Month: August 2022

Death toll rises to 35 in eastern Kentucky flooding

FRANKFORT, Ky.—At least 35 people have been confirmed dead due to devastating flooding that has hit the southeast part of the state, and Gov. Andy Beshear says the number will continue to grow in the coming days, as more areas become accessible.

As of 9 a.m. Monday, there are seven confirmed deaths in Breathitt County, two in Clay, 16 in Knott, two in Letcher, and three in Perry County.

The large loss of life has overwhelmed local authorities, according to the governor, forcing the State Medical Examiner’s Office to help in the disaster. “We’ve had to fly the bodies here to Frankfort, to have enough staff to perform the autopsies. We do have a refrigerated truck being used right now, because we don’t have enough morgue capacity.”

Beshear says there are more than 300 Kentucky National Guard members fulfilling a variety of roles to help residents in the disaster area.

“Delivering supplies, search and rescue, augmenting police, traffic, debris removal, they’re really good at it,” he stated. “Our Guard has been amazing.  I got a chance to spend a moment without Guard that has been airlifting people.  They were exhausted, but they were living their mission.  They were ready to go again at a moment’s notice.  We are so proud of them, State Police, Fish and Wildlife, law enforcement, and individual citizens who rescued more people than all those others combined.”

Thirteen counties have been declared major disaster areas by President Joe Biden, which frees up federal aid to local government for recovery efforts, and five of them have also been approved for individual assistance.

“In those five counties,” Beshear said, “in Breathitt, Clay, Knott, Letcher and Perry counties, renters and homeowners can already begin applying for FEMA individual disaster assistance.”

FEMA representatives are on their way, but residents in those affected areas can call 1-800-621-FEMA or go to, to begin the process.

The governor said cell service is now being restored in many areas, which should aid in the search for people who are reported to be missing.

People wishing to make donations to help flood victims can go to the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s page or SendRelief’s page.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams from Kentucky and a number of other states are responding to the emergency.

Other services and information for flood victims can be found at

As of 9 a.m. Monday, there were still more than 12,000 people who had no electricity power, according to the Governor, down from close to 30,000 at its peak.  “The counties with over 1,000 customers without power are Perry, Letcher, Pike, Breathitt and Knott, and I know crews are working hard to restore it.”

Hundreds of people remain unaccounted for, and those concerned about their loved ones who still don’t have phone service can go to, and call the post that serves their county.  Troopers say they will try to track them down.

Blalock, Keahbone to head Abuse Response Implementation Task Force

NASHVILLE (BP)—Two Southern Baptist pastors with recent leadership experience in addressing sexual abuse in the SBC will fill similar roles with the Abuse Response Implementation Task Force (ARITF).

Marshall Blalock, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charleston, S.C., will be chair while Mike Keahbone, pastor of First Baptist Church in Lawton, Okla., will serve as vice chair, SBC President Bart Barber announced today.

“Both of these pastors are well-respected by Southern Baptists, by survivors of sexual abuse, by state-convention leadership and by their peers,” said Barber. “I’m delighted at their willingness to serve and optimistic about the solutions that they will lead the Implementation Task Force to propose.”

Barber announced on Twitter Sunday, July 31 that the rest of the names making up the ARITF would be released later this week.

Blalock served last year on the Sexual Abuse Task Force, whose report at the SBC annual meeting was widely accepted by messengers. That experience, he told Baptist Press, greatly impacted how he viewed the subject.

“I think that most, if not all, pastors have a heart to want to help and serve people,” he said. “But if you want to lead and pastor well, it’s important to understand how sexual abuse has affected the people in your church.

“I, along with the other pastors on the Task Force, didn’t realize the depth of the trauma that’s involved with someone who is abused. It’s much more traumatic and life-altering than I ever understood or knew.”

Keahbone is a member of the SBC Executive Committee and served on the 2022 Committee on Resolutions that proposed the resolution “On Lament and Repentance for Sexual Abuse.”

“Through those areas of service, Mike is well acquainted with the work that has gone into refining and revising various proposals for how the SBC should respond to clergy sexual abuse,” said Barber. “He is therefore well-equipped to lead us as we continue that process.”

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

Barber sees SBC presidency as chance to unify in difficult culture

FARMERSVILLE—SBC president Bart Barber was a reluctant candidate. But, having been elected June 14 by SBC messengers in Anaheim, he’s a president with a mission.

