Month: October 2022

With the Cooperative Program, ‘any church of any size’ can plant

NASHVILLE—When Christ Fellowship in Tampa, Fla., felt led to launch a new campus, they weren’t alone. Send Network Florida walked beside them every step of the way.

A partnership between the Florida Baptist Convention and the North American Mission Board, Send Network Florida helped identify a church planter then assisted with assessing, training and coaching him. Christ Fellowship’s Riverview campus launched this year with campus pastor Jawaan Wilson leading the way.

That success story isn’t an anomaly. Thanks to the Cooperative Program, no Southern Baptist church that decides to plant a new congregation is forced to go it alone. Their Baptist state convention, often in conjunction with NAMB’s Send Network for church planting, provides resources and coaching from the moment they decide to plant until the plant is self-sustaining.

“By being a Southern Baptist church and by us cooperating together using Cooperative Program dollars, significant resources can come back to that sending church to help them love on and support and send out that church plant,” said James Peoples, director of Send Network Florida.

Across the SBC, 817 new congregations were launched in 2021, the highest total since 2015. That total included church plants, replants and new campuses of existing churches. For each of those congregations, there was a sending church that needed assistance customized to its unique setting. CP made that customized help possible. While not every church plant is funded directly by CP, every sending church has access to CP-funded assistance.

“Multiple levels” of help are available to sending churches, said Paul Westbrook, church planting director for the Illinois Baptist State Association (IBSA). “In most cases,” the support isn’t a financial contribution. “The support would come more from encouragement and tools and resources that would be made available to them through either NAMB staff, Send Network or, in our case, IBSA’s church planting staff.”

Church-planting residencies comprise a major portion of the help for sending churches in Illinois. The residencies allow prospective church planters to join a church staff temporarily, where they learn how to start and multiply small groups, develop leaders and improve their preaching – all while being coached by experienced leaders. After six months to a year, the planter is sent out to practice the skills he has acquired.

The IBSA aims to establish at least two church-planting residency programs in each region of the state. A NAMB training in Chicago last month trained 10 churches how to establish residencies. After a church plant launches, IBSA continues to provide in-person and phone consultations for the sending church, helping them work through any problems that arise.

Church planting isn’t just for large churches, Peoples said.

“Because of the generosity of Southern Baptists partnering together in the Cooperative Program, any church of any size anywhere can be a sending church for a new church plant,” he said. “Being a sending church is about relationship, not about finances.”

If a Florida church of just a few members wants to plant, Southern Baptist resources can help them. If the church already has identified a planter to work with, Peoples can walk that planter through Send Network’s assessment process and help him get started. As part of the assessment, representatives from the sending church learn church-planting best practices to assist their planter.

If the church that feels called to plant doesn’t have a specific church planter in mind, Peoples can help them make connections – either to become a sending church or to partner with an existing church plant.

The story is similar in Texas. Assistance is available for sending churches from the moment they start to consider planting.

If a Texas Southern Baptist church “feels called to plant a church or explore the possibility, we provide consulting through our catalysts or myself to help them understand the process that’s ahead of them,” said Jason Crandall, church plant lead for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) Send Network. “We want them to get a big picture of what’s available to them as a sending church inside of Send Network SBTC from residency to assessment to training.

“Additionally, as a sending church develops a potential planter, the SBTC offers resources for residents who are heading toward a Send Network assessment within the next 12-18 months. We can also provide residency curriculum through our partnership with the [NAMB] Send Network that is customizable and helps the sending church prepare the planter for the field,” Crandall said.

After launch, the sending church continues to benefit from coaching, consultation and training.

The bottom line for sending churches is that each of the 42 state conventions in the SBC family is committed to walk with them from pre-launch through empowerment of the new congregation as a self-sustaining church.

“For any SBC church that embraces that responsibility [to plant a church],” Peoples said, “because of the Cooperative Program, Send Network can partner with them to provide significant resources to help them plant.”

SBTC pastors among those honored for many years of service by SABA

SAN ANTONIO—The San Antonio Baptist Association honored 19 pastors with an accumulated 573 years of ministry service at its 164th annual gathering on Oct. 16 in the Alamo City.

Among the honorees were five current Southern Baptists of Texas Convention pastors: Steve Branson of Village Parkway Baptist Church (28 years of service), Carlos Navarro of Iglesia Bautista West Brownsville (29 years), H. Statt Riddlebarger of Pearsall Road Baptist Church (28 years), Dennis Wall of The Hills Church (44 years), and Robert Welch of Parkhills Baptist Church (28 years).

The celebration kicked off at 4 p.m. at the First Mexican Baptist Church in San Antonio with music from Mariachi Agape. Some 275 adults and 100 youth attended, including most of the honorees or their representatives.

