Month: October 2022

Movement of God in Northeast Houston church fueled by heart for gospel, vibrant ESL ministry

‘We’re just there to share Jesus’

Abilingual church plant is reaching a Latino population in Northeast Houston troubled by gang activity, drug cartels, and human trafficking—proving through door-to-door evangelism and a robust English as a Second Language program that gospel hope is available to all.

Del Traffanstedt left corporate America to become a missions pastor at Northeast Houston Baptist Church, where he was mentored by the church’s former pastor, Nathan Lino. Traffanstedt later served as a pastor in Odessa for three years but couldn’t stop thinking about Houston—especially inside the beltway.

“The people caught my heart. It’s just a very inner-city, urban, heavily Latino area—just great, solid people who love their community, but there’s a lack of gospel-oriented churches,” Traffanstedt said of the area where he would eventually plant. “There’s plenty of churches here, just not a lot that are actually reaching the community and trying to engage the community.”

When Lino called Traffanstedt in Odessa in early 2021 and said Northeast Houston Baptist Church wanted to plant a church in that specific area of Houston, Traffanstedt was able to share with him a specific plan God had already given him for the task should the opportunity ever arise.

Traffanstedt moved back to Houston a few months later and partnered with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and several churches to plant Cross Community Church, meeting at the Northeast Houston Community Center (owned by Northeast Houston Baptist Church).

More than 10 churches helped the core team knock on doors in the six weeks leading up to the launch and for two weeks after the launch, Traffanstedt said. “The community responded. It was great. We ended up reaching in that first go-round around 5,000 homes.”

On launch Sunday in September of last year, Cross Community baptized a person who had accepted Christ during the door-to-door effort, and the plant baptized at least one person every week for the first 10 weeks, leading to 20 baptisms by its first anniversary. 

“We’ve had around 60 professions of faith, and several of those are still working through the baptism process of understanding what that is,” Traffanstedt said. “The community is heavily steeped in cultural Catholicism, so we have to do a lot of discipling [about] baptism.”

Cross Community baptized at least one person every week for its first 10 weeks, leading to 20 baptisms by its first anniversary.

"The people caught my heart. It’s just a very inner-city, urban, heavily Latino area—just great, solid people who love their community, but there’s a lack of gospel-oriented churches."

About 100 people attend Sunday services now, and roughly every other Sunday the worship songs are a blend of English and Spanish—the stanza in one language and the refrain in the other. A real-time translation of the sermon is available so that those who prefer can hear Spanish through an earpiece and connected device. 

The community is mainly second- and third-generation immigrants, and most of them are bilingual, Traffanstedt said. 

“Everything else in their lives is integrated, and we offer a worship experience that’s integrated as well, which is different than most of the churches around here. … That’s attractive to a lot of the unchurched young Latino couples that we’ve ministered to and baptized and are discipling,” the pastor said.

Cross Community is partnering with two local schools to show Christ’s love, primarily through giving teachers Starbucks and Amazon gift cards. They’ve bought uniforms for students, and—partially with the North American Mission Board’s help—distributed more than 600 backpacks, which include gospel tracts in English and Spanish. 

The church plant’s main community outreach is its ESL program, which at more than 30 members its first semester is among Houston’s largest. More than 15 family units from the program have visited the church, and school partners have asked Cross Community to start an ESL program for children.

Though they weren’t quite ready to support a full class for children, Cross Community hosted a weeklong ESL camp for kids before the start of school. 

“It looks maybe like a VBS, only with some intentional English instruction on basic classroom vocabulary,” Traffanstedt said. About 40 children attended, most of them in kindergarten through third grade. 

Traffanstedt is half Salvadorian, he said, though he didn’t grow up with his first-generation immigrant father. “I have studied Spanish, but I’m not conversational. I do understand it very well, and I can communicate at a basic level.” 

When he needs to communicate evangelistically with someone from the 20 percent of non-English speakers in the surrounding community, Traffanstedt has five members of his core team who can translate. “Between me, my translator, the individual, and the Holy Spirit, we’re just able to work it out,” he said.

Traffanstedt can’t point to a bad experience the church has had going door-to-door in the community. People there are more receptive to a gospel witness than people in suburbs, he has found, and though crime is high, his groups are careful and have earned a good reputation. 

