Month: August 2022

Barber names abuse task force members

NASHVILLE (BP)—Southern Baptist Convention President Bart Barber has announced the members and leaders of those making up the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force (ARITF).

Messengers to the annual meeting in Anaheim tasked Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas, with the responsibility as part of the approved recommendations from the Sexual Abuse Task Force, chaired by North Carolina pastor Bruce Frank. The recommendations were the result of a yearlong study and investigation by Guidepost Solutions into the SBC Executive Committee.

“The purpose of this task force is to assist the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention in our efforts to shut the doors of our churches to those who would act as sexual predators and to wrap our arms around survivors and those who love them,” Barber said.

In addition to the formation of the ARITF, the recommendations included the establishment of a “Ministry Check” website. The ARITF will oversee and report back to the Convention on the feasibility, effectiveness and costs of the website, which will be established and maintained by an independent contractor chosen by the task force.

Marshall Blalock, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Charleston, S.C., will serve as ARITF chair and Mike Keahbone, pastor of First Baptist Church in Lawton, Okla., will be vice chair. Others making up the task force are:

  • Todd Benkert, pastor and lead elder of Oak Creek Community Church in Mishawaka, Ind.
  • Melissa Bowen, member of First Baptist Church in Prattville, Ala.
  • Brad Eubank, senior pastor of Petal First Baptist Church in Petal, Miss.
  • Cyndi Lott, member of Catawba Valley Baptist Church in Morganton, N.C.
  • Jon Nelson, lead pastor of Soma Community Church in Jefferson City, Mo.
  • Jarrett Stephens, senior pastor of Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston, Texas
  • Gregory Wills, member of Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, as well as professor of church history and Baptist heritage and dean of the School of Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“These task force members will be assisted in their work by a few consultants, whose names will be released later,” said Barber said. He added that the group includes survivors of clergy sexual abuse, pastors, lawyers, educators and one person who was the object of a false accusation of sexual abuse in the past.

“Every member of the task force is an active member of a Southern Baptist church, representing a wide variety of church sizes from several geographic areas within the Convention,” he said. “Some of the members are also providing leadership to task forces serving their various state conventions.

“Between the task force members and the various consultants, the task force discussions will feature the input of top experts in the subject matters of sexual abuse, the law, Southern Baptist history and polity, trauma-informed counseling and most importantly, the Bible.”

Per the recommendations, the ARITF is authorized to operate for one year, with messengers at subsequent annual meetings voting on whether to renew the group “as needed” and deliver a report each year of its existence. Barber will appoint any vacancies at the time as necessary.

Specific charges of the ARITF include:

  • Study Guidepost recommendations for feasibility and report back to the 2023 annual meeting on which reforms could be adopted by the Convention as well as how they should be implemented. Such recommendations include a survivor care fund, memorial, auditing the Caring Well curriculum and possibly creating a permanent committee or entity.
  • Assist SBC entities in studying Guidepost recommendations and advise on implementing reforms relevant to each entity’s ministry assignment.
  • Be a resource in abuse prevention, crisis response and survivor care to “Baptist bodies” who voluntarily seek assistance. This can include providing a list of recommended, independent, qualified firms for training and inquiries and assisting state conventions with recommendations, upon request.
  • Consult with the SBC Credentials Committee for revising the evaluation and submission process to include complaints of noncooperation due to sexual abuse and publish the revisions.
  • Work with the Executive Committee and Credentials Committee to select an independent, qualified firm or firms to assist the Credentials Committee by providing factual findings for complaints of noncooperation due to sexual abuse. The ARITF will report back to the 2023 annual meeting on the selection.

On June 8, Send Relief announced it will be providing $3 million to fund the first year of work related to the SATF recommendations, with another $1 million toward the establishment of a survivor care fund to provide trauma care for survivors and trauma training for pastors.

The $3 million will come from Send Relief undesignated funds and not Cooperative Program, Annie Armstrong Easter Offering or Lottie Moon Christmas Offering funds, said Send Relief President Bryant Wright, International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood and North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell in a joint statement.

The $1 million gift will come from Send Relief funds designated for its ongoing mission to protect children and families.

Whatever the ARITF produces, Barber said, will then be placed before Southern Baptists for a response. The ARITF will convene for an initial retreat with the outgoing Sexual Abuse Task Force before beginning its work.