Barber—pastor at First Baptist Church of Farmersville—was at first unwilling to join a field that already had three candidates by late March. Robin Hadaway, a seminary professor and retired missionary; Tom Ascol, a Florida pastor; and Willy Rice, also a Florida pastor, made up a crowded slate in the wake of SBC president Ed Litton’s decision to not run for a second term.

“Whenever people would ask me to run for president of the SBC, I would always say, ‘I’m not going to do that,’” Barber said. “And I had a lot of reasons—my kids being the age that they were, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to do it for that reason. I honestly thought I could do more good as a pastor with a Twitter account who tried to call balls and strikes fairly and promote good, sound, Baptist, conservative theology.”

He started to change his mind after Rice dropped out of the race in early April.

“I prayed about that and just felt strongly led,” he said. “I’ve told people I came to the end of my stubbornness, and I guess that’s the best way to describe it. … I thought Southern Baptists needed more choices than just Robin Hadaway and Tom Ascol.

“I felt like I had a calling from God to try to help our convention be healthier and was committed to doing that for whatever years God had left for me here on the earth.”

In comments he made before and after being elected, Barber highlighted two major things he hoped to emphasize as a candidate, and now as president. One was introduced by a hashtag, #armyofpeacemakers, that he offered through his Twitter account.

“I came to see what I thought were some really unhealthy things that were creeping into our convention, just in terms of the way we interacted with one another,” he said. “A lot of it involved recognizing it myself, some of what I’d done online, and also seeing that in others.

“I just think in the midst of a culture that is bent upon growth by division that there’s a need for us to have a different culture that’s inclined toward and believes in growth by reconciliation and resolution of conflict, and peaceful unity moving forward together to the degree possible.”

The priority of peacemaking had been on his mind for a while, going back to a sermon he preached from Philippians 4 during the 2017 SBC Pastors’ Conference. In his assigned passage, two women, Euodia and Syntyche, were described as Paul’s co-laborers, but also were embroiled in a personal disagreement.

“If you look at that passage of Scripture, immediately after the urging of these two women to get along with each other, the longer exhortation is to the other people in the church to say, ‘Will y’all please come alongside and help these folks to get along with each other?’

“There’s a role for the active work of people in God’s kingdom, who aren’t in the midst of the conflict, to step up and do something to try to resolve the conflict, to interfere in each other’s business a little bit and try to make peace,” he added.

Barber acknowledges that the power of SBC president is limited when it comes to fostering peace within the convention’s fellowship, but that the president does have influence through his constitutional roles.

“I think we should move toward a convention in which we’re all in agreement about our statement of faith," Barber said, "whatever means we need to take to get there."

“I think there are some important ways that the president has the opportunity to [encourage peace]. One, profoundly undersold as an important role for the president is the moderation of the business meeting, because that’s where we gather to try to have conflict resolution … and help us to move forward,” he explained.

He considers a careful and respectful handling of the gavel important partly because he’s seen some examples where the actions of the chair showed “heavy handedness” in this regard.

“When the Great Commission Resurgence report was brought [2010], a messenger offered an amendment to the GCR report, and the folks with the gavel at that time just said, basically, ‘How about if your amendment said this instead?’” he said, offering one example. “And [they] substituted a new amendment for the messenger’s amendment, without the consent of the messengers … and they got the thing passed. I did walk away thinking ‘That guy’s rights as a messenger were not respected.’”

While offering no criticism of a specific predecessor in the office, Barber hopes to offer unifying leadership in today’s denominational climate.

“I’d like to be the kind of SBC president who actually does try to serve the full messenger body and the full count of churches in the SBC,” he said.

One substantial way an SBC president affects the future of the denomination is through the appointment of committees. Barber hopes that these appointments will also be a means to unify the convention’s churches.

“My appointments are going to reflect the diversity of opinion that exists within the Southern Baptist Convention. I think that kind of thing is healing, and I’m trying to make sure that I do that in a way that stays true to the conservative convictions of the Southern Baptist Convention, the things that we’ve said in the Baptist Faith and Message, and in other statements that we’ve made,” he explained.

He said that this diversity would include those from smaller and larger churches, geographic diversity, and people of different ages, in addition to racial and ethnic diversity—the goal being to avoid the impression of elitism that bypasses grassroots Southern Baptists.

A second conviction Barber brought into the office is that our understanding of Baptist distinctives needs to be shored up.