The pastors received special plaques bearing images of the San Antonio area.

The ceremony was a first for SABA. “Even though we have recognized churches and individuals in the past, this is our first time to recognize pastors who have been 25-plus years in one congregation,” said Darrell Horn, SABA executive director, adding that the association also conducts a separate annual business meeting in November.

Steve Branson (left), pastor of Village Parkway Baptist Church, receives a plaque from SABA Executive Director Darrell Horn. SABA PHOTO

Until seven-and-a-half years ago, when Horn took the helm, SABA combined its celebratory gathering and business meeting on the same date.

“Five years ago, we hit the reset button. We redid the annual gathering, separating it from the business meeting. It’s been a good thing,” Horn said. “We want our annual gathering to be a celebration of what God is doing and conduct our business session at a different time.”

Over the course of its history, some 462 Baptist churches have been part of SABA, and just over 300 churches currently cooperate with the association, Horn added.

On the opportunity to honor long-serving pastors, the executive director added, “When some Baptist associations across the U.S. might only have 19 churches, we are grateful to have 19 pastors who have served 25 years or more in one church. They are an example of faithfulness and longevity in ministry. These men leave a legacy for others to follow. They were the main leaders for decades and have created a stable association for those who follow in their footsteps.”

More pastors seeing Halloween as opportunity to spread the gospel

NASHVILLE, Tenn.— This year, as millions of Americans celebrate Halloween, many Protestant pastors in the United States are encouraging their church members to respond to the holiday in specific ways.

More than 7 in 10 (71%) pastors say they encourage church members to invite friends or neighbors to church events on or near Halloween, such as a fall festival, trunk-or-treat or judgment house, according to a Lifeway Research study. Nearly 3 in 5 (58%) pastors say they want church members to build relationships with neighbors who trick-or-treat. And 1 in 3 (34%) pastors encourage church members to hand out gospel tracts to trick-or-treaters.

More than 3 in 4 (78%) Americans are planning on celebrating Halloween this year, according to a Numerator survey. But not all pastors want their church members to take part. Lifeway Research found just over 1 in 8 (13%) say they encourage people in their congregations to avoid Halloween completely. Others don’t try to push their congregations in any direction regarding the holiday, with 8% of pastors saying they don’t encourage their church members to do any of these things.

“Few pastors simply ignore the fact that so many Americans participate in Halloween celebrations,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “Most pastors focus on the social nature of these celebrations, encouraging their congregations to engage with others outside their church.”

More pastors seeking to influence Halloween engagement

Compared to 2016, pastors are more likely to seek to influence their church members’ engagement in Halloween festivities this year. And the largest increase is in handing out gospel tracts. Whereas 26% of pastors encouraged their church members to hand out gospel tracts to trick-or-treaters in 2016, this year, 1 in 3 (34%) pastors are doing the same.

But pastors are also more likely to encourage their congregations to engage in the holiday in other ways. In 2016, 67% of pastors encouraged their church members to invite friends or neighbors to church events. This year, 71% of pastors are encouraging the same. And pastors are also more likely to encourage church members to build relationships with neighbors who trick-or-treat this year (58%) than in 2016 (52%). As churches continue to recover from the impact of COVID, many may be trying to reconnect with their members and communities and see Halloween as an ideal opportunity for this engagement.

However, while some pastors are more likely to encourage their churches to engage in Halloween this year, others are more likely to encourage church members to avoid the holiday completely. While 8% of pastors encouraged their church members to avoid Halloween in 2016, 13% are doing the same this year. No matter their take on Halloween, pastors are holding to their stances more firmly and are more likely to vocalize those ideas for their congregations.

“Whether it comes from a desire to reconnect with their community after the pandemic prevented much of this or from deepened convictions about the holiday itself, pastors appear more resolute in their convictions around Halloween,” McConnell said.

Fewer pastors are refraining from influencing their church members’ engagement with Halloween at all. Whereas 12% of pastors said they were not encouraging their church members in any of these ways in 2016, 8% of pastors say the same today.

Engaging neighbors

This year, even more pastors are viewing Halloween as an opportunity to engage neighbors in at least some capacity. Younger pastors are more likely to encourage their congregations to engage in Halloween by inviting friends and neighbors to church events or by building relationships with neighbors who trick-or-treat. Pastors ages 18-44 and 45-54 are among the most likely to encourage members to build relationships with neighbors (66% and 63%, respectively) and to invite neighbors to church events (78% and 79%, respectively).

But older pastors are more likely to encourage their churches to hand out gospel tracts to trick-or-treaters. Those 55-64 (38%) and older than 65 (37%) are among the most likely to encourage church members to give out tracts.

“The majority of even the smallest churches offer church events this time of year and encourage their members to invite people from the community,” McConnell said. “In a society that is increasingly distant and divided, most pastors see opportunities within the interactions that take place around Halloween.”

