singleton said. “Man, we wouldn’t be Baptists if we didn’t have a kitchen. We are excited about it.”

“Quinlan has no large facilities that can be used to outsource ministries. It’s hard to reach children and youth without these facilities to draw them in,” Points said, adding that, following the pandemic, schools are reluctant to let outside groups use their gyms, auditoriums, and meeting rooms.

The congregation’s giving toward regular church expenses and the project has been very generous, Points said. With about a third of the funds for the new building in hand, they approached the Southern Baptists of Texas Foundation for a loan for the rest. SBTF responded favorably.

“We made a loan to Grace Quinlan for their construction project,” said Michael J. Rhine, SBTF director of church lending, explaining the Foundation’s lending ministry: “We make loans to qualified churches to purchase buildings, renovate property, refinance existing loans, and fund the construction of new facilities. We currently have over $96 million in outstanding loans to churches across Texas.”

Grace Baptist Church of Quinlan met the criteria for a loan, Rhine added. “The church has a history of reaching the community and had seen growth in its worship and Bible study attendance. The new facilities will allow the church to expand its outreach in order to reach its community for Christ.”

Singleton said the Mueller steel building has been purchased and is on-site, and now they are waiting for the crew to erect it as soon as COVID delays allow. Folks from Christian Volunteer Builders are scheduled to help in September with inside finish work. The building project, overseen by Dalco and Points, is expected to be complete by the end of the year, five months after the July 7 groundbreaking.

In the meantime, ministry goes on at Grace—not just church and Sunday school, but outreaches on the current church property in which they bring in video game trailers or bounce houses for kids. As community members see the new parking lot filled with cars for Sunday morning and evening services, Tuesday morning Bible study, and Wednesday evening activities, they know the church is back.

Many have stopped by and commented, “We thought this place was closed,” said Points, who added, “They know something is going on.”


Avoiding the unintentional pitfalls of discipleship

Churches love to talk about discipleship. Pastors preach on it, parishioners celebrate it, and everyone wants to be a part of it. But few people do it. Most people expect discipleship to be the pastor’s responsibility or the duty of their Sunday school teacher. Although they love to theorize about discipleship, few, if any, make disciples.

Jesus modeled discipleship with His disciples. The four gospels describe how Jesus would invite people to follow Him, show them how to minister to others, and preach the kingdom of God to those who were far off. Matthew’s final chapter of the gospel tells the story of Jesus commissioning His disciples to continue making disciples in the future (Matt 28:18-20).

The point is that discipleship is not a theoretical concept the church holds dear. Making disciples is an act the church carries out as the core of its mission. The church must move beyond discussing discipleship and get to the work of making disciples.

Pitfall 2: Knowledge-driven discipleship

We have all been to churches that call their Bible studies “discipleship classes.” Churches love Bible study. Bible study is incredible. I love spending time with the Word and diving deep, growing my knowledge of Jesus, but Bible study is not the only element of discipleship. Discipleship is not just an increase in Bible knowledge or transference of knowledge. Discipleship includes life transformation.

Think about Jesus. Jesus led His disciples to change their lives and know more about God. When Jesus called His disciples, He did not allow them to remain living their old lives and study his ministry from afar. Jesus called them to cast off their old life and to live as He did (Mark 1:16-20). Jesus required his disciples to live differently and think differently.

Churches would do well to process the life transformation factor of discipleship when planning their approach to making disciples. Churches were commanded to teach people how to live like Christ and learn about Christ should cause churches to implement habit-forming teaching elements into discipleship.

Pitfall 3: Activity focused discipleship 

I love celebrating big wins at a church. I love the excitement and feeling we get when expectations are met or exceeded for the glory of the Lord. A few weeks ago, I saw a church celebrating a big win that many churches celebrate. They had reached an all-time high attendance for their Vacation Bible School. That was great!

At the same time, it caused me to wonder about what the church celebrates. Are we content with celebrating people showing up or should we seek more?

As I look at the ministry of Jesus, I know that He celebrated His the progress of His disciples, but I never see Him celebrate the crowds. He would encourage his disciples when they would answer his questions correctly or act as they should. But the text never says anything about his response to preaching to the multitudes on the sea’s shore. From this, I think Jesus was more concerned with taking His discipleship to maturity than the crowds attending.

When it comes to discipleship in the church, churches can learn something from Jesus’ actions. Instead of focusing on the activity caused by an event, churches should focus on the spiritual depth produced by the event. The church is not a place to appeal to the masses. The church is the place that makes mature disciples.