“We don’t try to be the police,” he said. “We’re just there to share Jesus.”

Lone Star Scoop • October 2022

SBTC DR responds to Florida In wake of Hurricane Ian

FORT MYERS, Fla. After Hurricane Ian tore through Florida, killing 105 people and resulting in billions of dollars in property damage, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief volunteers quickly joined first responders in serving the survivors in early October. 

SBTC DR teams arrived in Fort Myers Oct. 2-3 to set up a mass feeding kitchen from Lufkin staffed with volunteers from across Texas. The Lufkin unit, stationed at McGregor Baptist Church in Fort Myers, supported the feeding efforts of the Texas division of the Salvation Army there. On Oct. 4, feeding volunteers prepared 5,100 meals in the unit’s first operational day.

A second SBTC DR feeding unit from Pflugerville also established operations at Riverside Baptist in Fort Myers, assisting the American Red Cross there. Additionally, SBTC DR chaplains, assessors, communications, incident management personnel, and a quick response kitchen were sent to Florida.

—Jane Rodgers

Annie Armstrong giving reaches all-time high, NAMB says
Alpharetta, Ga. Southern Baptists gave a record $68.9 million to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering in 2022, breaking the giving record for a second year in a row. Giving to the offering has exceeded records in five of the last six years. “This is incredible news for our missionaries,” said North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell, “and it is an incredible testimony to God’s faithfulness and to the generosity of Southern Baptists.”  The Annie offering accounts for half of NAMB’s budget, and every dollar of it goes directly to the mission field in the year the money is given. The offering’s total is tallied based on giving during the fiscal year, October 2021 through September 2022. The giving increases have allowed NAMB to expand missionary efforts and increase care for missionaries. In February 2022, NAMB announced that it would provide health care benefits and establish retirement accounts for first-year church planting missionaries through a partnership with Guidestone Financial Services. —Baptist Press
Pomeroy preaches farewell message at Sutherland Springs
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS Frank Pomeroy, who pastored at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs for two decades, preached his final sermon at the church on Sunday, September 25.  Pomeroy, who announced his intent to retire earlier this year, preached about Paul’s farewell message to the elders at Ephesus in Acts 20. “As I stand here this morning, I think about how God has had me standing here before you for 20-plus years,” Pomeroy said to the congregation. “We’ve had a lot of really great times, and we’ve had some really, really hard times together—times of laughter, tears, and great mourning. We’ve done all this together, with Christ at the forefront.” In November 2017, a gunman opened fire inside the church, killing 26 people and injuring 20 more. Pomeroy’s 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle, was among those killed in the shooting. —Jayson Larson

Former SBTC president Bowman stepping down from longtime Austin pastorate in 2023

AUSTIN—J. Kie Bowman, senior pastor of Hyde Park Baptist Church and The Quarries Church, announced plans to transition from his pastoral role in March of 2023, following 25 years at the Austin church.

Bowman told congregants in a special video announcement that being called as senior pastor of Hyde Park in 1997 was “the greatest privilege” he had ever been offered.

“I have loved every minute of this journey, and I still love it today,” the pastor said.

He explained that his decision had been in process for a few years, beginning during the COVID lockdowns, and was the product of “diligent prayer.”

Bowman described the church’s upcoming process of transition, noting that a pastoral search committee would be assembled, a rarity in the congregation’s history, as the 126-year-old Austin church has had only two senior pastors during the past 62 years.

Referencing current cultural challenges, Bowman said, “This is not a time for delay or a season to retreat. Times like these make us realize there is an urgency about fulfilling the Great Commission of Jesus Christ,” exhorting the church to seize the “God-sized” opportunities ahead.

“We must continue to do all we can to share Christ with our city and beyond,” he urged.

Bowman’s pastoral vision for Hyde Park in 1997 was threefold: lead as many people to Christ as possible, faithfully teach the Bible, and lead the church to become a praying church. Almost 10,000 people became members of HPBC during his tenure—with half of those coming by baptism. In 2007, Hyde Park became a multi-site church when Bowman led it to launch a second campus at The Quarries, the church’s 57-acre recreational park in North Austin.