“I’m hungry to go to seminary campuses and say, ‘Here’s why we believe in believer’s baptism,’ and to make that case from the Scriptures, from the pulpit of our chapels,” he said. “Not that I think that we have a seminary body full of students who aren’t sure whether they want to sprinkle infants or not, but because when you stop making the biblical case for it, you’re only a few generations away from having those students sitting in the seminary chapel.”

He also expressed concern that the convictions of Southern Baptists on religious liberty are starting to show some “cracks” and require a thorough biblical treatment in our day.

A related issue involves the way our fellowship of churches understands its confession of faith. That discussion came to light this year during the SBC annual meeting as messengers considered the credentials of a church that had ordained female associate pastors. Barber thinks these conversations are important to our fellowship and unity as well.

“I think we should move toward a convention in which we’re all in agreement about our statement of faith, whatever means we need to take to get there,” he said. “I hope that we can do that by persuading people and coming to the point where we all see the truthfulness and utility of what this statement of faith means. But I do think it would be unhealthy for us to just say, ‘Well, our confessions of faith are non-binding, and they don’t really say anything about the bounds of our fellowship within the convention.’”

Much has been said about the rare election of a smaller-church pastor to the role traditionally given to the pastors of churches five to 10 times larger than FBC Farmersville. Barber believes the size difference matters, but not as much as some might think.

“I feel a pressure to do it well,” he admitted. “I mean, if I’m late getting everything done, and if I do a slip-shod job of it all, and if everybody sees this as a train wreck, then it won’t be anybody but a megachurch pastor ever again after this.

“I think it’s not just about the size of the church, some of it is also about the fact that I’ve been at FBC Farmersville for 23 years, and I’m not the only staff member. It’ll be some substantial commitment of time, but I completed a PhD while I was the pastor at First Baptist Church Farmersville. So did the guy before me, and so did the guy before him—this isn’t the first time I’ve had some sort of major time commitment that went alongside trying to serve as pastor of this church.”

Speaking again on the vigorous dialog regarding SBC leadership in this day, admitting that some pastors may have been dissuaded from allowing their names to be put forward because of a harsh political climate, Barber expressed a personal hope for his tenure as SBC president, even as he begins his time at the forefront of those decisions and discussions.

“My prayer is that whenever this is over for me, I’ll still love the Southern Baptist Convention, the people of the Southern Baptist Convention, and not just in an abstract sense,” he said. “I want to still feel that way about us.”


What’s your story? Trusting God when the world is turned upside down … literally

It was a typical March day in Granger. Living in Central Texas, we were used to changes in the weather. Although some was severe, none had impacted us up to this time. We seemed always to be between the severe weather issues and just out of reach of tragedy.

Until March 21. That day was stormy, but nothing we hadn’t seen before. There were forecasts of severe weather in the area, but I wasn’t worried. My mom and I were watching TV together at her house, which is located about 50 yards in front of my house. Mom was in hospice care, and being close allowed us to see her every day. 

That day we got a call from my brother warning us of a tornado heading our way. He urged me to get out of my chair and look. Now, my brother has always been a weather alarmist and had called me many times in the previous 20 years about disasters that never happened. So I meandered out the back door and looked. What I saw was about to change my life. 

I ran inside to get my wife to look. She came outside and we looked at it together: a tornado, headed straight for us. We ran back into the house, and about the time we reached Mom in the living room, it hit.

At first, it was just a lot of wind shaking the house. But when the windows blew out, I knew we were in trouble. Glass and debris were blown all over my wife, Mom, and me. My wife and I got on the floor to find some cover, but Mom was helpless on the bed in the middle of the living room.

Mom’s bed was lifted into the air, then the house was lifted and began to move. My wife called my name and we looked into each other’s eyes. I saw no fear in her eyes and I felt no fear in my heart. I simply remember thinking, “We are about to meet Jesus face-to-face.” But then, as quickly as it blew in the house, it was over. It lasted maybe 15 seconds.

We suffered not one scratch from the glass and debris. But when I looked out the back door, I beheld a horrifying sight: my grandchildren were at home and in the debris field I saw. My house was totally gone except for a small room in the middle of the house. 

"Some things in life are insurmountable in the flesh, but with God all things are possible."