Pitfall 4: Product-pushing discipleship 

Think about the way churches market their discipleship classes for a second. What I hear most often is, “Come to this class as we work through (insert author’s name here)’s new Bible study (insert Bible study name here).” Although we mean well, it would seem that we are basing our proposition on a product and not a process.

Jesus’ example of discipleship was a process. He was not worried about the latest popular rabbi teaching series or other supplemental material. He was intentional about meeting His disciples where they were spiritually and encouraging them to maturity. He was concerned about the process of building them to maturity.

I wonder what it would look like if churches began to think this way. Instead of worrying about who wrote the book and promoting studies on the names of the latest authors, they looked at their people’s needs and encouraged their congregation to get involved because the gatherings would change their life and help them walk with Christ.

Church, let’s get to the work of making disciples. Let’s lead our people to live like Christ. Let’s celebrate when our people grow in faith, maturing in their relationship with Jesus. Let us seek life change in our people and take them through the process of discipleship.

Bible among books under review by Texas school district after parent complaint

KELLER, Texas (BP)—Reports of the Bible’s being removed alongside other books from school libraries don’t tell the full story, said a statement issued by the Keller Independent School District (ISD) Aug. 18.

“Books that have been challenged by community members as being inappropriate for schools are required to be removed from shelves and held in a Parental Consent Area until the challenge process is complete,” said superintendent Rick Westfall. “Previously challenged books are also being moved to a Parental Consent Area to determine if those books meet the new standards in the policy and the guidelines that will soon be considered by the Board.”

Materials placed in the Parental Consent Area are not completely off limits to students, said the Keller ISD in response to a list of questions by Baptist Press.

“The Parental Consent Area is a new concept that was established in these new policies, so the details regarding the exact location in each library are still being determined,” the district replied in an email. “Typically, it will just be an area in an office where titles are held that are being reviewed, so that students can only access them with written permission from a parent. Librarians and administrators would have access to the area.”

Last year, “any variation” of the Bible appeared on a list of books that garnered at least one complaint by a parent or community member. Other books included a graphic novel based on the diary of Anne Frank and several with LGBTQ themes and discussions over race.

The parent who challenged the appropriateness of the Bible withdrew that challenge in December, but two other parents issued another challenge in the spring.

The Bible was “quickly determined to be appropriate” the district told BP. However, as part of a recently-adopted policy, the district is required to reevaluate all books that had previously been challenged.

The controversy renewed last week when an email obtained by The Texas Tribune Aug. 16 showed the district’s director of curriculum and instruction instructing principals to remove the listed books from shelves and store them in a different location “by the end of today.”

Keller ISD issued a follow-up statement explaining policies approved at an Aug. 8 special meeting that “relate to the acquisition and review of instructional materials and library books.”

Campus librarians and other staff are being asked to assess books that were challenged over the last year. Those books that meet the new guidelines will be returned to the library “as soon as it is confirmed they comply with the new policy.”

A council made up of community leaders voted in February to leave several books – including the Bible – on shelves. But the addition of three new board members in the spring led to the review process’ beginning again, the Tribune reported.

The Texas Education Agency released a new set of operations in April following calls from Governor Greg Abbott to address obscene content that may be found in the state’s school libraries.

A number of factors determine the review process’ length, the school district said.

“Some titles that are found to be very obviously appropriate will be returned after a quick review at the campus level,” it said. “If necessary, a review committee consisting of employees, parents and community members may need to be convened to determine the appropriateness of a title.”

Hook-up culture: Unsatisfying diversion from God’s design

NASHVILLE (BP)—Merely “consensual” sexual relations can be harmful, a young Washington Post columnist writes in a new book, “Rethinking Sex.”

Today’s seemingly liberated culture doesn’t weigh whether consensual sex is “ethically good, morally good, good for the person having it, good for the encounter and what it creates in society at large,” Christine Emba said on C-SPAN’s author interview series “After Words” in June.

Christians, however, must not succumb to cultural pressure for consensual sex, Florida pastor Dean Inserra exhorts.

“God’s design in the Scriptures for human sexuality is as clear and plain as any other important doctrine,” Inserra, author of a new book, “Pure: Why the Bible’s Plan for Sexuality Isn’t Outdated, Irrelevant, or Oppressive,” noted.

“What God says about marriage and sex is as clear as Jesus walking on water,” he said on the Digital Public Square podcast of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

Emba, describing the cultural pressure, said many young adults “feel that to be seen as modern, to be seen as ‘sex positive,’ they have to be up for it all the time (and) that to complain or to raise qualms about a certain act or encounter would mean they’re judgmental or repressive or old-fashioned in some way.”