Other factors also indicate a pastor’s likelihood of encouraging engagement with the holiday. White pastors are among the most likely to encourage their congregations to build relationships with neighbors (61%) and invite neighbors to church events (73%). Pastors in the South are also among the most likely to encourage church members to hand out gospel tracts (38%) and to invite neighbors to church events (75%). Evangelical pastors (42%) are more likely than mainline pastors (28%) to encourage members to hand out gospel tracts. And Baptists are the most likely to encourage the same (58%).

Avoiding Halloween

The oldest pastors, those older than 65, are among the most likely to encourage their churches to avoid Halloween completely (20%) and are the most likely to not encourage their churches to respond to the holiday in any of these ways (14%). African American pastors are also among the most likely to encourage their church members to avoid the holiday (32%) or not encourage their congregations in any direction regarding the holiday (19%). In terms of church size, pastors of churches with fewer than 50 in attendance are among the most likely to encourage their congregations to avoid Halloween completely (16%).

For more information view the complete report and visit


Equipping your kids to live in a pro-LGTBQ culture

For the last couple of years, the volume has increased over concerns related to parental rights, especially at public schools. What focused for a time as concerns over in-person education and the use of masks during the pandemic has quickly returned to concerns over matters of sexuality and gender.

In the wake of these concerns, Florida and Alabama have passed bills limiting discussions of gender identity and sexuality in classrooms with young children. At the same time, some school districts appear to be attempting to hide possible gender identity transitions from parents.

What are we to do as Christians, and especially Christian parents, as we navigate the world of parental rights in a pro-LGBTQ culture? How do we speak truth into the school systems in our communities and effect change where it is needed?

Let’s begin with a few affirmations:

God created humans male and female. Genesis 1:26-27 functions as God’s opening statement regarding anthropology. While the focus is often (rightly) placed on the fact that humans are made in God’s image, the second statement of that passage is sometimes overlooked. At the end of v. 27 we read, “He created them male and female.” These words in the opening chapter of the Bible are now considered controversial, but they are not unclear. In an age where distinctions between male and female are blurred, we find the clear testimony of Scripture to be that God created male and female as distinct expressions of humanity.

God created males and females as complementary in nature. Complementarity between males and females is a multifaceted concept, but I want to focus on just one aspect here—sexual complementarity. God designed male and female to be a complementary pair sexually. This idea first appears in Scripture in Genesis 1:28 where we read, “God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth. . . .’” With this pronouncement following on the heels of the declaration that God created humans as male and female, we rightly surmise that the process through which mankind would be fruitful and multiply was the sexual relationship that God designed to take place between a man and a woman in the context of marriage (see Genesis 2).

God created the human body as part of his good creation. On five different occasions in Genesis 1, we see that God declared his creation to be good, culminating with the words in verse 31, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good indeed.” As part of the discussion revolving around gender identity, we sometimes hear the discussion turn to demeaning the body and elevating the mind so that the body must be changed. But we cannot forget that the physical body is part of God’s good creation.

With these theological affirmations in place, how do we engage our schools on matters of sexuality and protect parental rights in the process?

How to equip your children and engage with your school

Teach your children the truth of God’s Word on matters of sexuality. Conversations with our children about sexuality can be awkward—let’s just admit it. But we can’t allow the awkwardness of the conversation to prevent us from having them. We have found, especially with our older children, that they are confronted with unbiblical models of gender and sexuality on a regular basis at school. Thus, it is crucial that they have been taught a biblical model and home and church. We need to teach them how to engage in conversations at school so they can speak knowledgeably and are able to communicate with their parents when something different is being taught or promoted at school.

Be an involved parent. We cannot clamor for protecting parental rights in the schools if we are not involved in the life of the school. Volunteer in the classroom. Serve on a committee. Provide support for teachers and staff. Go to school board meetings. By getting involved, we build relationships. Most changes that we want to see come to fruition are best accomplished on the basis of a relationship with a teacher, principal, or school board member. If we are not involved, we will generally not be heard.

Vote in local elections. We tend to get excited about national elections with potentially far-reaching ramifications, but most of the politics that affect our daily lives happen on the local level. High-profile school board elections in districts that have already experienced controversy make the national news, but the controversial policies enacted in those districts most likely came as a result of years of inattention to local politics by the average citizen. We need to get out and vote in these local elections, and some of us may even need to run for office.

Promote biblical convictions for sexuality and gender. The biblical vision for gender and sexuality—gender identity that corresponds to biological sex and sexual expression through the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman—was not controversial just 15-20 years ago. The culture is not so far gone that we cannot restore this vision through faithful teaching and living. Our promotion of biblical convictions begins in our homes and then extends into our communities.