In addition to his time in the pulpit, Bowman has authored six books and contributed to 13 others. His prayer literature has been read by more than 1 million people. In 2018, he was chosen to preach the keynote sermon at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Dallas.

Additionally, he served more than a decade on the executive board of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, including two terms as president in 2020 and 2021. Jim Richards, SBTC executive director during Bowman’s presidency, said, “[A]s he completes his tenure as lead pastor of Hyde Park, I marvel at the work God has done through him. He is as passionate today about getting people to Jesus as he was 30 years ago. His commitment to prayer is an inspiration.”

While leaving the pastorate, Bowman is not retiring from ministry. He will continue his work as an author, speaker, and leader in the interdenominational Unceasing Prayer Movement in Austin (

The satisfaction of sharing

In John 4, we see a woman whose life has been marked by one broken relationship after another in an attempt to find something to satisfy the thirst of her soul. She is desperately seeking something to satisfy her soul but has come up empty time and time again. Yet, through a divine encounter with Jesus, she discovers that what she has been looking for is ultimately found in Him. She drinks the “living water” and is never the same again. What an amazing story of life change through the power of the gospel!

What makes this moment in her life possible is simple—Jesus cared enough about her to take the time to share with her the hope that is found in Himself. You may think, “It’s Jesus—of course He’s going to share with her.” What I love about this passage is that Jesus is described in a way that highlights His humanity. He is exhausted, thirsty, hungry, and sitting by the well resting his weary legs for a few moments. Despite the fatigue of His travels and the busyness of His ministry, Jesus recognized the spiritual condition of this woman and was willing to share the gospel with her. 

In this story, we see that the singular focus of Jesus was to proclaim the “good news” of who He is and what He came to do with those who desperately need Him. In v. 31-34, Jesus reveals to us both the urgency of evangelism and the satisfaction that comes when we engage in it. The disciples know Jesus is tired and hungry, so they offer Him food. Notice His reply: “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” In other words, “I’m already full, boys!” The disciples are confused and ask one another, “Who gave Jesus food?” They are clueless as to what Jesus is referencing.

"We must follow Jesus’ example. He did not let His fatigue or busyness cause Him to be distracted from His primary mission. Rather, He seized an ordinary moment and through a simple conversation changed a woman’s life forever.

Jesus goes on to tell them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work.” What Jesus declares here is that the will of the Father and the work of the Father is for us to engage in personal evangelism. Don’t miss this: evangelism isn’t just a part of our calling as disciples—it’s primary. If we are not engaging in evangelism, we are not walking in the will or doing the work of the Father. 

There is a spiritual satisfaction that we experience when we share our faith. When we neglect the call to evangelize, we are subsequently missing out on the spiritual food that brings satisfaction to the soul. We must follow Jesus’ example. He did not let His fatigue or busyness cause Him to be distracted from His primary mission. Rather, He seized an ordinary moment and through a simple conversation changed a woman’s life forever. 

Since we are entrusted to shepherd and lead those in our churches, we must emphasize evangelism! We must lead by example, lead through equipping and training our people, and lead through celebrating when we see people bold in their evangelism. Imagine the kingdom impact if our collective body of believers truly embraced our everyday, woman-at-the-well moments. As we pray for revival in our churches, community, state, and beyond, we must recognize both the personal responsibility but also the exceeding joy that comes with connecting people to Jesus.

‘I was not looking for God … He was looking for me!’

I was born in Monterrey, Mexico, and grew up in a very nominal Catholic family. We did not own a Bible and I had never heard a clear gospel presentation. My mom left Monterrey when I was young and came to Dallas to start working there at a nightclub to make money to send back home. My dad stayed with us—me and my three sisters—in Monterrey, and we waited about a year. Then my dad told us he wanted us to come to the U.S. for the sole purpose of learning English so we could be bilingual and then come back to Mexico.

So back in 1985, we left Monterrey and came here with a tourist visa, which is only supposed to last six months. We extended our stay in ’85 and reunited with my mom. We lived in South Dallas. My mom was working at a nightclub, and then my dad started working there. I started helping clean the nightclub, and that was what we did on the weekends to make money. And then my sister and I started going to school and learning English. I actually stopped speaking Spanish because I received a lot of discrimination from other Hispanic kids because I didn’t speak English. That made me want to stop speaking Spanish and avoid Hispanic kids; I would only speak Spanish at home. 

