Month: November 2022

SBTC AM22: Messengers cry out in united voice: ‘God, we need you’

CORPUS CHRISTI—Throughout the weekend, hundreds of messengers made their way to this gulf city on the southeastern edge of Texas to do the business of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention at its 25th annual meeting.

But as knees hit the floor during a prayer service to punctuate the meeting’s first day on Monday, the most important business—crying out to God—was being transacted.

This year’s annual meeting held a form similar to its predecessors, taking an intentional glance backward to celebrate all that God has done among SBTC churches over the previous 12 months. But this year, convention leadership made a pronounced effort to exhort God’s people to look ahead in an effort to make 2023 a year defined not by social upheaval or deep political division, but by prayer, revival, and a spiritual awakening that could sweep across not only the Lone Star State, but the entire nation and world.

“I want to ask you to wrestle with this question: do you want to see revival?” SBTC President Todd Kaunitz asked those gathered at Monday night’s prayer service. “Do you want to see revival in your own life? Do you want to see revival in your church? Revival … in our state and in our nation? Is that something that is the true core of your heart?”

Kaunitz, who pastors New Beginnings Baptist Church in Longview, led the gathering through a handful of prayer emphases. What started with prayers of confession and repentance gave way to a time of thanksgiving, and then to a unified appeal for God to reveal His glory. Those gathered then spent several minutes asking the Lord to give a fresh outpouring of His Spirit—the sole catalyst for any and every revival in history.

“In the Scriptures, specifically in the book of Acts, we see that when God’s people were desperate for Him to move, they cried out to the Lord,” Kaunitz said. “They didn’t just pray safe prayers. Moved and stirred by the Holy Spirit, they cried out to the Lord. What if we began to pray like that?”

The prayer service, which included worship led by Matt Boswell, pastor of The Trails Church in North Texas, ended with those gathered praying for others who publicly expressed a need for personal prayer, and finally, with prayers for those who are lost and in need of Jesus.

Unified prayer continued to be a theme on the second and final day of the meeting. SBTC Executive Director Nathan Lorick used the final portion of his annual report on Tuesday to call prayer “one of the pillars of who we’re going to be and what we’re going to do” as a state convention. He said it would be a “dream” if the SBTC could see 500 churches holding a regular prayer gathering in 2023.

“I just believe if we had that many churches on their faces like we were last night together, crying out to God, Texas could see a move of God like we’ve never experienced before,” Lorick said. “May we be known as the network of churches who are on our faces pleading for the hand of God to be on our churches, pleading for a move of God to be in our cities and across our state to the glory of God.”

Messengers conduct business as SBTC pursues God’s presence at annual meeting

CORPUS CHRISTI—The 25th annual meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention on November 14-15 drew 1,031 messengers and guests. Following the theme “Pursuing Presence,” convention president Todd Kaunitz led messengers to emphasize prayer in the life of local churches. 

Kaunitz preached to the convention Monday night from Jeremiah 29:11 and encouraged listeners to seek God’s presence, saying “… a spiritual awakening is a byproduct of a church revived, and without a revived church, there is no spiritual awakening in the culture.” 

Sexual Abuse Advisory Committee
A committee appointed by the convention president brought four recommendations intended to resource affiliated churches in preventing, responding to, and reporting sexual abuse. The Sexual Abuse Advisory Committee arose from a motion approved at the 2021 annual meeting. 

The committee recommended:

  • 1
    That the SBTC contract with a consultant(s) and/or organization(s) to aid the convention and its member churches regarding matters of sexual abuse;
  • 2
    Development of a church resource guide for (a) assisting churches in training their congregations for sexual abuse prevention, (b) ministering to sexual abuse survivors and their families, (c) protocols for sexual abusers and accused sexual abusers in the church, and (d) appropriate reporting of suspected sexual abuse in accordance with state law;
  • 3
    Cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention’s “Ministry Check” effort;
  • 4
    That the SBTC strengthen its internal policies and practices regarding reporting sexual abuse, accessibility of resources to affiliated churches, and informing staff of available resources and services.

Implementation of the recommendations will be overseen by the SBTC Executive Board and the SBTC staff.

Biblical challenges
In addition to Kaunitz, messengers heard thematic sermons from four preachers throughout the convention meeting. 