Protecting parental rights in a pro-LGBTQ culture begins by exercising those rights. When the world says our vision for sexuality and gender is out of date or harmful, we demonstrate it through our lives and proclaim it unashamedly.

Cooperative Program helps fuel Send Relief’s international ministry projects

NASHVILLE (BP)—While the damage caused by natural disasters and the devastation of the war in Ukraine continue to make headlines, giving to the Cooperative Program is continuing to fund the compassion ministry of Send Relief around the world.

Send Relief is the Southern Baptist compassion ministry that is a joint effort between the North American Mission Board and International Mission Board focused on providing practical and spiritual aid to those in need.

Focus areas of Send Relief include responding to crises, protecting children and families, caring for refugees, fighting human trafficking and strengthening communities.

Jason Cox, vice president of international ministry for Send Relief, told Baptist Press that none of these avenues of ministry, including those happening overseas, would be possible without the support of Southern Baptists through the Cooperative Program.

“The importance of the Cooperative Program to the international work of Send Relief is best quantified in the people the CP supports and the missionary presence it enables around the world,” Cox said in comments to Baptist Press.

“What excites me most about Send Relief today are reports of lives changed for eternity through our projects. Everything we do is modeled after the life and ministry of Christ and in obedience to His commands,” Cox said.

“Everything we do is Gospel-focused. The works of compassion that we facilitate give expression to the Gospel through word and deed. Hundreds of thousands of people don’t just see the gospel but hear the gospel through Send Relief projects every year,” said Cox.

He says this year more than a thousand people have responded to the Gospel through Send Relief’s efforts related to the war in Ukraine.

Send Relief oversees personnel organizing aid projects are all IMB missionaries, according to Cox.

“IMB missionary presence is critical to Send Relief because the vast majority of the compassion ministry projects we facilitate are through IMB missionaries,” Cox said. “We rely directly on the generous giving of Southern Baptists through the CP to keep our Send Relief team on the field.

According to Cox, Send Relief currently has 354 active compassion ministry projects going on around the world, which support the work of IMB missionaries and their partners.

“Because Send Relief supports the work of IMB missionary teams and their local partners, the relief and development projects we facilitate are designed to enhance and expand those teams’ field strategies to engage in the missionary task. This simply would not be possible without the support provided through the CP.”

He said two of the biggest areas Send Relief has been able to provide aid in the last few years are related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

Ironically, the unique challenges of the pandemic resulted in an increase in Send Relief’s work internationally.

“The work of Send Relief is typically most visible when we are responding to crisis, but the COVID-19 pandemic presented us with a crisis unlike we’ve ever experienced in our lifetime,” Cox said.

“In a world of lockdowns and social distancing, and throughout repeated disruptions experienced by our ministry partners on the field, the work of Send Relief actually expanded and accelerated during the pandemic. The number of Send Relief international projects increased by 75 percent from 2019 to 2020.

“Since the pandemic began, Send Relief has facilitated 597 Covid relief projects impacting over 1.7 million people. Most importantly, more than 14,000 people have professed faith in Christ through the ministries and strategies directly supported by these relief projects.”

Regarding the crisis in Ukraine, Send Relief has been “actively engaged,” since it began, providing aid to people in desperate need.

There have been 72 different relief projects related to the war. Many of them have taken place outside of Ukraine.

“These projects are addressing the most critical needs of those affected and displaced by the war: transportation costs for evacuating people; sheltering refugees and internally displaced peoples and providing food, clothing, medicine, and trauma counseling,” Cox said.

“Some projects are addressing other needs like longer-term housing for refugees in surrounding countries, mobile kitchens, summer camps for refugee children, and crisis response training for local pastors and volunteers.

“Most of these projects are ongoing, but we’ve received reports from 27 completed projects. Those 27 projects have impacted over 600,000 people and resulted in over 1,100 people coming to faith in Christ.”

He explained these projects were made possible by the IMB presence that already existed in Eastern Europe, and the generosity of Southern Baptists donating both directly to Send Relief and to the Cooperative Program.

Cox said Send Relief is a wonderful example of Southern Baptists uniting to fulfill the Great Commission.

“I see the phrase ‘better together’ used a lot these days, and Send Relief is proving this as a cooperative ministry between IMB and NAMB,” Cox said.

“We believe that we represent and mobilize Southern Baptists better, and ultimately have a greater impact, by providing one channel for engaging in compassion ministry worldwide.

“The beauty of the Cooperative Program is that every Southern Baptist, regardless of their age or their income, can contribute to the Revelation 7:9 vision of ‘a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.’”

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

SBDR volunteers near 500,000 meals prepared, provide relief for hundreds of homeowners

FORT MYERS, Fla. – As Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) nears 500,000 meals prepared in the wake of Hurricane Ian, volunteers have completed approximately 730 recovery jobs for homeowners.