We moved to Garland when I was 15, and one Saturday morning, two students from Criswell College in Dallas were going through the neighborhood and knocked on my door. They asked me if I died that day, where would I spend eternity? I really didn’t know how to answer them. And then they shared with me that God loved me and had a special plan for my life, and that eternal life was offered to me in Christ. That was the very first time that I ever heard the simplicity of the good news of Christ.

I did not make a decision to follow Christ that day, but they did invite me to go to their church, Northridge Baptist Church in Richardson. They even came to pick me up the next day. I walked into this medium-size church, predominantly Anglo, but felt right at home, loved, and accepted. Dr. John Avant was the pastor there. I don’t remember anything about the sermon, but when he gave the invitation to come to Christ, I did that. A few weeks later I was baptized at Northridge. 

When I graduated from high school, I thought God was leading me to go to medical school, but because of my immigration status, I was not able to receive scholarships. Unbeknownst to me, the deacons at Northridge Baptist Church and the pastor, Manley Beasley Jr., had arranged to pay for my first semester at Criswell College. They met with me one night after service and said they knew God had called me into the ministry. They wanted me to prepare and thought Criswell College was the best place for me to be. I had no idea what a Bible college was. I had no clue what Criswell was. But at 19, that’s where I started my first semester, studying systematic theology with Dr. John Pretlove.

"When I was not looking for God at all, He was looking for me, and He used His servants to share the hope of salvation."

Once I began to take that class, I just fell in love with Scripture and doctrine and learning to interpret it correctly. I finished in five years. By that time I had completed the 12-year process of gaining U.S. citizenship and was able to spend a year on the mission field, then I came back and started my master’s at Criswell and working at local churches—Hispanic churches. God allowed me to fall in love with the Spanish language and Hispanic culture all over again after I had been ashamed, really, for many years to be a Hispanic, or specifically Mexican, because of the hurt I faced as a young man.

Once I did that, the Lord opened up the doors for me to do mission trips, partnerships with Hispanic churches, Vacation Bible Schools, evangelism—it was just amazing. It was on a mission trip to Mexico that I met Wendy, who was serving as a translator for another team. Wendy’s pastor in Brownwood was John Avant, the pastor who baptized me. Wendy and I were married 19 years ago! 

After I graduated from Criswell, I served in a Presbyterian church for a couple years, and then I served at an Anglican church for another two years. A friend of mine from Criswell College encouraged me to pursue PhD studies at Southwestern Seminary. At that time, there was a special scholarship for Hispanic PhD students, and that program was directed by Dr. Mike Gonzales at the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC).

I had no idea what the SBTC was. I didn’t even know what a convention was. When I met with Brother Mike, he started asking me questions about my life and testimony. He gave me a little translation project.
I thought that was all being done so I could get the scholarship, but he told me he had been looking for an associate to help them with Hispanic ministries at the convention. That was in March, and then by May, I was accepted as an associate with the convention. It’s been about 11 years now that I’ve been serving with the SBTC.

God also saved my family during these years. My mother came to faith in Christ about eight years after I did, and then all my sisters came to Christ, as well. They were all baptized at Northridge Baptist Church. My dad had not believed, but he was always introducing me at his job and to his friends as “the pastor.” I think after many years, he learned to respect the calling that God had on my life. Then God placed a pastor at his job, serving as a security guard, and this pastor shared the gospel with him.
I rejoice that my dad gave his life to Christ before he passed.

I’ve kept up with those men who first shared Christ with me. One’s a pastor in Mineral Wells and the other one is a lay leader at a Presbyterian church in Plano. So many people have been used by God to help me. Just looking back, I realize that God was orchestrating all of this, and it’s a very humbling thing.

So what’s my story? When I was not looking for God at all, He was looking for me, and He used His servants to share the hope of salvation. I long to have that same burden, the same compassion that those two young men once showed me.

What's your story?

Want to share a story of what God is doing in your life or your church? 

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DR chaplaincy teams offer ‘spiritual counseling’ at FEMA request

FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla.—One Hurricane Ian survivor found dealing with the pressures of the storm and the storms of life almost unbearable … until she spoke with Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief chaplains at Fort Myers Beach.

