Month: September 2022

A commitment to solid theology can cure many ills

In his book “Rejoice and Tremble,” Michael Reaves writes this:

“ … Infatuated with new theological concepts, the young theologian is filled with gnostic pride. His love dies in the devilish thrill of acquiring a knowledge that means power. Then this skewed knowledge proves its own perversity in his character as he becomes a graceless theological thug, ever itching for a chance to show off his prowess.”

Many Christians are reluctant to engage in theological study because it is a place in which many others attempt to show off their prowess. Young pastors can be susceptible to this pitfall. For many, theology means debate. Knowing this, we over-correct and teach other things, as if to say we would rather give them something spiritual and life-giving instead of theological and dead.

Before I became the pastor, we had a member join our church from another church. They complained all the time about how bad their old church was. Well, we all know that soon the current church will replace the old as the one being complained about, and a tiger doesn’t change its stripes (unless the Holy Spirit gets involved).

Sure enough, practices at our church soon became the source of this curmudgeon’s complaining. Small groups, worship music, service style—everything was a problem to this person. But guess what—the Lord used the most unlikely thing to turn this person from a complaining curmudgeon to a strong advocate and servant in the church.

He used theology.

I blame JT English. I had read JT English’s “Deep Discipleship and decided to start teaching some Wednesday night equip classes at the church. I was reluctant when I saw the previously mentioned curmudgeon step into class. Actually, I was reluctant because most of my class consisted of the older people of the church. They didn’t know what they signed up for. They were just there for Bible study with the pastor.

I cursed JT in my head as I handed out the outline for the lectures and readings that night. The class looked unsure, and I felt unsure. Fast forward two years, and after every Wednesday night, I would go home so excited about what God was doing in this class. He was using theology to transform our people. When I think about it, why was I surprised that learning about our God was transformative and made hearts sing? I was seeing people being transformed by the renewing of their minds (Romans 12:2).

Here are five reasons why I believe theology helped the “curmudgeon”:


When your identity is in the Lord, it will not need to be validated by people agreeing with you theologically. We explored doctrine together. Be willing to be wrong—you don’t have to win. At the same time, lead and guide those conversations.


There needs to be space for people to come along. We didn’t start to see serious fruit for at least a year. Shepherds shepherd, we don’t fight.


Establish early on that the Bible is the final say. Constantly appeal to the Scriptures. This probably means hours of preparing and teaching a robust biblical theology and hermeneutics before you start getting into systematic theology.


Many people are upset about things in the church because they just don’t know the theological “why.” If you are patient and humble and teach them to love the Scriptures, then lead them to the theological truth. If they are Christians, they will change. Do you know the theological “why” behind what you do?


Theology is the study of God. Therefore, it is beautiful. When we are excited about the beautiful things of the Lord, our people will be. It was not uncommon for people to be tearful, including me, contemplating theology. When you are marveling, you are not fighting.

As a result, we have a group of people in our church that used to be complainers who are now advocates for what we are doing. They love, support, and pray for the pastors of the church.

So, brother, do not shy away from training your people theologically while resisting the urge to show off your prowess. Be humble, have patience, show them the beauty of truth.

JT English will be the guest speaker at this year’s Young Pastors Network Dinner held during the SBTC Annual Meeting. I would encourage you to come and listen to what he has to say.

Dallas congregation has new leadership and methods, but same gospel heart

For New Life Baptist Church, the Great Commandment and the Great Commission are the driving forces guiding it to fulfill its vision: “Love God, love others, reach the world.”

Founded in 1966, New Life (also known as Nueva Vida) is a bilingual congregation that continues to faithfully preach the same gospel message, even as its methodology has changed. Those changes have brought great results, according to pastor Nelson Fonseca, including 34 people being baptized so far this year. 

“We want people to come to Christ,” Fonseca said. “We love them and we want them to come to the knowledge of Him—not only locally, but also all over the world. That’s why we give to missions, to the Cooperative Program, and support missionaries in different parts of the world.”

Fonseca was recently elected senior pastor of New Life after pastor David Galvan announced his retirement following 40 years of service to the church. Fonseca, a pastor’s son and native of Nicaragua, came to New Life in 2006 while studying at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, completing a Master of Divinity. Fonseca was director of missions and evangelism and has been involved in discipleship, but he describes sharing the gospel as his “first love.”  

“A hallmark of our church is prayer and evangelism,” Fonseca said.

Nelson Fonseca succeeded David Galvan as New Life pastor following Galvan’s retirement.

‘Where the people are’

During the week, New Life does not have services in the building, but gathers in homes with a total of 47 growth groups around the Dallas area. According to Fonseca, these groups are the main evangelism strategy at New Life “because that’s where the people are.” The purpose of the groups is based on Acts 5:42, where followers of Jesus have two objectives: to teach the mature believer to continue learning from the Word of God, and to have an evangelistic outreach to those who have not heard the gospel. 

“We have seen people who do not go or are intimidated to go to the church, but they come to a brother’s house and come to the knowledge of Christ,” Fonseca said.  

The focus and makeup of these groups varies, as they are structured for families, women, men, singles, children, and teenagers. They have seven regional leaders who provide updates about how the work is being carried out through the group leaders. 

"We have seen people who do not go or are intimidated to go to the church, but they come to a brother’s house and come to the knowledge of Christ."

Establishing a clear path

Among the changes New Life has implemented is a systematic approach to discipleship. Everyone who comes to New Life begins with the “New Life” discipleship program, which is designed for new members to understand the basics of the gospel. Upon completion, they move on to study the classic work Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby, which seeks to strengthen the believer in spiritual disciplines. From there, the disciple will take the “Growth Group Strategy,” which is the “backbone of the church,” according to Fonseca. 

After completing those three discipleship classes—which are offered in semesters during the spring, summer, and fall—the disciple will be able to begin studying other topics focused on the growth and maturity of believers and become commissioned to disciple others.

Reaching and praying

New Life also took Vacation Bible School (VBS) outside the church’s walls this summer, with 13 groups meeting simultaneously in different locations such as parks, apartments, and other members’ homes. VBS was held Monday through Thursday, and on Friday of that week, all 13 groups joined together in one location to celebrate with the community. An average of 185 children attended per day, 161 volunteers participated, and 34 professions of faith were recorded. 

At New Life, corporate prayer plays a major role and has had an impact on the congregation, Fonseca said. For more than 20 years the church has held a 6 a.m. prayer meeting every day to pray for the sick, the church, ministries, and missions. Around 10-12 people regularly met for prayer. When church facilities closed due to COVID, the meeting was continued over the phone and blossomed to 35-40 participants—many of whom still participate today.

“We have taken corporate prayer very seriously,” Fonseca said, “and the Lord has done great things.”