Julio Arriola, director of the Send Network’s church planting partnership with the SBTC, began by referencing the Acts 13 commissioning of Paul and Barnabas, which followed a time of prayer and fasting. “As the church prays and fasts,” Arriola said, “so goes the church …. Revival in our churches will happen when we fast, pray, and go.”

Nathan Lino, pastor of First Baptist Church of Forney, spoke from 1 Timothy 2:1-7. Speaking of Paul’s opening exhortation in verse 1, Lino said, “The very first ministry of the church you ought to address … is the corporate prayer life of the church.” 

Matt Boswell, pastor of The Trails Church in Prosper, directed messengers to Matthew 28:19-20. He said, “After the announcement of the Great Commission, Jesus offers His followers the great comfort of His presence.”

Chip Luter, senior associate pastor at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, La., preached from 1 Chronicles 4, the story of Jabez. “Jabez recognized that the Lord’s hands are the best hands,” he said, urging his listeners to trust their lives to God. 

Items of business
Messengers approved a $27.8 million budget for 2023. This represents a 4.8% increase over the 2022 budget. SBTC Chief Financial Officer, Joe Davis reported that receipts were $408,275 over budget through September 2022. The 2023 budget continues to allocate 45% for in-state ministry and 55% to Southern Baptist causes in North America and around the world.

A motion was approved intended to clarify Article IV, Section 1, of the SBTC Constitution regarding “Affiliation Qualifications.” The motion clarifies that the phrase, “The office of pastor [shall] be limited to men,” will be interpreted by the convention to refer “not only to the titles of senior pastor or lead pastor, but to any role designated by the noun, ‘pastor….’” Regarding already affiliated churches, the interpretation will be applied beginning Jan. 1, 2024. 

The convention’s Executive Board awarded the Leaders Legacy Award, for individuals who have distinguished themselves in service to Christ through the SBTC, to John Greene—who has served at Harmony Hill Baptist Church in Lufkin for five decades.  

Messengers approved five resolutions dealing with gratitude for the host city and convention president, expressing opposition to gambling, affirming a biblical view of gender, and celebrating the overturn of Roe v. Wade in the June Dobbs v. Jackson case, which returned abortion to individual states for regulation. 

Kaunitz was elected by acclamation for a second term as president. He was joined by Eddie Lopez, en Español pastor for FBC Forney, who was elected by acclamation as vice president. Sharonda Cooper, a member of Emmaus Church in Georgetown, was elected convention secretary.  

The 2023 SBTC annual meeting will be held Nov. 13-14 at Cross City Church in Euless. 

—Jane Rodgers contributed to this report.

Elliff at 2022 president’s lunch: we are on ‘the cusp’ of revival

CORPUS CHRISTI—Bill Elliff, founding and national engage pastor at The Summit Church in North Little Rock, Ark., announced that revival is near during the president’s lunch Tuesday, Nov. 15, at the 2022 Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Annual Meeting.

Elliff is the author of numerous books, including The Presence-Centered Church, a work mentioned by SBTC President Todd Kaunitz in his introduction. Kaunitz called Elliff one of his “spiritual heroes” who did not disappoint in person.

Neither did he disappoint Tuesday’s audience of more than 500 who filled Henry Garrett ballrooms  of the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi. 

Elliff recounted his first experience with revival when, as a freshman at Ouachita Baptist University in 1970, he participated in “an extraordinary moment of the manifest presence of God.” Scores of students confessed sins and embraced Christ following a short chapel message by a visiting Texas preacher.

"“I realized that more could happen in five minutes than in 50 years of human effort."

“I realized that more could happen in five minutes than in 50 years of human effort,” Elliff recalled of that moment. “It created a hunger for more of the Lord,” a longing he admitted—voice cracking as it often did during the lunch—that he still feels. 

That college experience led Elliff to explore God’s work in revival—which he called “a necessary, extraordinary movement of God that produces extraordinary results,” paraphrasing pastor and author Richard Owen Roberts.

Referring to Habakkuk 3:2b, “Revive your work in the midst of the years,” Elliff said revival is God-ordained: “God thinks we need moments like this.” 

Why do we need revival?
Revival is necessary, Elliff said, because humans drift spiritually: “We always walk away. We always wander away.” God’s discipline descends. He sends revival when we cry out in humility and helplessness.

“We need revival when our hearts are cold,” Elliff added. It is “God’s glorious work, whether we join Him or not.”

Prayer is vital to revival, Elliff urged. Prayer must be at the core of any building programs, ministries, or sermons.