Fort Myers Beach, an oceanfront community on Estero Island—an insular strip in the Gulf of Mexico some 16 miles south of the city of Fort Myers—was a thriving vacation spot before Ian hit in late September.

On Saturday morning, Oct. 22, SBTC DR chaplain Lowell Warren of Mexia, director of missions for the Bi-Stone Association, arrived to serve survivors. He learned from the county sheriff’s department that Estero Island would be closed to outsiders for two days, beginning Monday, Oct. 24, so that major cleanup operations could occur. Homeowners who elected to leave Sunday evening would not be permitted to cross the bridge from the mainland to access their damaged property until Oct. 26.

By order of local, state, and federal authorities, the only people allowed on the island for two days, besides residents already there, would be city contractors, first responders, health care workers, recovery workers, Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel, and representatives from other social service agencies, Warren said.

Then FEMA officials recognized needs among the survivors that even the most helpful social service providers could not meet.

A ‘high demand’ for prayer

“There was such a high demand for prayer. People were asking, ‘Is there anyone here who could pray with me?’” Warren said he learned from the FEMA representative, who asked the chaplain if the Southern Baptists would establish a spiritual counseling presence at Fort Myers Beach, both during the two-day restricted period and after.

It was a deal no chaplain could refuse.

“He asked us to be available to provide spiritual guidance to people who are struggling to make some sense of what life looks like for them after the storm. He asked us to be here to pray for those who come in seeking prayer and encouragement,” Warren said.

Five SBTC DR chaplains set up a table with Bibles and tracts in Spanish and English and began praying and talking with survivors at the FEMA site on Fort Myers Beach on Oct. 24.

“They aren’t handing out tracts and Bibles, but they are making them available for people to pick up,” said Sue Robinson, a SBTC DR administrative volunteer from Huntsville who is onsite at McGregor Baptist in Fort Myers.

“We expect to stay here as long as needed,” Warren said. “People are very receptive. The fields are white unto harvest,” he added, noting that the chaplains talked to 25 people on Oct. 24 and prayed with 15, supplying Bibles and tracts to all who asked.

They prayed with struggling first responders, survivors, and even agency personnel.

They also spoke with Paula (name changed), who came into the FEMA tent after speaking with chaplain Colin Hext, a retired firefighter. Another fireman had brought Paula to meet Hext, saying, “I need you to talk to this lady.”

At the FEMA site in Fort Myers Beach, SBTC DR chaplains prayed with survivors, like Paula, suffering in the wake of Hurricane Ian. SUBMITTED PHOTO

“[Paula] was ready to give up,” Warren said. “She had even thought about ending her life. She said she had stood on her fourth-floor balcony contemplating suicide.” Chaplains learned that Paula was a believer. “Life had just been dumping on her before the storm,” Warren said.

After visiting with several chaplains for a while, Paula recalled the joy of her salvation.

“I would start a Scripture and she would finish it,” Warren said. “The Lord started bringing it back. All of the stuff going on in her life she just couldn’t handle anymore. The Holy Spirit took control. She left with a sparkle in her eye and hope in her heart.”

Paula agreed to return to pray with the chaplains the following day and as often afterward as needed.

FEMA has requested chaplains in the past during other disasters, SBTC DR Director Scottie Stice said.

But DR chaplains were busy even before the FEMA request. Warren told of meeting Pat Marchan, a Fort Myers Beach resident and joyful Christian who proudly displayed a devotional book miraculously preserved from her flooded home. The book had comforted Marchan following the death of her son six years before. Its survival without any water damage reminded her that God had protected her family although all else was destroyed.

Recovery work goes on

Disaster relief work continues in Florida as Southern Baptist teams from across the nation serve.

After preparing more than 73,000 meals distributed by the Texas division of the Salvation Army, the SBTC DR mass feeding unit operating out of McGregor Baptist in Fort Myers ceased operations begun nearly three weeks ago, on Oct. 4.

“Yesterday [Oct. 23], the final meal count for the day was 1,950,” Stice said.