Emba said she is telling readers, “It’s not crazy to want something better than the sexual culture that we have now.”

Sex may be consensual – within the legal bounds of “yes means yes and no means no” – yet it can still be “bad, degrading, traumatizing,” Emba said. Many young adults she interviewed “were having sex that they were supposed to enjoy, but weren’t. … There can be a lot of pain and hurt hidden there and big questions that end up swept under the rug.” Today’s hook-up culture doesn’t have “a language” for “talking about what is good or what is bad.”

Interviewees often “talked about intimacy, transcendence, the desire for care, even love” in their sexual routines, Emba said, “but they felt almost sheepish saying that they wanted it to mean something because they felt so much cultural pressure to say that it meant nothing,” that they were just “collecting experiences.”

“In the modern era, (we) have pushed the idea of morality, or at least a shared morality, out of the public square,” she added. “You can talk about whether things are legal, whether they’re consenting, whether something was actually criminal, but to go deeper and ask, ‘What does this say about us? What are our moral standards and frameworks? What should they be?’ – that’s seen as something private and personal, something you can hold for yourself, but you can’t put on another person.”

Emba, a Catholic, said she envisions “a better standard for sex, a better sexual ethic” – the Golden Rule, “that you think about the other person’s good as much as you would think about your own. You weigh care for them as highly as you weigh care for yourself. … We all have a sense of what human flourishing might look like. And we all want that for ourselves.”

For Inserra, lead pastor of CityChurch in Tallahassee, sexual relations and marriage carry a greater importance that extends to the heart of the Gospel.

In Scripture, “it’s as clear as can be that God has made marriage to be between a man and a woman, a husband and a wife. They were to come together to become one flesh,” Inserra said in the June ERLC podcast. “God has a design and to step out of that design sexually in any way, shape or form is sin.”

The creation narrative of Adam and Eve is “echoed throughout the storyline of the Bible,” he continued. “When Jesus is asked about marriage in Matthew 19, he references Genesis as an historic event, Adam and Eve as real people, as God’s design.”

When the apostle Paul addresses the Corinthian church about their sexual sin (1 Corinthians 6), Inserra noted that Paul likewise cites Genesis in teaching that God made male and female to become one flesh in marriage.

Then, in Ephesians 5, Paul cites marriage “to show us the relationship between Christ and the church … that the visible portrait of a man and a woman together as married – that one flesh-ness – gives us an understanding of the invisible reality of the relationship between Christ and the church,” Inserra said. “The institution of marriage actually points us to our union with Christ.

“For us to back down on that, to be quiet on that, to give disclaimers, to be apologetic is for us to take lightly what God has said and let the culture, and how we’re viewed by people, determine the narrative rather than the Scriptures.”

Young Christians are dealing with “a new reality that sex is expected,” Inserra acknowledged. “What used to be the first kiss is now sleeping together. To agree to go on a date with someone is to agree to sleep with them, if not the first date, the second date.

“That’s why I encourage Christians to date other Christians. It’s not only biblical, but it’s critical right now for people to have the same ethic as you do concerning God’s design. … Please don’t even tempt with dating someone who’s not a believer. I’m not saying that two Christians are exempt from these temptations, but hopefully at least the expectation is not there.”

Sexuality, hookup culture, adultery, homosexuality, pornography cannot be “taboo topics” in the church, Inserra said, noting “there’s a way to be appropriate with it in terms of mixed company” or with a young audience. “But we have to make sure we talk about this” because Christians “can’t be in the murky middle when it comes to sexuality issues” as they reflect “the way of Jesus of truth and grace” to those who view them as bigots and sexual prudes.

“You’re going to get put on the spot about what you believe about certain things,” Inserra said, voicing admiration for those who “stand strong in terms of sexuality and purity, of valuing marriage in a world that really doesn’t (value it) very much anymore. … Christian college students with real conviction and young adults with real conviction (are) trying to do it the right way because they love God and they love others.”

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

New TobyMac album ‘Life After Death’ proclaims the goodness of God

NASHVILLE (BP)—Grammy-winning contemporary Christian artist TobyMac’s new album “Life After Death,” proclaims the goodness of God amidst the most devastating of circumstances.

The 15-track album, releasing Friday (Aug. 19) is the first for TobyMac (Kevin Michael McKeehan) since the death of his son and oldest child Truett in the fall of 2019 at the age of 21.