“The authority to adopt the Task Force’s recommendations will rest with the messenger body of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Barber said. “The ability to apply the resources and recommendations that this process produces resides with the various autonomous churches that cooperate through the Southern Baptist Convention.

“We can only be successful as we earn their confidence and supply their needs. I am confident that this task force is well equipped to do just that.”

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

Post-Roe, Texas PRCs experience influx of visits, needs

The overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court in June was an answer to prayer for pro-lifers across the nation, including for the 2,500-some-odd pregnancy resource centers that meet the physical and spiritual needs of women searching for an alternative to abortion.

That landmark legal victory, though, has led to a major need.

Pregnancy resource centers, which stay afloat with donations and are also known as “crisis pregnancy centers,” are experiencing an influx of visits from women who previously would have visited an abortion clinic instead.

In the month after Roe, Hope Pregnancy Center in College Station saw a 17% increase in the number of women seeking pregnancy testing and consultation, and a 22% increase in the number of benevolence and material support requests.

Incredibly, Hope Pregnancy Center also experienced a 157% increase in the number of male partners attending appointments with mothers.

“We need to enlarge our available space to accommodate these needs,” Carol Dodds, the executive director of Hope Pregnancy Center, said. “That will require a significant influx of large donations.”

Hope Pregnancy Center is not alone.

Jonelle Fields, executive director of the Center for Pregnancy in Friendswood (a suburb of Houston), said the overturning of Roe impacted lower-income women who don’t have the money to travel to states such as California, where abortion remains legal. Those women are now flocking to Fields’ pregnancy resource center.

“We need to be there for them,” Fields said.

Dodds and Fields are celebrating the overturning of Roe. They also are urging churches to step in the gap for women—many of them single—who are facing an unplanned pregnancy. The centers need more donations.

Often, the women who visit a pregnancy resource center supported Roe, Fields said.

“[They] are going to see it as that they have lost an option,” she said. “Unfortunately, when people find out that they are having a challenging pregnancy circumstance—an unplanned pregnancy—it can feel almost like getting a cancer diagnosis.”

Roe’s demise has led to an opportunity for pregnancy resources and churches to be the hands and feet of Christ in assisting women in need, Fields said. The centers in College Station and Friendswood offer pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, pregnancy consultation, parenting classes and material support—all free.

“We have to be there when they pick up their phone, when they Google, so they know that they’re not alone,” Fields said. “So they know that they can speak with someone in their time of stress.”

With the Roe decision in June, pregnancy resource center workers are not only handling a heavier-than-normal load of clients, but also working to educate churches and people of faith of the continuing need to minister to women and children in the months and years after childbirth. SUBMITTED PHOTO

The goal, Fields said, is for local churches to continue the relationship with the women who enter the doors of a pregnancy resource center—similar to a runner passing a baton to another runner in a relay.

“We’re not supposed to be here for the rest of their lives,” Fields said of pregnancy resource centers. “We’re supposed to be here for the beginning and as long as we can with them and their young child—and then plug them in to more community resources, plug them in to churches so that they can have that abundant life in Christ. It’s not just that we want them to come in here and make a life choice for their baby. We want to be able to help them to see that they have value as a beautiful human being that God created and that their life means something.”

Fields encourages churches to train their members in CareNet’s Making Life Disciples program, which teaches Christians how to relate to women facing an unplanned pregnancy.

“Not everyone is properly prepared to be able to speak with grace and love and acceptance and compassion to mothers that come from very different backgrounds from them,” Fields said. “So being able to make sure that the people in the churches are trained and understanding and compassionate is so important.”

She also recommends that churches offer Embrace Grace classes for single pregnant women.

Fields said a lesson she learned as a volunteer in college still applies today.

“I was shocked when the woman who was training me said, ‘We’re not just here to save babies.’ She said, ‘If a mother comes in and makes a life choice for her child, her child grows up, she grows old and they both die without the Lord and spend eternity apart from Him—what have you done?’

“We are here,” Fields, “to be able to support people for eternity.”


SBTC DR teams experience unusual, productive summer of ministry

Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief volunteers have experienced a busy and unusual spring and summer.

Just as SBTC DR volunteers, in cooperation with other state DR teams, wrapped up work assisting Ukrainian refugees in Romania in late May, additional SBTC DR volunteers began deploying to Moldova in June.