“I am so capable of pastoring without God,” he lamented.

God’s work in revival is often surprising and unexplainable, bringing equally surprising results, Elliff noted, describing five great national revival movements: the First and Second Great Awakenings, the 1857 New York Prayer Revival, the Welsh Revival, and the Jesus Movement of 1969-1972.

Revivals awaken the lost, he said, giving examples such as the 15 percent of colonists converted during under two years of the First Great Awakening (1735-1745), a percentage comparable to 1.5 million coming to faith in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex today. 

Revivals bring dead churches to life again “by the thousands,” and they “transform the culture,” spurring major mission movements, as with the Welsh Revival. They “accelerate the mission” and “make God known,” Elliff urged.

“Revival is near, whether we realize it or not.”

Revival is near
The last great American revival, the Jesus Movement, ultimately fizzled because churches rejected hippies in their pews, preferring the traditional, Elliff said with regret. Noting the dates of the great revivals, he suggested we are overdue. It has been 50 years since the Jesus Movement.

“Revival is near, whether we realize it or not,” he said. We may well be in the midst of God’s familiar cycle of revival, in which increased judgment and desperation bring desperate prayer.

Historically, a time of God’s working begins 8-10 years before a major revival. This time of preparation is happening now, Elliff said, describing reports of “a rising tide of prayer” among Americans.

“And I feel we are right on the cusp of this again with every fiber of my being,” Elliff said, advising the audience not to quench the Holy Spirit and to do exactly what the Lord says.

Return to what should have been there all along, he urged: “Move your life and the life of your church into extraordinary prayer.”

SBTC AM22: Lopez calls for ‘renewed commitment’ to pursuing God’s presence at Spanish session

CORPUS CHRISTI—They worshipped through song and proclaimed the Word of God. They commissioned. They recognized faithful ministry service. They prayed.

The statewide call for Southern Baptists of Texas Convention churches to pursue the presence of God began here at the American Bank Center Sunday night during the Spanish session preceding the beginning of the 2022 annual meeting.

In his exposition of Deuteronomy 13:4, Luis Lopez—director of Hispanic relations and mobilization for the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee—brought a revitalizing and challenging message to the Hispanic pastors and church leaders present.

Lopez called for a renewed commitment to pursue God’s presence “until He calls us into His presence.” Pursuing His presence, Lopez said, assures followers of Jesus they are going in the right direction. He added that there is much work left for the church to do and that it cannot get there without being connected to God. That connection will naturally drive the church toward reaching the lost and having compassion for others, he said.

“I am here to encourage you to seek God’s presence and consecrate ourselves as we have never done,” Lopez said, “[so] that in our last days on Earth, Jesus will find us praying, serving others, and longing to serve the Lord.”

Celebrating what God has done through the Cooperative Program

Among the accomplishments celebrated during the first session, Chuy Ávila, SBTC en Español lead associate, and Jesse Contreras, SBTC en Español associate, reported that more than 500 lay leaders and pastors were trained in discipleship, leadership, and other ministries through the regional “Capacitarte” conference in 2022. Ávila also noted that for the first time, a session was held entirely in Spanish at the Equip Conference, drawing capacity crowds. The annual “Florece” (Flourish) retreat for women and the “Hombres de Impacto” (Men of Impact) men’s retreat drew around 600 people each. The SBTC provided training and enrichment to women around Texas through the “She Stands” conferences and fellowship meetings for pastors’ wives.

Youth Week had a victory, seeing 450 students attend—of which about 50 gave their lives to Christ or reaffirmed their faith. They also celebrated victories in evangelism, led by Bruno Molina, who testified that more than 1,000 people have been trained to evangelize and in excess of 100 people have come to Christ.

Luis Lopez preaches about pursuing the presence of God during the Spanish session prior to the 2022 Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Annual Meeting in Corpus Christi. SBTC PHOTO

SBTC partnership with Send Network bearing fruit

This year, the SBTC and Send Network started a partnership that led to the most Hispanic churches being planted since 2005. The first combined national English and Spanish evaluation retreat was held, and the first class of Spanish planter residency graduates is already planting. Planters and their spouses from the southern region of the U.S. were taken to a retreat with Send Network in Miami for a time of encouragement and training.

New planter commissioned

Ávila said it is his prayer—and something SBTC en Español hopes can become a tradition—to commission a new church planter to start a Hispanic work in each location where the SBTC Annual Meeting is held. On this occasion, God has called Ruben de Rus, along with his wife, Azucena, and their children, to plant a Hispanic work in Corpus Christi. The de Rus family was commissioned and prayed for as part of the Spanish session Sunday evening.