“As Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams from across the nation have continued serving in Florida, it has been encouraging to see the impact volunteers are having on these local communities,” said Coy Webb, crisis response director for Send Relief. “We at Send Relief are thrilled to continue providing support for these SBDR volunteers as they meet needs and share the hope of Jesus.”

Eleven local Florida Baptist churches across the impacted area have opened their properties for SBDR volunteers to stay and provide a base of operations. Volunteers with SBDR from Florida, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, Alabama, Missouri, Illinois, Mississippi, Georgia, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia, Kansas, Nebraska, Indiana, Virginia and Texas have served in the response so far.

Those trained SBDR volunteers have provided tear out, clean up and mold remediation of flooded homes, removed debris, provided chainsaw work for downed trees and installed temporary roofing.

“I like Florida Baptist DR because it’s a way to serve. You learn quite a lot of stuff. It’s a blessing to be out here, a blessing to be helping people,” Florida SBDR volunteer Liam Rigdon said in a video for Florida Baptists. “Our teams are going out and helping [homeowners] and really letting them know who Jesus Christ is, helping people who can’t take care of themselves when something bad happens, like a storm.”

N.C. Baptists have been assisting hurricane survivors with a task many take for granted—doing laundry. Their SBDR team sent a laundry unit and volunteers who are able to wash and dry more than 100 loads of laundry a day.

“People won’t necessarily remember your name, but they will remember that someone cared enough even in the midst of a disaster,” said N.C. Baptist volunteer Valerie Cook.

Send Relief, the Southern Baptist compassion ministry that is a joint effort between the North American Mission Board and International Mission Board, has supported those SBDR efforts through resources and grants.

So far, Send Relief has sent three semi-truck loads of supplies that include temporary roofing, Shockwave mold prevention, construction materials, roofing materials, protective suits and other safety wear.

“This is the Cooperative Program and the cooperative work of who we are in action as multiple state conventions come together to aid in this response,” said David Coggins, state director for Florida SBDR. “It starts with Coy Webb and the relationship we have with Send Relief and how that relationship has strengthened to be the glue that binds our efforts together.”

So far, SBDR volunteers have seen 45 people profess faith in Christ.

To learn more about the response, visit Send Relief’s Hurricane Ian page. To give to a local state SBDR group, visit this site.

‘Brother, I need a hug’: SBTC DR volunteers sharing love of Christ in wake of Hurricane Ian

FORT MYERS, Fla.—The Southern Baptists of Texas Disaster Relief volunteers working at McGregor Baptist Church serving Hurricane Ian survivors had a 5,000-gallon truck full of potable water and plenty of electricity from generators to power the mass feeding unit they operated.

They needed ice.

A lady from the church knew someone who knew someone and within a few days, a local businessman provided 200 pounds of ice, easily available in normal times. But little is normal in the aftermath of a devastating hurricane like Ian.

Looking for ice, receiving encouragement

A law enforcement officer pulled up near the yellow-tented feeding operation two hours after the ice arrived.

“I’m looking for ice,” the badged and armed man called out to the group of SBTC DR volunteers gathered outside the tents. The crew had just finished preparing more than 5,000 meals to be distributed that day to survivors by the Salvation Army.

The officer emerged from his vehicle and told volunteers his story.

“He looked exhausted,” said DR chaplain Debby Nichols of DeKalb.

“He was broken,” said feeding unit director Irvin McWilliams from the Unity Baptist Association in Lufkin.

The officer was not only a homicide detective but also a rescue diver who had been recovering bodies of Ian victims. The gruesome scenes had overwhelmed him, as did the fact that several looters had been shot by police.

“Brother, I need a hug,” the detective told McWilliams.

The SBTC DR volunteers surrounded him, prayed for him, listened to him, and, of course, gave him ice—a whole chest full when he had merely wanted enough for a small personal cooler.

“It’s a mess out here,” McWilliams observed.


SBTC DR feeding volunteers pose with one of several thank-you posters made by students in the areas affected by the storm. DEBBY NICHOLS PHOTO

Not just physical help

In addition to preparing thousands of meals since Oct. 4 as the waters have receded, SBTC DR volunteers in the Fort Myers area have visited survivors, assessed their damaged homes, offered spiritual comfort, and arranged for recovery assistance. Shower and laundry units are also staffed by SBTC DR volunteers serving workers.

“We’ve done a lot of laundry,” said volunteer Shirley Spencer of Spring. “Satan has been alive and well in this camp. We’ve had one mechanical breakdown after another. But God has been good. We’ve kept on going and gotten it done.” Spencer said they had “probably averaged 15 loads per day” since their arrival Oct. 2. Most laundry has been done for rescue teams, DR volunteers, and truck drivers bringing in supplies, water, and fuel.