DR teams helped along the border of Romania and Ukraine in a variety of capacities, helping Romanian Baptist churches man a border station; distributing water, food, and coffee to refugees, truckers, and first responders; and serving in church-run refugee shelters.

“The border was about two to three U.S. blocks from where we set up,” said SBTC DR chaplain Debby Nichols, who was part of the last group sent to Romania. “We were not allowed closer than that unless we were assisting a refugee to carry bags or luggage to the border.”

Baptist DR volunteers worked also to establish connections with the Pompierii, the Romanian firefighters assisting with border security.

“They were very helpful to us. Most are not Christian, so we tried to build relationships with them,” Nichols said.

Six SBTC DR teams comprised of a total of 24 volunteers teamed with Southern Baptist DR teams from Missouri, California, and Alabama, to minister along the Ukrainian-Romanian border, SBTC DR Director Scottie Stice confirmed.

Working under the leadership of North Carolina Baptist Disaster Relief, three SBTC DR two-person teams have ministered in Moldova, rotating in and out over the last five weeks, Stice added.

“The Moldovan ministry is occurring in a whole different context,” Stice said. Volunteers are working in a children’s home that is hosting Ukrainian refugees. They are also working alongside Ukrainian refugees themselves helping to improve conditions at the home.

Ministry in Moldova included landscaping and running waters lines. PHOTO BY DIANA VANN STEWART

“We helped with everything from landscaping to running water lines to working on streets,” Stice said, adding that Baptists, including SBTC DR volunteers, have led English classes and Bible classes in the evenings at the children’s home.

Volunteers stayed busy.  For example, James Crawford of Bonham unloaded 1,200 solar panels from a semi-truck one day, enlisting the aid of a young man from Odessa, Ukraine, with whom Crawford shared Scripture and developed a relationship. Diana Vann Stewart of Bryan taught English as a Second Language to adults and children and assisted with Bible classes and children’s activities for refugees.

While language remained a barrier, Vann Stewart said the Ukrainians were “wonderful people in need of kindness and knowing there is help for them as they work through the changes in their lives.” She added that it was a “wonderful experience to worship with them.”

While all SBTC DR volunteers have returned stateside, Stice said he expects a request for additional international volunteers in the future.

COVID affected the groups, Stice added. Three SBTC DR volunteers came home with the virus, but all recovered. It is unknown if they contracted COVID at the children’s home or during travel.

In other SBTC DR news, a mud-out team is scheduled to deploy to Missouri the week of August 7 to respond to flooding. Shower and laundry teams are also on standby to minister in Kentucky, in response to massive flooding there.

The threat of re-flooding and the logistics of getting teams into affected areas safely have delayed the Kentucky deployment.

“Usually by this time, we are working on our first hurricanes,” Stice said. “That hasn’t happened yet.”

It has been an unusual yet productive season, he added. “The gospel has gone forth as we have been the hands and feet of Jesus in unexpected ways.”


CP giving above budget by $10.4 million through July

NASHVILLE (BP)—Giving through the National Cooperative Program Allocation Budget remains far ahead of its annual goal with the fiscal year total growing to nearly $169 million—more than $10.4 million over the projected giving.

“Southern Baptist have partnered together for 97 years to advance the Gospel to every person on the planet,” SBC Executive Committee interim president Willie McLaurin said in a statement. “These Cooperative Program gifts mark a sacred trust that local churches have placed in each entity and state convention of the SBC. I am thankful for the ongoing trust demonstrated through giving these Cooperative Program dollars to fuel and fund ministries across North America and the World.”

The amount given through the Cooperative Program in July 2022 totaled $15,606,614.95, which was $134,180.43 (0.85 percent) less than the $15,740,795.38 received in July 2021 and just $226,718.39 (1.43 percent) less than the monthly budgeted amount of $15,833,333.34.

As of July 31, gifts received by the EC for distribution through the CP Allocation Budget total $168,760,690.32. This is $6,714,403.20 or 4.14 percent more than last year’s budget contribution of $162,046,287.12. The amount given is ahead of the $158,333,333.40 year-to-date budgeted projection to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America by $10,427,356.92 or 6.59 percent.

Designated gifts received in July amounted to $12,113,669.64. This total was $2,835,517.26, or 30.56 percent, more than gifts of $9,278,152.38 received last July. Also, this year’s designated gifts through the first ten months of the fiscal year amount to $196,238,461.65, which is $14,397,950.72 or 7.92 percent more than the $181,840,510.93 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% 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.