“The Hispanic community here is very large, and we didn’t have a Hispanic work in this city,” Ávila said. Through the SBTC and North American Mission Board, de Rus and his family have been mentored and equipped to start the first Hispanic Baptist church in Corpus Christi. Ávila encouraged all those present, and as many churches as possible, to support the new work in some way, either by committing to pray for them, supporting them financially, or by doing short-term missionary work to support the new church.

Ministerial legacy recognition

Mike Gonzales, former director of SBTC’s en Español department, recognized and presented a plaque to Pastor Marcos Ramos and his wife, Irma, for their ministerial faithfulness in Texas and at First Baptist Church of Galena Park for the last 20 years.


Churches are open but still recovering from pandemic attendance losses

NASHVILLE—Almost every church in the U.S. is holding in-person services again, but some pre-pandemic churchgoers still haven’t returned.

In August 2022, 100% of U.S. Protestant pastors (rounded to the nearest whole number) say their churches met in person, according to a Lifeway Research study. This continues the increases from the past two years of churches holding physical gatherings. In August 2021, 98% of churches gathered in person, after 75% reported the same in July 2020.

“While there are a handful of exceptions, we can definitively say that churches in the U.S. have reopened,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “While masks began to rapidly disappear in many settings in 2022, churchgoers have not reappeared quite as fast.”

Attendance adjustment

Despite churches returning to pre-pandemic levels of holding in-person services, not all churchgoers have followed suit. On average, U.S. Protestant churches report current attendance at 85% of their typical Sunday morning crowds in January 2020, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Despite falling below a full return, this marks the highest attendance levels in more than two years. In September 2020, the average church reported 63% of their pre-pandemic in-person attendance. Last August, the percentage climbed to 73%, before rising another 12 percentage points this year.

In February 2021, 91% of U.S. Protestant churchgoers told Lifeway Research that once COVID-19 was no longer an active threat, they planned to attend worship services at their church at least as much as they did prior to the pandemic.

Earlier this year, 34% of Christians said they attended a worship service four times a month or more before COVID, according to an additional Lifeway Research study. In April 2022, 26% said they currently attend that often. Slightly more than a third of Christians (36%) said they attended less than once a month before the pandemic. This year, that jumped to 43%.

“While some pre-COVID churchgoers have not returned to church at all, much of the decline in attendance is from people who are attending less often,” said McConnell.

Areas of growth

While most U.S. Protestant churches still haven’t fully recovered pre-pandemic attendance levels, more congregations than before have now reached those numbers or even grown.

In September 2020, almost twice as many congregations reported being below 50% of their January 2020 attendance as said they were at least at 90% (29% vs. 15%). Now, less than 1 in 10 congregations (8%) is still below half of their pre-COVID attendance numbers. Today, more than a third (35%) report at least 90% attendance, including almost 1 in 6 pastors (17%) who say their congregation has grown since January 2020.

Most churches continue to be in the middle range—above 50% of their pre-pandemic attendance but below 90%. A quarter of churches (26%) say their attendance is more than 50% but less than 70%, while 31% report a congregation of 70% to less than 90% what it was prior to COVID-19.

“As has been the case since COVID began, different churches are having different experiences,” said McConnell. “More than a third are at 90% or more of pre-pandemic attendance. More than a third are stuck with less than 70% of their people back on a typical Sunday. And, just under a third are in between 70% and less than 90% attending.”

Older pastors are less likely to report their church growing in attendance since the pandemic began. Around 1 in 6 pastors 65 and older (16%) say their congregations increased attendance since January 2020 compared to 25% of pastors aged 45-55 and 33% of pastors 18-44. Those in the Midwest (26%) and South (25%) are more likely to say they’ve grown compared to those in the Northeast (14%).

Evangelical pastors (29%) are almost twice as likely as mainline pastors (16%) to report pandemic attendance growth. Pentecostal (33%) and Baptist (28%) pastors are more likely to say they’ve grown since January 2020 than those at Presbyterian/Reformed (14%), Lutheran (13%), Restorationist Movement (10%) or Methodist (8%) churches. Non-denominational pastors are among the most likely to report growth (30%) but also the most likely to say their church is still less than 30% of pre-COVID attendance (14%).