I told my wife to take care of Mom; I had to get to my grandchildren. As I ran, I yelled, “Is everyone OK?” Hearing no answer, my heart was stilled. I called out again, still no answer. Standing next to the wreckage I called again, “IS EVERYONE OK?” I heard the sweet sound of my baby’s voice, “Grandpa, everyone is OK! We are all OK!” At this point I nearly broke, but it was a time for action.

I told my grandchildren, “The only thing standing is the room you’re in. The rest is gone, and I don’t know how stable the walls are. Stay put and we will get you. Do not try to climb out!” They remained where they were and, for once in their lives, they listened to Grandpa. 

Shortly after that, my son-in-law Danny arrived. There was a wall blocking the rescue, but we used a Bobcat to move the wall. Danny pulled away the debris blocking his way into the room where the grandchildren were trapped. He lifted three of the four who were in the room through the roof and the fourth was carried out by a rescue worker who had arrived on the scene.

Everyone was safe. Mom was taken to a hospital and later to my sister’s house. She died a few weeks later of natural causes. My grandson suffered a concussion but is all right now. The eldest granddaughter saved the life of my great-granddaughter by throwing herself on top of her to save her from debris.

The community of Granger came together to help in amazing ways and my church, First Baptist Church of Leander, was miraculous in its support. My wife and I stayed with my pastor, Tim Moore, and his wife. The rest of the family stayed with friends. We are now waiting to rebuild.

I have not always been faithful, but since 2004, the Lord restored me and I have been a faithful servant. I have always tried to trust God first before doctors or anyone else. I have always trusted God for protection and have never doubted that He would protect me.

So why did our family get hit with a tornado and lose practically everything? I don’t know. It never occurred to me to ask God why. The most important time to trust is when we don’t understand. The true test comes when adversity comes. When your faith is tested, that is the time you know of your walk with God.

I still have problems breathing from my bout with COVID; this only serves as a reminder that I must trust God to breathe. My place still looks like a debris field, and I have to be careful where I step so as to not get hurt, but that only serves as a reminder that I must trust God. If you call yourself a believer, you must trust God and allow Him to guide your next step, and then your next, and then your next. If you try to guide your own steps, you will fail. 

So what’s my story? Some things in life are insurmountable in the flesh, but with God all things are possible. 

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Never let your planning become a priority over your praying 

E very detail matters! That is the mindset of those who plan well. When I was a pastor, I recall spending a ton of time planning out every single moment of every worship service. I also recall spending hour after hour of laborious advanced planning for every event. I wanted everything we did to make an impact. Gospel advancement was the goal and excellence was always the standard. 

Strategic planning is a necessary component to every church and organization. In order to maximize the talents and resources of your people, a clear plan must be properly thought through and implemented. However, as good as strategic planning is, it should never take priority over prayer. As I have grown as a leader, I have learned that spending more time in prayer than planning helps you to be better prepared for what God wants to do in and through you. 

Prayer is hard work. It is something in which we must choose to invest our time. It is one of those disciplines that easily finds itself being pushed out of the priorities of our day. However, prayer can be the avenue in which God chooses to move among you in a new way! 

"We must be diligent to never let our planning become priority over our praying."

Allow me to encourage you to pray for three things as you lead your church or organization forward: 

1) Pray for God’s favor and blessing. There are a lot of good things that come from being a strategic planner. However, when God chooses to bless our efforts, greater things happen. 

2) Pray for God’s guidance and protection. This may sound like a strange way to pray when engaged in planning, but we desperately need God to lead the way and protect us from making the wrong decisions. If we are not careful, we can allow our creativity to lead us to a place where we are more dependent on our abilities than we are on God moving among us. 

3) Pray for those you are seeking to impact. While we certainly want to lead and plan with utmost excellence, the ultimate goal is to glorify God and impact people with the life-changing message of the gospel. Therefore, we must pray that God will use us to advance the gospel. 

As a leader, it is satisfying to develop a plan and see it come to fruition. It is a joy to see people utilize their talents and resources to further the kingdom of God. Strategic planning is a major part of that. However, we must be diligent to never let our planning become priority over our praying. I love you and am honored to serve you!

GenSend shows students ‘everything you do can be missional’

NASHVILLE—The North American Mission Board’s GenSend program gets college students out of their comfort zones and into hurting, broken communities. Students spend their summer in a major city, where ministry might look like serving the homeless, playing at the park or a having a conversation over coffee.

One member of a GenSend team in Denver discovered the importance of meeting people where they are.