Tyler church rallies around family of fallen sheriff’s deputy

TYLER—Smith County Sheriff’s Office personnel remember Deputy Lorenzo Bustos, who died last week in the line of duty, for his big smile and positive attitude—attributes also noticed by members of Friendly Baptist Church in Tyler, where Bustos and his family have been active members since 2015.

Now the church has established a memorial fund to help the family of the 29-year-old deputy who was killed during a routine traffic stop in the early morning hours of Friday, July 29.

Bustos’ children are 4, 5, and 8 years old.

“I was initially struck by the kindness in Lorenzo’s face and the genuineness of his smile, and I was looking forward to investing in his life,” said Dan Lewis, pastor of Friendly Baptist since March 2022.

Bustos had a significant “impact on our church family,” the pastor said, noting that the deputy and his wife, Gloria, started actively serving in GAs and RAs shortly after joining the church in May 2015.

Bustos had become a follower of Christ after a co-worker from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, where Bustos then served as a correctional officer, invited him to Friendly Baptist. Bustos had recently asked one of the pastors to help him deepen his walk with Christ and they two planned to meet for personal discipleship, Lewis noted.

Bustos died at the end of his shift as a Smith County Sheriff’s Office trainee as he stood behind his patrol car during the traffic stop. A 21-year-old driver was arrested for intoxication manslaughter, Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith told news outlets.

Bustos had been working at the sheriff’s office less than six months after previously working for other law enforcement agencies, including the Rusk County Sheriff’s Office and the Henderson Police Department. He had quickly bonded with his new Tyler colleagues.

“He had come to be very loved by all of his cohorts and co-workers,” Smith told the Tyler Morning Telegraph. “He was doing a great job.”

He will be missed greatly at his church as well, Lewis said. A post on the church’s Facebook page the afternoon of the deputy’s death requested prayer for the Bustos family, friends, and coworkers, and announced the establishment of the memorial fund to assist the family with funeral and related expenses.

“We established the fund because we knew many would want to help this precious family during this difficult time of life. Consequently, many in our community have also stepped in to financially support them,” Lewis said, encouraging those who wish to donate to select the “Lorenzo Bustos Memorial” link from the dropdown menu on the donations page.

Funds will be funneled through the church to an account for the family at Southside Bank of Tyler.

Bustos is survived by his wife and their three children; his parents, Martin and Rosa Bustos; a sister, and two brothers.

This article contains reporting from the Tyler Morning Telegraph.

Pushing back against perfectionism

One simple lesson the Lord has been teaching me over the past 18 months of my budding pastorate is this: “Trust Me.”

I’m a bit of a perfectionist. It has come in handy from time to time—better grades in school, general cleanliness (which helped in the marriage department), and a broad sense of being someone who can be trusted. But like most things, it has a dark side.

It began showing up in my quiet time. Like most of you, I’d wake in the early morning, grab coffee and the Scriptures. But rather than delighting in the Lord, I found myself preparing sermons. It then spilled into my Mondays. Mondays are for staff meetings in my world. Those mornings started getting crowded with anxious planning to create “productive” and “streamlined” meetings.

I didn’t realize my pursuit of perfection had gone from a good thing to a “god” thing until one Sunday afternoon. I was in my office three hours before a members meeting, and I was literally rehearsing every word I would say. I had a 2,700-word document with questions I anticipated the members would ask, discussion points, things to pray over, and new members to welcome.

My pursuit of perfection was also affecting my health. I couldn’t say no to night snacking. It was affecting my sleep. I became a light sleeper, and I would wake remembering something insignificant I didn’t accomplish. Going back to sleep was impossible. It was spilling into all my relationships. When God’s providence shuffled my schedule, I was not happy, and others could tell. To put it simply: idols make bad gods.

In my office that Sunday afternoon, God revealed my sin. I started pulling weeds of perfectionist tendencies in my life (repentance) and planting seeds of trust in God (faith). I stopped dressing my works up like they were faith. My sanctification is slow. I’m still in process. Maybe you’re like me. Hopefully you’re better. Regardless, here are two ways I am planting seeds of trust in God:

People over performance

I want to be better at my craft. All good preachers do. But I don’t want to be lopsided. I serve a small church in a small town. When I go to the local grocery store, I run into Deacon Dillard or Sunday School Teacher Sam. I’m called to love my sheep. So, I answer my phone. I give people my full attention. I listen. I host. I laugh. I allow God to override my schedule for love.