Fewer churches climbing above 100

The failure of churches to recapture all their pre-COVID churchgoers means even fewer churches reach 100 in attendance on a typical weekend. Now, 2 in 3 U.S. Protestant churches (68%) have congregations of fewer than 100 people, including 31% who have fewer than 50. A quarter of churches (24%) fall into the 100-249 range, while 8% of congregations host 250 people or more each week.

Almost half of the oldest pastors are leading the smallest congregations. Pastors 65 and older (47%) are most likely to be leading churches with fewer than 50 on a typical weekend. Mainline pastors (38%) are more likely than evangelical pastors (26%) to be leading congregations of fewer than 50. Denominationally, the smallest churches are more likely to be Presbyterian/Reformed (50%) or Methodist (42%) than Pentecostal (27%) or Baptist (22%). The smallest congregations are also most likely to be in the Northeast (45%).

Still, the smallest congregations are among those most likely to have recovered to pre-COVID levels. Those who reported attendance of fewer than 50 in January 2020 (49%) are more likely to currently say they are at 90% or greater of those pre-pandemic levels than those with 50 to 99 (34%) and 100 to 249 (28%) in pre-pandemic attendance.


SBTC Sexual Abuse Advisory Committee ready to present report to messengers

GRAPEVINE—At the 2021 Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Annual Meeting, messengers approved the formation of a Sexual Abuse Advisory Committee (SAAC) to research the convention’s practices and future opportunities to resource affiliated churches in preventing, responding to, and reporting sexual abuse.

As this year’s annual meeting in Corpus Christi approaches, that committee is prepared to share its findings with messengers.

“Our team approached this incredibly important task prayerfully and seriously,” SBTC President Todd Kaunitz said in a statement being released with the report. “As a network of churches, we have the responsibility to assist local churches by providing resources and training opportunities to protect their most vulnerable members from abuse and, in the event that abuse occurs, to provide resources to help the church respond both spiritually and lawfully in a way that gives proper physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual care to everyone affected.”

Said SBTC Executive Director Nathan Lorick: “I am grateful for the many hours of work the advisory committee has invested in helping the SBTC be better prepared to assist local churches in dealing with sexual abuse. Our desire is to be a valuable resource for churches as they seek to protect the vulnerable and minister to those who have experienced abuse.”

The full text of Kaunitz’s statement, the motion authored by Michael Criner (senior pastor, Rock Hill Baptist Church, Brownsboro) and approved by last year’s messengers, and the findings and recommendations of the SAAC can be found below:

SBTC Sexual Abuse Advisory Committee Report

At our 2021 SBTC Annual Meeting I was given the assignment by our messengers to assemble an advisory committee for the purpose of having the Convention research and provide critical resources to affiliated churches as they work to prevent, respond to, and report sexual abuse. Our team approached this incredibly important task prayerfully and seriously.

As a network of churches, we have the responsibility to assist local churches by providing resources and training opportunities to protect their most vulnerable members from abuse and, in the event that abuse occurs, to provide resources to help the church respond both spiritually and lawfully in a way that gives proper physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual care to everyone affected.

In addition, the committee has also reviewed the Convention’s internal policies and procedures for handling reports of abuse. We were encouraged that as an entity, the SBTC has historically strived to operate with the utmost integrity, intentionality, and godliness; this was exemplified in how the staff cooperated and assisted throughout the work of the committee. Through our research and study of the Convention’s internal policies and practices, we have identified some recommendations that we believe will make churches and the ministries those churches accomplish through the Convention even stronger and more effective moving forward.

Todd Kaunitz
President, Southern Baptists
of Texas Convention

Motion approved by messengers at the 2021 SBTC Annual Meeting in Flint, TX

My name is Michael Criner a messenger from Rock Hill Baptist Church in Brownsboro. In light of the recent conversations happening within the SBC in regard to sexual abuse, and because the SBTC has been proactive and strategic in her efforts toward righteousness and holiness. After consultation with the leadership of the SBTC…

I, therefore, in the interest of protecting the vulnerable populations among the churches of the SBTC, I move that the newly elected convention president form an advisory committee which will gather information regarding the convention’s efforts to assist churches in matters related to sexual abuse.