One survivor with whom Nichols prayed while accompanying a team of assessors told a harrowing story of how she and her husband escaped with their lives. Like so many in Fort Myers, the couple had not expected to experience the brunt of the hurricane and had remained in their home.

As water rose precipitously, the woman climbed atop kitchen cabinets and then into the attic. With her first step in the attic, she broke through the sheetrock flooring and fell back down to the kitchen, badly spraining her ankle and compounding the trauma.

Still, she was grateful to be alive and, as a believer, appreciated the opportunity to pray with other Christians, Nichols said.

The McGregor Baptist feeding operations will continue with volunteers from New Mexico and Arizona manning the SBTC DR equipment as Texas volunteers return home, many to deploy again as needed.

“We’ll come back at some point,” McWilliams said, complimenting the smooth transition among SBDR teams rotating in to relieve their colleagues.

SBDR—a national ministry

Meanwhile, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief recovery crews from across the nation—including Texas teams—are now also serving in Florida, mudding out homes, removing soaked sheetrock and belongings, and spraying anti-mold treatments.

An SBTC DR recovery team from Bellville will arrive in Florida today, SBTC DR Director Scottie Stice said, adding that a Mount Pleasant recovery unit under the direction of Paul Easter is also en route.

Stice confirmed that mass feeding operations staffed by SBTC DR volunteers supporting the Red Cross have ceased at Riverside Baptist in Fort Myers, but Arkansas Baptist DR workers are using the Texas equipment to prepare meals for their own volunteers. The Riverside site is expected to close entirely and be integrated into the McGregor Baptist operation by Oct. 22.

“I am grateful for our yellow cap volunteers who drive halfway across the country to serve and share the gospel with Hurricane Ian survivors,” Stice said.

Those who wish to give to Hurricane Ian relief efforts can do so here.


Joshua church’s weekly ‘Who’s Your One?’ emphasis leads to salvations, baptisms

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Texan profiled how God is moving at Lane Prairie Baptist Church in March 2022.

JOSHUA, Texas (BP)—For the past year and a half, Lane Prairie Baptist Church has taken time each Sunday to celebrate the tremendous work God is doing through their ‘Who’s Your One?’ focused evangelism efforts. So far the members have shared the Gospel hundreds of times and witnessed dozens come to faith in Jesus Christ.

Lane Prairie members have the opportunity each week to report to the church if they have prayed for their “one,” or had a Gospel conversation throughout the week.

These updates, as well as any announcements about decisions for Christ or baptisms, are celebrated and highlighted through a display of different color ping pong balls representing each update.

White ping pong balls represent a person’s “one,” being prayed for, orange balls represent a Gospel conversation, green balls represent a profession of faith and blue balls represent a baptized believer beginning their discipleship process.

The display is seen prominently at the front of the church on the right side.

Ricky Fuchs, lead pastor at Lane Prairie, told Baptist Press the church officially launched the initiative in July of 2021, and they plan to continue the weekly updates as a part of their Sunday morning services from now on.

He said before the ‘Who’s Your One?’ emphasis was church-wide, it started with the burden of one adult bible study.

Each Wednesday night, while children and teenagers would attend Awana and youth group, a group of about 40-50 adults would meet for Bible study and prayer.

Fuchs, who has been the lead pastor for almost two years, said although the church has always valued evangelism over its 150-year history, this Bible study’s members developed a deeper heart for reaching people.

“God just gave us a burden to pray for others outside of our congregation,” Fuchs said. “If we wanted to see God work in saving people, we needed to pray to that end.”

Starting in March of 2021, Fuchs challenged each person in the group to find one lost person to pray for and share the Gospel. The results were incredible.

Over the next few months, members of the Bible study would report 57 professions of faith through their evangelism efforts.

“We saw God really just explode and we saw many of our members being faithful in evangelism and people were getting saved,” Fuchs said.

“Even beyond the personal aspect of ‘Who’s Your One,’ in prioritizing a person you know, our people started to become more obedient in evangelism in their daily lives. We heard amazing accounts of members sharing the Gospel on vacation, at hotels, over the phone and in everyday encounters.”

Fuchs and the church leadership decided to take the initiative church-wide and had a launch Sunday on July 25, 2021.

Since then, the church has seen:

248 “ones,” be prayed for 1,971 Gospel conversations reported 405 professions of faith42 baptisms through the initiative

Fuchs explained the church records numbers for all conversions or baptisms that resulted from the evangelism of church members, even if the conversion or baptism occurred outside of Lane Prairie specifically.

“We want this to not just be about building our church, but about building the Kingdom,” Fuchs said.