Outline over manuscript

Whether I’m preaching or leading a meeting, it is outline-only these days. It’s my way of trusting God. I see it as an opportunity to give Him space to speak through me. And yes, I do believe the Holy Spirit works in our preparation, and yes, I do believe the Lord speaks through guys who manuscript. This isn’t an excuse for pastoral laziness. Just my on-ground expression of trust in God.

Perfectionism is a bad god. Simply trust God to be God.

Lone Star Scoop • August 2022

Author Witt to serve as keynote speaker at Equip

FORT WORTH Author and ministry leader Lance Witt will be the keynote speaker at the SBTC Equip Conference on August 13 at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Equip is designed specifically to train leaders in the local church. This year’s conference will include over 25 areas of ministry specific breakouts and more than 70 speakers.

Witt is the founder of REPLENISH ministries, which is dedicated to helping people in ministry live and lead from a healthy soul, and the author of “Your ONE Life: Own it, Live it, Love it,” “Replenish” and “High Impact Teams.”

For more information and to register, visit Cost to attend is only $10 until August 8, when the registration price will increase to $15.

55+ Adults Ministry Trainings set for Conroe, Corpus, Odessa

GRAPEVINE  Three 55+ Adults Ministry Training sessions are scheduled in September. The trainings are for all church staff and lay leadership who work with 55+ aged adults.

The trainings are scheduled for September 1 at West Conroe Baptist Church in Conroe; September 8 at Yorktown Baptist Church in Corpus Christi; and September 15 at First Baptist Church of Odessa. Seniors and boomers are one of the fastest-growing segments in our society, and your community is full of unreached seniors. The trainings are meant to offer solutions to help churches prepare for the growing tide of retiring Boomers.

Cost of each training
is $15. For more information and to register, visit 

Trio of Disciple-Making Forums to be held in September 

Three Disciple-Making Forums are scheduled for September in three different regions of Texas: September 19 at Living Water Christian Fellowship in Canyon; September 20 at Immanuel Baptist Church in Odessa; and September 22 at First Baptist Church of Brownsville. Each forum will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Glenn Underhill from discipleFIRST Ministries will share Jesus’ proven strategy to make and multiply disciples that will help launch sustainable discipleship in your church. Our Great Commission mandate is to make disciples of Jesus of all nations. While the mandate is easily understood, it is often difficult to know where to start.

Registration is $10 and includes lunch and all training materials. For more information and to register, visit

SBTC’s Molina to serve as SBC Hispanic Council president

ANAHEIM, Calif. Bruno Molina, language and interfaith evangelism associate for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Hispanic Council during the SBC Annual Meeting in June.

The council exists to provide unity and facilitate communication among Southern Baptist Hispanics. At the June meeting in Anaheim, the council appointed two new committees to develop a criteria list for those who wish to be members of the council and to investigate becoming a legal entity.

With the SBTC, Molina—who has served as a pastor and church planter—partners with churches by encouraging, equipping, and resourcing them to evangelize the people of over 300 language groups and many faiths in Texas. He earned his bachelor’s degree from New York University in international relations and Spanish, and both his Master of Arts in Theology and Ph.D. in world Christian studies from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. 

The 5: A new school year brings with it great ministry opportunities

I knew I wanted to teach when I was five years old, and the Lord has granted me opportunities through local churches and seminaries for several decades now. At this time of year, my heart still leaps when I see school buses running and hear classroom bells ringing. I know, too, that local schools are great mission fields. Here are five ways your church might take on the task of ministering to schools in your area as a new school year nears:


Enlist a separate prayer team to pray for each school within your ministry area
Start here, seeking the Lord’s wisdom as you plan your ministry. Many of the folks in the schools don’t know Jesus. Some students deal with tough home lives. Public places can also become dangerous places. You will likely need several prayer warriors to cover all the schools in your area, but you can never have too many people praying. Pray … and then pray some more. 


Pray over and commission the teachers in your congregation as they start a new year
The teachers in your church have opportunities every day to be light in the darkness, hope for the hopeless, and consistency for kids whose adult relationships are sometimes inconsistent (in fact, I’ve often thought about spending the last years of my career in the public school system for this very reason). Pray over your teachers—and send them out as an extension of your church’s ministry. 