In an interview with Baptist Press, McKeehan said the first music he began to create after Truett’s passing simply reflected “the thoughts and feelings of walking through that season of loss.”

The first song to come was “21 Years,” a tribute to his son and an emotional song of lament expressing his grief-stricken thoughts to God.

A few weeks later, McKeehan asked his daughter Marlee if she would help him create a song dedicated to Truett which became “Everything About You.” He later would produce a song titled “Faithfully.”

Months after that, and still in immense pain, McKeehan wondered if he would ever return to his traditional musical style, as opposed to the more serious ballads he had been creating.

“I was just grieving and wondering, will I ever write an up-tempo song again, or is this just where I’m going to live?” McKeehan said.

This all changed when he came across a Bible verse referencing God “rolling up his sleeve” (Isaiah 52:10), which inspired him to create the song “Help Is On The Way.”

“It was an intense and up-beat song, and I started to believe it and started to count on God rolling up His sleeves and coming to help. I started to stand on that a little bit.”

McKeehan would continue his return back to uplifting and up-beat music with the song “The Goodness,” which he developed after discovering a quote that said “a saint is not someone who is good, but someone who experiences the goodness of God.”

“I kind of discovered that good is God somehow or another,” McKeehan said. “Somehow these little bands of light made it through all the foliage making things dark, and I started to see these glimpses of light and it was God’s goodness. If you give God a true chance and walk with Him in your deepest pain, there is life after death.

“That’s what I experienced. I can be a saint, and I can follow my King, because I’ve experienced and do experience the goodness of God even in the midst of utter devastation.”

“The Goodness” features voice and piano contributions from Blessing Offor, a blind Christian recording artist recently nominated for a Dove award for “Best New Artist.”

This is just one of the album’s collaborations. Other musicians appearing on the record include Zach Williams, Sheryl Crow, Tauren Wells, Jon Reddick, Cory Asbury and Wande.

Notably, one track includes a reunion with McKeehan’s old dc Talk bandmates Michael Tait and Kevin Max.

The song, titled “Space,” refers to the ups and downs of human relationships and the distance that often develops between friends over time whether naturally or intentionally.

“As I was pondered that concept and pondered my relationship with Michael and Kevin, I thought it would be a great song for us to put forth together,” McKeehan said. “The three of us locked arms and climbed a mountain together. The three of us all laughed, cried, argued and loved together.

“We’re not as close as we were back then, but that doesn’t mean we don’t care for each other, and love keeps no record of wrongs. So even if we’ve hurt each other in the past, we need to stand on that principle.”

Throughout the process of making the album, McKeehan said his close relationship with God is what helped him wrestle through the hard season. He encouraged others to seek out the same relationship.

“The way we relate to God is by talking to Him and listening,” McKeehan said. “The only way I’m truly in a relationship with God is if I’m listening to Him, and the way I listen to Him is by reading His Word. I also can’t be relationship with God if I’m not talking to Him through prayer.”

McKeehan said the goal for his music is to make it accessible and relatable to others.

“I always want to write songs that resonate with as many people as possible because these songs are to serve people,” he said. “My heart is to be transparent and raw in my life and my music because I figure I go through things for a reason.”

“I’ve been through some really hard things and climbed some mountains where the view was beautiful. I want to always share that with everybody. The music that I make is to serve and not to take or indulge. I just want to be a servant in this process.

“When other people are walking through the same things, it might just whisper in their ear along the way or offer some type of love through these songs to let them know they’re not alone. There’s a God out there who loves us and there is purpose in everything.”

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

Gospel seeds planted as SBTC DR teams work in flooded Missouri

ST. LOUIS—Rainfall of historic proportions pummeled Missouri and Illinois along the Interstate 70 and 64 corridors on July 26, when an estimated 11 inches of rain fell in an 8-hour period, according to the National Weather Service.

On August 9, the Biden administration approved Missouri’s major disaster declaration request, almost two weeks following flash flooding that swamped the St. Louis metropolitan area, damaging more than 750 homes and 130 businesses, news sources reported.

Even before the federal disaster declaration, disaster relief volunteers from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and other Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams had already arrived in the Show Me State, partnering with Missouri Baptist DR to meet the needs of survivors.

“At one point, there were about 120 SBDR and other disaster relief workers onsite,” said James Palmer, SBTC DR unit leader and bi-vocational pastor of Eastside Baptist Church of Rusk. Palmer, with a team of five SBTC DR mud-out and chainsaw volunteers from the Tyler area all the way south to Del Rio, arrived in Bridgeton, a suburb of St. Louis, on August 7. They were housed at the Fee Fee Baptist Church in Bridgeton and began work on August 8 before departing for home on August 13.