A quick response kitchen unit manned by Dee and Doug Cates of Pampa is serving DR workers housed at McGregor Baptist in Fort Myers, as are shower and laundry units from Calvary Baptist in Beaumont, Arkansas DR, and Florida DR, Robinson said.

Some 100 families from McGregor Baptist were directly impacted by Ian, Robinson said. “They’ve lost homes and roofs; some have been displaced. Even though it’s a large church, 100 families is a significant number.” Even so, “this church has just opened their arms to everybody. It’s just been amazing,” she added.

SBTC DR teams have joined other SBDR crews to help with the massive clean-up efforts needed after the storm. Volunteers are committing to two-week stints.

Among these, Mike Phillips led an SBTC DR chainsaw and recovery team from First Baptist Bellville. David Dean continues to direct a recovery team from First Baptist Pflugerville while a team from Spring Baptist Church under the leadership of Bill Zaffos is also working out of McGregor, Robinson said.

To date, SBTC DR volunteers served 754 volunteer days and contributed 7,054 hours of service, rotating in and out of Florida, doing a variety of tasks from feeding to mud out to chainsaw work to chaplaincy, Stice said.

Other state Baptist DR teams involved in Florida have included California, Arizona, New Mexico, Tennessee, and Texas Baptist Men, Stice confirmed, adding that additional teams from Hawaii, Mississippi, and Kansas/Nebraska are expected the week of Oct. 31.

Donations for Hurricane Ian relief efforts can be made here.

Bradford to occupy newly established evangelism chair at SWBTS

FORT WORTH, Texas—Students at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary say Carl Bradford’s “pastor’s heart” and passion for evangelism are evident in the classroom and influences their own zeal to share the gospel.

Bradford has served as assistant professor of evangelism at Southwestern Seminary since 2018. Effective Jan. 1, Bradford will occupy the newly established Malcolm R. and Melba McDow Chair of Evangelism in the Roy J. Fish School of Evangelism and Missions at Southwestern. Through his academic role, he teaches several evangelism-related classes, including Contemporary Evangelism, Theology of Evangelism and Missions, and the Historical Development of the Kerygma and the Gospel, in the Roy J. Fish School of Evangelism and Missions.

“Among those classes, I most enjoy Contemporary Evangelism,” Bradford said, noting one of the core classes for master’s students. The course results in the “greatest transformation of an individual’s passion for evangelism. The students must study evangelism concerning areas such as God’s and man’s role in evangelism, evangelism in the Old and New Testaments, what constitutes the Gospel, and other areas of evangelism study.”

Students enrolled in the class “are challenged to practice sharing their faith a minimum of 12 times throughout the semester,” he added, noting “The class is a favorite of mine because it has the perfect mixture of biblical theology and practice.”

Bradford not only teaches evangelism as an academic discipline, but he lives it out with his students too. He also spearheads the group of Southwestern students each year at Crossover, which precedes the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting each June, and he leads a group of students in Everyday Evangelism, which is a ministry opportunity where Southwestern and TBC students go out into various places each week in the Fort Worth community to share the Gospel.

While Bradford grew up loving the culture and food in his native New Orleans, he came to Fort Worth to evacuate from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Having earned both his Master of Divinity (2011) and Doctor of Philosophy (2018) degrees from Southwestern, he explained there are three reasons he teaches at the seminary, including his own education at the institution.

“I am a two-time graduate of SWBTS,” Bradford said. “Through a partnership with local churches, I believe in its mission to provide Gospel-centered teaching, strong theological education, and a Great Commission focus.”

He also noted that teaching at Southwestern Seminary “allows me to have a significant influence on students all around the world and those they meet,” and then “the things I lecture on evangelism, theology, discipleship, and other topics have a global reach.”

This article originally appeared on the SWBTS website.

More are answering the call. Now what?

More than 1,100 potential IMB missionaries are now in a pipeline awaiting preparation and assignment. Isn’t that exciting? It is an answer to prayer and a work of God.

This encouraging response to the call of the Great Commission is evidence of God’s work to bring all people to Him through Jesus Christ.

When I hear that others are answering God’s call to go to the nations, I want to do my part. Don’t you? Maybe we aren’t all called to physically go to the nations, but there is a role for all believers.