Talk with the superintendent and school principals
to see what needs your church might help meet
Think like a missionary. Don’t assume you know what the needs are; instead, investigate and ask. You might be surprised by the ethnic makeup, the languages spoken, the needs unmet in schools within walking distance of your church building. I’ve seen churches paint halls, clean classrooms, offer tutoring, do landscaping, and provide breakfast for teachers. 


Provide school supplies for students and classes
Many teachers I know buy supplies with their own funds. Every class likely includes students whose families cannot provide basic supplies for them. Build relationships with local business leaders (which would also be good for your church’s witness), and work together to provide some of these supplies. Surprise the teachers and students at the beginning of the year, and the start to a new academic year will be filled with encouragement. 


Don’t forget universities near your church
Their students are different. Their needs are unique. But, ministry opportunities to influence a generation making life decisions abound on university campuses. Connect with Baptist Collegiate Ministry leaders and other evangelical leaders on campus, and help them. Meet with administrators to learn about needs your church might meet. Do something to make a difference among adult learners, too! 

Chuck Lawless is dean of doctoral studies and vice president of spiritual formation and ministry centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. For more from Lawless, visit

Mental illness awareness is rising in the pews and the pulpit, Lifeway Research study shows

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Most pastors have seen mental illness in their pews, while some have seen it in themselves.

A Lifeway Research study explores U.S. Protestant pastors’ experiences with mental illness and how well their churches are equipped to respond to those who need help.

A majority of pastors (54%) say in the churches where they have served on staff, they have known at least one church member who has been diagnosed with a severe mental illness such as clinical depression, bipolar or schizophrenia. Most of those pastors had experience with a small number of members: 18% say 1-2 and another 18% say 3-5. Fewer pastors say they’ve known 6-10 (8%), 11-20 (5%) or more than 20 (6%). Around a third (34%) say none of their church members have been diagnosed with a severe mental illness, while 12% don’t know.

“There is a healthy generational shift occurring as younger and middle-aged pastors are much more likely to have encountered people in church with severe mental illness than the oldest pastors,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “However, it is not clear whether the presence of those with difficult mental illnesses is increasing among church members or if they have simply felt more comfortable sharing their diagnosis with younger pastors.”

Pastors 65 and older (46%) and those with no college degree (52%) are more likely to say they haven’t known any church members with a severe mental illness.

Twenty-six percent of U.S. Protestant pastors say they have personally struggled with some type of mental illness, including 17% who say it was diagnosed and 9% who say they experienced it but were never diagnosed. Three-quarters (74%) say they’ve never dealt with a mental illness.

Compared to a 2014 Lifeway Research study, a similar number of pastors today say they have endured mental illness themselves (26% v. 23%). More pastors now, however, say they have been diagnosed (17% v. 12%).

“During the COVID-19 pandemic many Americans have faced challenges to their mental health,” said McConnell. “More pastors today are seeking professional help as evidenced by more having been diagnosed with mental illness. Younger pastors are the most likely to say they have endured mental illness.”

Pastors under 45 (37%) are most likely to say they have struggled with some form of mental illness.

Church help

Churchgoers may not hear about mental illness frequently from the pulpit, but most churches will hear about the subject at least once a year from their pastor.

Six in 10 U.S. Protestant pastors say they speak to their churches about acute or chronic mental illness in sermons or large group messages at least once a year, including 17% who bring up the subject about once a year. For more than 2 in 5 pastors, the issue comes up multiple times a year, with 30% saying they talk about it several times a year, 9% saying about once a month and 4% saying several times a month.

Other pastors cover the topic much less frequently, with 26% saying they rarely bring it up and 11% saying they never talk about it. Another 3% aren’t sure.

Pastors are more likely to broach the subject in a large group setting today than 2014, when 49% said they rarely or never spoke about it. Eight years ago, 33% mentioned the issue several times a year or more compared to 43% today.

“While the typical pastor hasn’t experienced mental illness themselves, they are proactively teaching about this need and feel a responsibility to help,” said McConnell. “While preaching on mental illness is the norm and even more pastors feel their church is responsible to help the mentally ill, still 37% of pastors rarely or never bring it up from the pulpit.”

Beyond talking about it from the pulpit, 9 in 10 U.S. Protestant pastors (89%) say local churches have a responsibility to provide resources and support for individuals with mental illness and their families. Few pastors (10%) disagree.