The five-man team tackled four massive jobs, said Palmer, who also works part-time for the bridge and road department of Cherokee County.

Even getting to Bridgeton proved challenging, Palmer said. One SBTC DR group with two crew members pulled the recovery trailer stored by the Dogwood Trails Baptist Association while he and two others rode in a separate vehicle. That pickup’s GPS took Palmer and his co-workers on some unexpected short detours, he said. One such side trip delayed them slightly, but after making a U-turn and backtracking down the road, they witnessed a bad accident that had only recently occurred.

“Had we not taken that little detour, we might have been in the wreck,” Palmer mused. “God provides.”

God definitely provided a congenial team with which to work, Palmer said, noting the camaraderie of the SBTC DR volunteers and volunteers from the other Baptist groups, including Missouri.

Jean Ducharme sprays antimold treatment in a survivor's basement while Tom Mathis works on a wall at a flood home. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Seeds planted

The work was intense. At one home, where the basement had filled with 40 inches of water, crew members spent an exhausting day-and-a-half hauling up hundreds of items, only some of which were salvageable. At another home, a tree had fallen through the back three bedrooms, knocking down ceilings. Not only had water flooded the bedroom but also the basement. That job took two days.

There were opportunities to share the gospel and pray with survivors, Palmer said. Some expressed interest. Others, like a man who made a call on his cell phone rather than joining the group to pray, did not. One survivor, a Jehovah’s Witness follower, chided Palmer for praying in the name of Jesus.

“I spent some time trying to communicate the gospel to him,” Palmer said. “I hope a seed was planted.”

In fact, the team leader added, the gospel was planted in the locations served.

“We’ll see what the Lord does next,” he said. “It was a blessing to go and help.”

An added benefit, Palmer said, was that he noted some ways that the homeowners might have been better prepared for disaster, calling it a learning experience for himself and his church.

SBTC DR Director Scottie Stice confirmed that two additional teams are scheduled to deploy to Missouri to continue to help with recovery efforts this week.


Hébert called to serve as lead pastor of Mobberly Baptist Church

LONGVIEW—Mobberly Baptist Church has called Andrew Hébert as its lead pastor after a 21-month search. Hébert’s first Sunday in the pulpit will be Sept. 11, 2022.

On Sunday evening, August 14, Mobberly voted to call Hébert as their lead pastor, and he accepted the call—capping a weekend that included multiple meetings and forums for the congregation and staff.

“I am humbled to steward the leadership of Mobberly Baptist Church and serve the East Texas community,” Hébert said. “Mobberly has an extraordinary legacy and a bright future. My prayer is that God will unleash a Great Commission engine that will reach East Texas and impact the world by helping people know Christ and grow in Christ so that homes, neighborhoods, and nations are changed.”

Hébert, 35, served as lead pastor of Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo, a position he had held since 2016. During his time with Paramount, he led his congregation to form mission partnerships in Panama, London, and the Middle East, as well as establish two new churches, a college ministry, and a ministry in Spanish. Prior to leading Paramount, Hébert served as pastor of Taylor Memorial Baptist Church in Hobbs, N.M.

“As we have gotten to know Pastor Andrew and his wife Amy over the past month, I have seen God revealing giftings, abilities, and values that I think our church needs at this time,” said Reneé Robertson, a member of Mobberly’s Pastor Search Committee. “Pastor Andrew is an expositional preacher, so he preaches through books of the Bible verse by verse and has such a passion for the Word.”

Chairman of the Pastor Search Committee, Lanny Davis said, “The many prayers of our church family have been answered in Dr. Andrew Hébert. His heart of humility, love of God’s Word, and desire to love and shepherd the people of Mobberly is evident.”

Greg Martin, pastor of congregational care and staff liaison to the Pastor Search Committee, said, “We have seen God’s hand at work over and over again through the pastor search process.” He added, “We believe that God has taken us through this journey to prepare us and bring us God’s man in God’s perfect time … [Andrew] has a scriptural basis for what he believes. He loves the Word, he loves his family, and he loves to shepherd the people of God.”

Andrew and Amy met as students at Criswell College in Dallas. They have been married for 15 years and have four children.