Upon hearing the news of the 1,100 missionaries in the pipeline, I was immediately reminded of an article IMB President Paul Chitwood wrote in 2021. In the piece, he specifically asked us to focus on increasing the mission force, to give toward it and to pray for it.

In that piece, Chitwood lamented, “Those of us who have been in a Southern Baptist church since at least 2008 should be sobered by the fact that gospel troops have been cut by nearly half on our watch.”

He issued a call to action for frontline missionaries, “We have a target of seeing the number of frontline missionaries grow by 500 over the next five years. And here’s what we need to do right now: we need to deliver the draft notice. We need to get the word out. We need to call out the called and encourage every pastor and preacher across the SBC to call out the called.”

God is at work and His people are responding.

We may not all be sent to the uttermost, but we are all called to pray and give for the sake of the Great Commission.

This is a not a new call to action. Another Paul, the apostle Paul, called on Christians to contribute to the needs of the saints. (Romans 12:13)

That same apostle looked forward to his own personal help from those Roman Christians as he continued in his mission work (Romans 15:24). He was counting on them to help carry the gospel to those who had never heard.

The need for us to increase our giving to reach the nations is great. “I’m asking Southern Baptists for more money, the money it will take to support those 500 more missionaries,” Chitwood said.

The apostle Paul was also counting on Christians to pray for missions and church planting. In at least five different places in the New Testament, he asks believers to pray for his mission work.

In the summer of 2021, messengers to the SBC annual meeting in Nashville passed Vision 2025. Two aspects in that urgent vision play a key role in news of the increased pipeline. First, messengers agreed to pray and act to see a net gain of 500 full-time, fully funded missionaries through the IMB.

God is at work and His people are responding.

There is also a call to increase giving through the Cooperative Program (CP). The way to get the missionaries from the pipeline to the field is by giving generously through the Cooperative Program.

God is at work. Will His people respond?

The post FIRST-PERSON: More are answering the call. Now what? appeared first on IMB.

Let your Christian voice be heard

A couple weeks out from Election Day, the pundits and professional guessers are having a moment. Which issue will motivate voters? Which demographics will be most motivated? Which constituencies will abandon their party because they feel ignored?

It gets so that I know the questions and the answers offered before the discussion begins. It sounds as if our participation in our nation’s governance is fragile, contingent on everything from the weather to our mood to what TV ad enrages us the morning of the event. Christians should have a more stable motivation for voting than those governed by their feelings and tribal memberships.

Voting is a way that we can affect the implementation of neighborly love. One item on my ballot in Arkansas will be legalization of recreational marijuana. The well-funded ad campaign for this effort touts tax-funded cancer research, more money for law enforcement (which will be needed), and thousands of jobs. Maybe these positive things would occur, though they have been far less than promised in other boondoggles (gambling and lotteries come to mind), but my vote will have less to do with what’s promised to me than it will with the negative effects on my community—the individuals ruined by yet another state-sponsored bad habit.

And of course, there are positive things you might vote for, and leaders who you believe will stand for those positive things. You pay taxes and you pay the salaries of those who make decisions large and small. Voting is the best way to influence how that money is used.

Voting is a rare privilege in the history of the world. Factor in thousands of years of recorded history and then remove all the nations run by monarchs, tyrants, corrupt cabals, and tribal chaos. Now mark through every “democratic election” where the incumbent won by a nearly unanimous vote. What you have left shows grassroots ownership of government as a mostly modern phenomenon. And here we are, placed by God in this moment. If you have any sense that government, however limited, can benefit the common good, this is your shot. Many of us who came from another country came here for this. It’s a rare gift to be able to affirm or fire your leaders.

Voting can be, therefore, an act of optimism. Listen, I know that these guys will disappoint me in some way—they or I will be wrong on many occasions. I also believe that no leader except the Lord will “turn things around” in any lasting way. But our leaders have the power to occasionally help people who need it. They have the power to provide for public safety and justice. It is cynical and useless to say that your voice doesn’t matter because “they are all crooks.” It’s also not true. Steer between the delusion that a leader can return us to the good old days (which weren’t really), and the cynicism of believing that the game is so rigged that your participation doesn’t matter.