When asked about specific types of care their churches provide for those suffering from mental illness or their families, more than 4 in 5 pastors say they offer something. Almost 7 in 10 (68%) say their church maintains a list of experts to whom they can refer people. Two in 5 (40%) have a plan for supporting families of those with mental illness. Around a quarter say they provide training for encouraging people with mental illness (26%), offer programs like Celebrate Recovery (26%) or offer topical seminars on depression or anxiety (23%). Close to 1 in 5 provide training for leaders to identify symptoms of mental illness (20%), host groups in their community that help those with mental illness (20%) or have a counselor on staff skilled in mental illness (18%). Another 7% say they provide another resource.

“In the years between studies, more churches have developed plans for supporting families of those with mental illness. A few more are offering training for leaders to identify symptoms of mental illness and hosting groups such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness,” said McConnell. “The most common and earliest way for a church to care for someone with mental illness is to have a list of mental health experts to refer people to. Yet almost a third of churches don’t have such a list.”

Younger pastors, age 18-44, (9%) are the least likely to say they don’t provide any of the potential resources. Pastors at churches with fewer than 50 in attendance (24%) are the most likely.

As pastors are most likely to say they have a referral list at their church, most say they’re prepared to identify when someone needs to be referred to an expert. Almost 9 in 10 pastors (86%) agree they feel equipped to identify when a person is dealing with acute or chronic mental illness that may require a referral to a medical professional, with 34% strongly agreeing. Few (12%) don’t feel equipped, and 1% aren’t sure.

The percentage of pastors who feel equipped is up slightly from 2014 when 81% said they felt capable of making the identification and referral.

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For Chayasirisobhon family, serving the Lord is a family affair

ANAHEIM, Calif.—The 2022 SBC Annual Meeting was special for the Chayasirisobhon family for many reasons.

During the meeting, Pastor Chayas “Victor” Chayasirisobhon was elected SBC first vice president. While that was a special moment, Victor also honored by another moment that happened much farther away from the main stage.

“I had the privilege of helping my father, Sirichai Chayasirisobhon, register at the SBC registration booth,” Victor said.

The 77-year-old Sirichai, a 2022 SBC church messenger, was so proud of his son, he asked the registration chair to take pictures of them together. When asked how he felt about having Victor serving the Lord, Sirichai said, “It’s all about grace, God’s grace, all grace!”

Victor is the lead pastor of the First Southern Baptist Church of Anaheim, chief administrator of the Anaheim Discovery Christian School, and is also a medical doctor following his family’s tradition.

Victor’s grandfather, Dr. Tseng Sui Po Chayasirisobhon, was married to Chantana Chayasirisobhon and served as a deacon at the Sapang Luang Church in Thailand. He was a renowned medical doctor, an elder at his church, and a well-respected member of his community, Victor said. His grandfather “built a home for the homeless and took care of them, and as a church Elder, he was highly respected in his community,” added Victor. When his grandfather died at the age of 40, people lined up for miles to mourn him. His family carried the cross for Christ because as “one of the only Christian families in Thailand, they were made fun of quite a bit for being a Christian,” Victor added.

Sirichai was of Chinese descent, born in a bomb shelter in Thailand during World War II, lived in Bangkok, Thailand, served at his church as a deacon and later as lead pastor. According to Victor, his father migrated to Canada, where he attended McGill University, followed his father’s footsteps, and graduated as a medical doctor.

Sirichai married Wanpen, who also studied at the same university and became a microbiologist.

“My parents modeled to me the importance of getting an education,” Victor said. “Becoming a doctor was an honor for my father, and being a doctor is highly valued in our culture.”

While living in Canada, Victor’s parents prayed about whether to go to Thailand or America, ultimately choosing the latter. His father got his green card, came to America as a computer technician, and was then able to practice medicine in Michigan. At an early age, Victor moved with his parents to California, where they currently live and serve.

Victor said that after the death of his grandfather, Sirichai—at the age of 13 and the oldest of four children—had to take the responsibility of helping his mother raise his brothers and sister.

“My father said that he went from being a bad boy to a good boy,” Victor said. Sirichai helped his mother lead the family. His siblings were all educated: two became doctors and another is a famous opera singer.