In addition to his pastoral experience, Hébert has taught at Criswell College, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has served within the Southern Baptist Convention on multiple committees, most recently as a member of the SBC Sex Abuse Task Force. Hébert is also the author of “Shepherding Like Jesus: Returning to the Wild Idea that Character Matters in Ministry” (B&H Books, 2022).

Hébert is the sixth pastor in the 84-year history of Mobberly Baptist Church.

Pastors encourage single adults, some provide targeted ministries

NASHVILLE—As the number of single adults in the United States continues to grow, so does the need for ministry to single adults in churches.

According to a 2020 profile of single Americans by Pew Research Center, nearly 1 in 4 (23 percent) U.S. adults ages 30-49 are single – not married, living with a partner or in a committed romantic relationship. And the 2021 U.S. Census Bureau data on America’s Families and Living Arrangements reveals many of these have never been married. More than 2 in 5 (43 percent) U.S. adults ages 30-34 have never been married, which means that adults in the U.S. are waiting longer to get married. In fact, the median age at first marriage has been on the rise since the mid 1900s. In 2021, the estimated median age to marry for the first time was 30.4 for men and 28.6 for women, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

An increase in the number of single adults, and particularly single adults over the age of 30, brings with it a need for increased intentionality toward single adults in churches. A study from Lifeway Research asked Protestant pastors how their churches specifically minister to single adults ages 30 and older. Most pastors encourage these single adults to serve in leadership (92 percent) and volunteer (91 percent) roles. Some offer small group Bible studies and classes specifically for them (45 percent) or plan social events for them (43 percent). Fewer than 1 in 3 (30 percent) offer large group Bible teaching times specifically for them. Another 5 percent of pastors say they do not specifically minister to single adults in any of these ways, and 2 percent say they minister in other ways.

“Clearly, pastors want single adults integrated into the life and ministry of their churches,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “However, less than half of churches have programs in place to address the unique needs of single adults.”

Some churches more likely to provide specific single adult ministries

Larger churches tend to do more to specifically minister to their single adults. Pastors of the largest churches, those with more than 250 in attendance, are the most likely to say they offer small group Bible studies and classes (68 percent), plan social events (65 percent) and offer large group Bible teaching times (47 percent) specifically for them. And pastors at the smallest churches, those with fewer than 50 in attendance, are least likely to say they offer small group Bible studies and classes (29 percent) or large group Bible teaching times specifically for them (19 percent).

Although the majority of pastors in churches of every size say they encourage their single adults to serve in volunteer roles, larger churches emphasize this more than smaller churches. Pastors at churches with attendance of more than 250 (98 percent) or 100-249 (94 percent) are more likely than those at churches with 50-99 (89 percent) or fewer than 50 (85 percent) to encourage single adults to serve in volunteer roles.

“Normative churches with fewer than 100 in attendance typically only have a few adult Bible study classes,” McConnell said. “They must make a strategic choice about how those groups are organized. Some churches may organize Bible studies and fellowship times around marital status, but others may group by age, geography, gender or content being studied.”

According to the Pew profile of single Americans, there are a higher percentage of single Black adults (47 percent) in the United States than single white adults (28 percent). This breakdown is reflected in the Lifeway Research data, as white pastors are least likely to offer some ministries specific for single adults. White pastors are the least likely to offer small group Bible studies and classes (42 percent) or to offer large group Bible teaching times (26 percent) specifically for single adults over the age of 30. African American pastors (70 percent) are the most likely to say their churches plan social events for these single adults.

Geographical demographics also signal how likely a pastor is to say their church specifically ministers to single adults over the age of 30 in particular ways. Pastors in the South are among the most likely to say their churches offer small group Bible studies and classes (52 percent), offer large group Bible teaching times (38 percent) or plan social events (47 percent) for them.

Pastors of some denominations are more likely than others to provide specific ministries for the single adults in their churches. Pentecostal (66 percent), non-denominational (57 percent) and Baptist (50 percent) pastors are among the most likely to say their churches offer small group Bible studies and classes for them. Pentecostal (49 percent) and non-denominational (41 percent) pastors are also more likely than Lutherans (25 percent) and Presbyterian/Reformed (21 percent) to offer large group Bible teaching times specifically for single adults over 30 years old. And Pentecostal (65 percent), non-denominational (55 percent) and Baptist (48 percent) pastors are among the most likely to plan social events for them.

“The Bible teaches that every member of the body of Christ is important and helps the body function as it should,” McConnell said. “Those instructions about working together as a church are accompanied by commands to love one another deeply as brothers and sisters (Romans 12:10). Programs may help organize this, but the biblical challenge to honor each other is personal.”

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