The vote of biblical Christians especially matters. You and I live in a culture in which the ascending worldview is as scientifically and spiritually false as that of our Druid ancestors. You know something else about the nature of truth and the significance of human life, something that can only be revealed by the one God who made everyone and everything. Our nation’s founding documents assume some Judeo-Christian truths that are necessary for our survival as a nation. So yes, it becomes very important for those who believe in the significance of marriage, of children, of gender, of life, and of the freedom of every person’s conscience, to speak into every public decision. You can consider your participation part of being salt—a healing, preservative influence—in an ailing and corrupt society.

I don’t believe this world is my eternal home—it is not all we have. I also don’t believe that we, who are limited and mortal, will turn this present darkness into the kingdom of God. But we do live here for now. We do know some important things because our lives are being transformed by God’s Spirit. And we are motivated by something far better than self-interest.

That’s why I’m going to vote for the best choices, as informed by my relationship with the God of everything, offered on my ballot this November.

Monroe seeks to mobilize Southwestern Seminary community for ‘polyphony’ of prayer

Motioning to the psalter she read to her father, T.W. Hunt, the day he passed away, Melana Hunt Monroe said the last thing she said to the longtime Southwestern Seminary professor was, “You have taught us how to pray and we will be faithful, and we will pray.” He died immediately afterward.

In the days following his Sept. 27 appointment as interim president, David S. Dockery issued a call for 40 days of prayer for God’s mercy and favor based on Psalm 90:17. Monroe, the only child of Hunt who served as professor of piano and organ at Southwestern Seminary from 1963-1987, contacted Dockery to ask if there was “anything already in the works for what prayer for Southwestern” during the 40 days “would look like” and volunteering “to help facilitate” anything the new leader wanted.

Monroe’s ties with the Fort Worth school are lifelong. She grew up on the campus beginning as a seven-year-old when her father began serving on the faculty. Her daughter, Katie Monroe Frugé earned both her Master of Divinity and Doctor of Philosophy degrees at the seminary. Monroe explained she “grew up praying for Southwestern.”

As part of her first steps in encouraging churches to pray for Southwestern Seminary, Monroe has “begun reaching out to people” who can put her “in contact with churches across Texas so that our people in Texas that are direct recipients of the work that God has done” at Southwestern who “can also pray” that God “would look with favor on us and carry us through this time.”

Monroe’s motivation to pray is based on Jesus’s words to His disciples in Matt. 6:10, recognizing that Jesus told His followers to “pray for the Kingdom to come.”

“My part in that is prayer – praying for the Kingdom to come through, in part, the work and people that Southwestern touches,” Monroe explained. She notes the “number one prayer” her father had in his prayer notebook was “the name of the Lord Jesus be glorified above everything else.”

Monroe (left) visits with David S. Dockery, one of the men who has been appointed to an interim leadership position at the seminary. SWBTS PHOTO

This was a prayer he prayed for their “family, for Southwestern, and for the SBC,” she remembered and said the glorification of Christ “will look very different in every life because the Lord glorifies His name differently in each one of us, but I think the common denominator is that we’re going to see Jesus and each person is part of the solution.”

Monroe, recalling Dockery’s request from Psalm 90:17 that the Lord would look with favor upon Southwestern Seminary, said “every face is going to reflect that favor.”

As she seeks to mobilize churches, associations, and ministers to pray for Southwestern, Monroe cites an example her dad gave when he preached in chapel service when Kenneth S. Hemphill was serving as president.

During the chapel service the retired music professor went to the piano on the platform and began to play “a little bit of a fugue,” a musical composition which includes the same melody played simultaneously at varying octaves but in such a way they “intertwine.” Hunt explained in the chapel service it is called “polyphony.” However, in the chapel service, Hunt played “Amazing Grace,” which Monroe said is an example of homophony because it is “one melody line and everybody supports that one melody line.”

Citing the words of her dad, Monroe recalled he told the chapel audience that day, “Folks, the Lord here is writing polyphony, not homophony. We all have a melody, and all the melodies work together to make this amazingly complex beautiful masterpiece.”

Monroe said the prayers of the Southwestern Seminary community are “polyphony” as each “blends together.”

“God isn’t using soloists; He is using a choir,” she concluded.

To commit to pray for Southwestern Seminary, whether as an individual or a church, please click here.

This article originally appeared on the SWBTS website.