While his father was serving as a deacon at their church, Victor says his parents were raised and helped by the church to be leaders. His father has planted many Thai churches, and currently he is the senior pastor at the Thai Church, a SBC church, in Anaheim. His church gathers in the space right above First Southern Baptist Church of Anaheim where Victor pastors.

Victor is the third generation of men serving God, following the ministry and the example of his father and grandfather, but he also had a time of rebellion. During his youth, he became a gang member.

“When you see the picture of me and my dad together, on the same page, it is such a picture of God’s love, a picture of God’s grace, a picture of God’s redemption,” Victor said. During his time of rebellion, Victor shared that his father was always praying for him. “No matter what I did, I knew that he always loved me. As a teenager I did not understand how he loved me so hard,” he said.

Victor is an only child, born in Montreal, Canada. He was given the Thai name Wuttichai, by his parents. Wuttichai means champion of knowledge, champion of beauty or gloriousness, glory, and honor. As an only child Victor had a nickname in Thai “Hnung,” which actually means “number one.”

“I think that they were expecting to have number two, so they nicknamed me ‘one’ with high hopes,” Victor said. Victor, a bi-vocational pastor, is married to Theresa, also an only child, and they have four children—two girls and two boys.

“After having me, my dad wanted to be a better man and showed me what a Christian looked like,” Victor said. “My children make me want to be a better man, a better Christian. My congregation makes me want to be a better man, a better Christian. With each position that God has given me and the responsibility that I have, not to be the perfect role model, but to try to be an example makes me want to be a better man, and a better Christian. … God gave me this SBC family, and I’m just trying to help my family.

“I became a doctor because I wanted to help people. That is why I got into medicine, and I found that I can help people in more of a holistic way in the church,” he said.

His dedication to God’s work is very important. “I am very loyal,” he said. “I learned that from my family, but I also learned that in the street. When God saved me, I became loyal to Him as an adult.

“I came to know the Lord Jesus through my parents but, really, the person that challenged me and asked me if I wanted to believe in Jesus was my Sunday school teacher, Lois Cadwaller. She led me through the sinner’s prayer. At 9 years old she gave me a Bible and wrote on it, ‘Dear Victor, one day you are going to do great things for Jesus Christ.’ I found the Bible, new, and preserved, and it has encouraged me later in my life.

“I started my ministry teaching the youth at the age of 17, and God gave me the grace of attracting different ethnicities of young people, teaching them all the stories from the Bible,” Victor said. “I already felt privileged to teach the youth after all the things that I had done as a youth. God saved me and allowed me to serve in that capacity for four years.”

He said he is very grateful to the church members, pastors, and leaders who helped him during his training for the pastorate. “I am so grateful to the church for suffering by patiently listening to my message at the age of 22. God knows what he was doing because now, instead of teaching youth, I preach more to adults,” Victor said.

One thing that helps Victor thrive in his in ministry is that he has experienced discrimination among different ethnicities, including his own. His family experienced discrimination because of their culture and their faith. “I never treat anybody like a second-class citizen. That is one of the reasons I help people,” Victor said. “This desire and the love of Christ helped me start The Galaxy Vision. This concept of churches was built on the vision that came out of the pain my family and I suffered and when I promised myself that we will never treat anybody as like a second-class citizen.”

Victor explained that Galaxy is a network of both Southern Baptist and non-Southern Baptist Christian churches that are like-minded and working together to reach the community together. According to Victor, since he has been the lead pastor at his church, they have been planting, adopting, and sponsoring a church every year.

“We don’t charge rent, not for our school, even through the pandemic, even when things got hard,” he said. “As pastors, if tithing is not enough, we go and get jobs as soon as we can and many of us have done it. If the lights got turned off at the church, we would light some candles until the bill was paid.”

First Southern Baptist Church of Anaheim sponsors a Hispanic church, a Kenyan church which is getting ready to re-launch in about a month because of COVID, and a Thai church in California (his mother church where his father is the senior pastor). It also has a Christian school, Anaheim Christian, that serves children from pre-school through 12th grade.

One of Victor’s favorite Bible verses is Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” He wants all people to become one in Christ.

His personal prayer for the SBC, his church, and his other ministries is as follows: “I pray for our kingdom family to come together as a family, to join together for generations and generations to come. I pray that the definition of progress is known when the next generation is better than the one before us, through His Holy Spirit. I pray that by His grace we can create an even better generation for our children and the one to come.”