Matt Queen is the associate pastor of evangelism at Lane Prairie, and also serves as the Dean of the Roy J. Fish School of Evangelism at Southwestern Seminary.

After coming on staff at the church in 2021, Queen partnered with Fuchs to create the church-wide emphasis and help teach the congregation to value all aspects of the evangelism process.

“I think as Baptists we sometimes have conditioned ourselves to only celebrate when someone gets saved or baptized, but we teach our people that success in evangelism is simply doing it,” Queen said.

He explained Lane Prairie has shown other signs of positive spiritual growth since the initiative began, including an increase in Cooperative Program giving, an increase in their Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong offerings as well as the continued support of two IMB missionary families.

Several churches have reached out to Queen about wanting to replicate the program in their church. Additionally, as a consultant for the SBTC, Queen is working on an evangelism program for the convention with the partnership of NAMB called “Who’s Your One?”: Advancing the Movement.”

Queen said he desires all churches to value evangelism, regardless of how they choose to celebrate success.

“A church should do whatever it needs to do in order to be intentional and bring awareness of the importance of evangelism, whether that looks like ping pong balls or not,” Queen said. “People will replicate what we celebrate.”

“When God’s people try to get God’s ear to save people for whom Jesus died, the Holy Spirit puts a burden over our heart to share with more than just one.

When asked how churches can get such an initiative started, Fuchs exhorted fellow pastors to set the examples themselves.

“It has to start from the top and the pastor has to be on board,” Fuchs said. “You have to be the champion and lead by example. Not by dictating, but by going out and doing it yourself. What the pastor celebrates, that’s what the church will do.”

Iranian Christians pressed during protests, but never without hope

DURHAM, N.C. (BP)—Nathan Rostampour received yet another patchy correspondence earlier this week from his native Iran, where the internet has been shaky in the wake of protests that have the potential to change a decades-long regime.

“I’m in connection with house church leaders and church networks over there and thanks to God, they are safe. But they are under a lot of pressure,” said Rostampour, Central Asia Church Planting director for The Summit Church.

News of the Iranian protests is only now getting traction with Americans, but for Rostampour and others, it has been more than a month. That’s when Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old from Iran’s Kurdish region, died while being held by the country’s morality police.

“They beat her up and killed her just because she didn’t cover her hair properly,” he said.

That set off a wave of protests, with women publicly burning their hijabs and others doing the same to pictures of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Media reports say at least 185 have been killed, 19 of them minors, with hundreds injured and thousands arrested by police.

The protests started as women supporting other women. But that has changed to become something Rostampour calls “different.”

“It’s not only women, but people who are protesting the Islamic regime. They are saying ‘We don’t want you anymore.’ This isn’t just about economic problems or women’s freedom. It’s really different from previous times,” he said.

Rostampour and his family became Christians when he was a teenager through the witness of his aunt. That led to becoming involved in the house church movement throughout the country, working under threat from authorities. Forced to leave the country in his late 20s, he eventually settled in America where his current role connects him with 20 house churches in Iran.

The threat has been consistent. He visits those pastors in a nearby country where it’s safe a few times a year. Every Sunday he and his wife host a fellowship over Instagram, where VPNs, aliases, and encrypted programs are a must to protect the participants’ safety.

Rostampour, whose story has been in BP and Christianity Today, said the breadth of the protests and their reach into Iranian society reflect a people desperate for freedom.

“Our hearts have been really heavy these days. We are thinking this may be the last chance for the Iranian people to end 43 years of oppression and persecution from these leaders,” he said.

“These protests are happening all over the country. There are oil workers, university professors, teachers, students, and people from old and younger generations. There is a hope that the country can be free from this brutal, evil government.”

Rostampour has seen this up close. In 2009 he was in Tehran among those protesting Iran’s presidential election in what was part of the Persian Spring.

“We were there,” he said. “[Authorities] killed like 1,500 people. Yes, we were on the streets supporting people, praying for them. It was really scary because those people knew that if they lost, there was nowhere to go. So, they fought until the end.”

He has heard that the people are not only turning from the government, but because of Islam’s ruling factor, many have turned away from religion altogether.

However, he can’t help but connect that desire for peace and an intrinsic need for the freedom found only in Christ.

“They all want freedom and peace these days,” he said. “It gives us a great opportunity as the church to pray for Iran, and the people to find the peace and freedom in Jesus.

“Every week during our fellowship [on Instagram] we pray for this peace for Iran. We want them to know Iranian Christians are standing with them and praying for them and giving them hope because we have that hope.”

Americans, he added, can also pray for Iran and the churches there. They can help by being a voice for the Iranian people, as he urged in a recent Twitter video.

“Pray in your church this Sunday. Spread the word. Build awareness, because many don’t know the details of what’s going on,” he said.