“I went to the park and passed out a water to a guy named Louis, and it was his first night being homeless,” said Kirby Logan, who will be a senior at Carson-Newman University this fall. “We had this conversation about how he didn’t have any friends in Denver and how he just wanted to get out. Denver had really broken him. I gave him my big Bible that I had had all summer and told him that he can read it and hear from God. I started to walk away, and I remembered that [the other GenSenders] had a cookout going a block down the street. I walked back to the bench where I had left him [to invite him to the cookout] and he had already opened the Bible and started reading.”

Jason Tipton, Send Relief’s national ministry center director for the Western U.S., said he built strong bonds with the GenSenders in Denver and saw firsthand how the work changed them.

“What I loved seeing was the ‘whatever it takes’ attitude,” Tipton said. “They were willing to do whatever it took to serve our city. I also love how they were having Gospel conversations and how they made that a priority [by] hearing others’ stories and being able to interject the Gospel into that.

“For me, it’s about investing in the next generation. My ministry is shifting to be more of a catalyst [for] inviting them into the work that God is already doing. Sometimes, we think about teaching as classroom instruction, but providing them [with] opportunities to be with our neighbors [is] where I think learning actually takes place.”

That was true for Logan, who said he learned that “poverty looks different for every person.”

“Poverty is not just not having a house or food,” Logan said. “It can be having no friends or struggling with deep depression or needing a job and not knowing anyone that can help you. We intentionally went and talked to people who looked like they needed a conversation. Whether it was a Gospel conversation or not, it was nice for them to know that they had someone that cared enough to talk to them.”

People in Denver often decline invitations to church, he said, which made their conversations all the more crucial.

“If a person knows you and knows that you have a relationship with Jesus, asking them into a relationship with Jesus is much more powerful than inviting them to church,” he said. “[I learned that] people want to be able to trust you before they trust God.”

Keaton Hubbs, who also will be a senior at Carson-Newman, served alongside Logan in Denver. Hubbs said she was struck by the spiritual lostness in the city.

“Satan is out here trying to steal, kill and destroy anything that is good and holy,” she said. “What I learned was that through true intercession with fellow believers and speaking the name of Jesus over every single situation, Satan has no place and he will flee. I now know so fully that we can trust in the Lord in everything because He cares for us and He is never going to leave us.”

Hubbs said she and the team spent time planting seeds of truth and hope, but added that those seeds take time to bear fruit.

“Restoration isn’t just making a bad thing better,” she said. “We don’t just desire to clean up a person and let him look nice. We desire the full restoration of a person, which can take time.”

Lauren Potter, a third Carson-Newman senior on the Denver team, said many people she met seemed to be dissatisfied with life.

“Most people in Denver are not from Colorado because they come there from other places in search of something,” Potter said. “Pretty much everyone there wants to have something to die for that they’re huge on. There’s a lot of spiritual people but not religious people.

“One of our biggest takeaways as a whole group was that a lot of times, we [tend to] romanticize the more attractive styles of ministry. One thing that we spent a lot of time thinking about was being a faithful presence. We have learned to be content in the mundane.”

That “faithful presence” idea was also a big part of the ministry of a GenSend team in New York City.

Riley Bishop followed God’s lead to the Big Apple before he begins his junior year at Tennessee Tech.

“One thing I learned with the GenSend program is that everything you do can be missional,” Bishop said. “A lot of days we don’t have big goals. [Our goal is to be] missional by visiting coffee shops or playing basketball.

“There’s a big stigma around New York that people don’t want to talk to you, and that’s just not the case. New York is so fast, so busy and so lonely that people want to slow down and get to know who you are. You can live intentionally and missionally anywhere, and you can work through the small things that really matter.”

Tipton said he often encourages students to do something that they wouldn’t normally do.

“Within collegiate experiences, we all have great opportunities to do different things with our summers,” Tipton said. “[I encourage everyone to] leave your contexts that you’re used to and allow God to put you into a different context and see where God is working. My worldview has always been expanded when I allow myself to learn from other situations. When we take a risk for the kingdom, there’s always a reward on the other side.”

Logan agreed.

“Go somewhere that you’ve never been and where you’re going to learn things that you’ve never learned before,” he said. “Don’t let the price of GS scare you – there are people who have been praying for you to come to their city”

Bishop said he had the best summer of his life.

“It was definitely hard in a bunch of ways that I didn’t think would be hard, but it was totally worth it,” he said.