As Rostampour checked his phone this morning on America’s east coast it was well into the day in Iran. The words of encouragement flashed among pastors.

“We are praying and continuing to serve.”

“It’s bad here. We’re in a battlefield but continuing to pray.”

“Our hearts are broken, but our hope is in the Lord.”

Those messages arrive every day.

“They are so bold and courageous,” he said. “I’m very proud of them.”

One Bible passage they share is Jeremiah 49:38-39. There, the Lord declares He will set his throne in Elam and “destroy their kings and officials. But in the latter days I will restore the fortunes of Elam.” (ESV)

Elam was a kingdom in modern-day Iran.

“This encourages them that God is at work,” said Rostampour. “They are not hopeless.”

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

Expressing love to your pastor

October is Pastor Appreciation Month. This is a month set aside to honor and show appreciation to those who serve as pastors and ministers in the local church.

As a child, I fervently remember the adults in our local congregation making sure they honored the pastor daily and not only one month out of the year. Yes, there was a yearly Pastor Appreciation observation, but the congregation of believers who I observed demonstrated respect and honor toward the pastor year-round.

One of the ways that this happened was a “pounding.” Some pastors feel like they take a pounding, however, I am not talking about that kind of pounding. “Pounding” was typically the way that churches in impoverished areas would pay a revivalist or even one’s own pastor by presenting the preacher with a “pound” of their best offerings. This would often be a pound of chicken or steak, a pound of fresh produce or baked goods, but it also could include other items such as clothing, fashion accessories, cologne, and other goods considered valuable.

“Pounding” was a way that hard-working, yet poor, believers could give their very best. More importantly, pounding actually reflects a biblical mandate of priestly tithing indicated in Hebrews 7:5 which states: “And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is from their brethren.” This expression of priestly tithing also takes shape in the form of church members inviting pastors to share in Sunday dinner with their families, which is seen as a means of honoring the pastor and also having the blessing of extending hospitality toward the pastor.

Another expression of this manner of pastoral appreciation has more recently come in the form of the “love offering.” Really, what is a love offering? Typically, when churches have special days, such as pastor anniversaries or occasions when a guest revivalist, speaker, or missionaries visit a church, it is customary to give them a monetary token of appreciation gathered from the congregation in an act that is separate from tithes and general offerings. This type of offering is not to be confused with a form of income, a salary, or a church expense drawn from general offerings or the building fund. Rather, it is a voluntary demonstration by the assembled church membership to show in some financial manner how much the congregation appreciates the work of the particular minister or guest speaker in ways above and beyond their standard wages.

What are some modern-day opportunities that churches can literally express their love by “pounding” their pastor?

Gift cards

Church leaders can easily bless their pastor by asking the membership to bring a gift card for a restaurant, coffee shop, or retail store. I will never forget one church where I served provided my family and me with over $3,000 of gift cards. Every time one of those gift cards was used I offered a prayer of thanksgiving for that congregation.


Many pastors have never had the opportunity to attend a college or professional athletic event. Many pastors’ wives have never had an opportunity to attend a theatrical performance, concert, or participate in a professional cooking experience. If you know someone who is a season ticket holder to a college or professional sporting event, you could provide this experience to your pastor. Some years ago, a church member provided an all-expense paid ticket to the Tennessee Volunteers opening season football game. This experience included a VIP parking pass and prime seats in a suite which included access to the VIP buffet. I’ll never forget that experience. There are so many experiences that are unique to the place in which you live and serve.

Acts of kindness

My ministry has been made enjoyable because of the many acts of kindness that have been expressed to my family. When my wife and I came home with our first-born child, members from the church had cleaned the entire home, cooked meals, and provided fresh flowers on our kitchen table. Church members have mowed our lawn, made sure our vehicles were detailed, and simply found creative and caring ways to let us know how much they appreciated us. Children up to senior adults have provided so many acts of kindness toward me over my twenty-five-plus years of ministry.

Ministry of care

Let your pastor know you are praying for him. Pastors and their families constantly need our prayers and support. Ask your pastor when the last time he took some time away was. If he can’t give a good answer, then do everything you can to hold him accountable. If ministry leaders do not pull away they will fall apart. Show up to church early and greet your pastor upon his arrival to the church campus. An act as simple as providing a cup of coffee or bottled water can be encouraging to him. Your presence and care will mean the world to your pastor.

I realize a “pounding” may seem old-fashioned or outdated, but I am convinced that if the local church is going to be healthy and live out the Great Commandment and fulfill the Great Commission, then the church family must prioritize “pounding” their pastors. Let 1 Timothy 5:17 be your guide: “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.”

Join me in making sure that Pastor Appreciation Month is not only one day or one month out of the year, but it is an everyday practice that will pass on from one generation to the next.