Specifically, the committee will focus on three areas:

  1. the convention’s best practices in helping churches prevent sexual abuse;
  2. the convention’s best practices in training churches regarding reporting requirements along with an effort to review the convention’s policies and procedures when abuse cases are reported at the convention level or to convention personnel; and
  3. the convention’s best practices in equipping churches to honor, care for, and minister to those affected by sexual abuse, including but not limited to survivors and families of survivors.

The committee will also study the various partner relationships the convention currently has with

organizations who work in the arena of sexual abuse and sexual abuse prevention, gathering information on how best practices among these organizations compare and contrast with approaches of other organizations who do similar work.

The size of the committee will be determined by the newly elected president but should include at least one trauma-informed counselor and one SBTC church member who has worked as a survivor advocate.

The advisory committee shall bring its report, along with any recommendations, to the 2022 annual meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.


The Theological Foundations

This sexual abuse advisory committee was appointed by the President at the direction of the 2021 messengers to the SBTC Annual Meeting. Because the SBTC is a confessional family of churches, the committee’s recommendations were shaped by four doctrinal convictions expressed in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. It is our desire that beginning with these four guiding convictions will promote unity in our SBTC family regarding how our shared theological commitments shape this important issue.

  1. Humanity. Humanity “is the special creation of God, made in His own image” (Article III) with inherent dignity and respect. Key Implications: Both survivors and offenders are God’s image bearers. Survivors are to be loved, nurtured, and cared for toward healing. Offenders are to be biblically confronted and called to repentance.
  2. Sin. Human beings have inherited “a nature and an environment inclined toward sin” (Article III) leaving them capable of unspeakable evil. Key Implications: Both the abused and the abuser have been deeply impacted by sin and need ongoing ministry. Churches should not quickly dismiss an accusation and should take allegations seriously.
  3. Salvation. Salvation “is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.” It includes sanctification, a work of the Holy Spirit, by which progress is enabled “toward moral and spiritual maturity,” continuing “throughout the regenerate person’s life” (Article IV). Key Implications: Those who commit sexual sin in any form, including sexual abuse, should repent and pursue holiness in Christ.
  4. The Church. Churches are “associated by covenant in faith and fellowship of the gospel” who exist as the Body of Christ (Article VI). Key Implications: Churches must be a refuge of grace and truth to the hurting and broken. Churches exemplify this by reserving the offices of pastor and deacon to the scripturally qualified (“above reproach”), implementing clear protocols for repentant and unrepentant offenders, and acknowledging the biblical role of government as a God-ordained servant for good and for the restraint of evil (Article XVII).

The Research

The Advisory Committee’s work focused on five areas of attention derived from the motion. The below statements are summaries of the research findings and influenced the committee’s recommendations. Recommendations can be found [below].

  1. Prevention. Churches should be vigilant in regularly training all their people – leaders, employees, volunteers, members, adults, adolescents, and children (in age-appropriate ways) – to recognize unsafe practices, grooming behaviors, and warning signs and to take appropriate action. Churches should also develop appropriate, open lines of communication for both children and adults who suspect sexual abuse.
  2. Ministry. Churches should work to create a culture of care for survivors of sexual abuse. Policies should include those that help leaders and volunteers recognize signs of abuse. Churches should consider sharing resource lists of vetted counselors, care ministries, and support groups. Practices should include connecting with local agencies to provide resources for survivors and their families. Clear and appropriate boundaries for sex offenders must be established and maintained.
  3. Training. Churches should establish clear policies regarding response to sexual abuse allegations including the Texas mandatory reporting responsibility of all people. Churches should educate their employees, members, and volunteers that every person has the obligation to report abuse or neglect, even if only suspected, to appropriate authorities in accordance with Texas Family Code Sec. 261.101. Churches should establish annual reviews of their reporting and responding procedures. Parents and legal guardians should be educated on and regularly reminded of the church’s policies and procedures. Churches must cooperate with local law enforcement and Child Protective Services.
  4. SBTC Policies and Practices. Convention employees should regularly be trained on mandatory reporting protocols and reminded of internal policies and practices. The SBTC should consider adding a protocol to existing policies that demonstrates appropriate care for employees who are survivors of sexual abuse. Staff should also continue and strengthen their practice of reporting, recording, and following up with claims of sexual abuse.
  5. SBTC Ministry Partnerships. The SBTC works with MinistrySafe to provide training for SBTC employees and volunteers, as well as church leaders and volunteers, in the area of abuse prevention and awareness. While the committee is thankful for the work of MinistrySafe, it recognizes its limitations as a stand-alone training resource in the area of sexual abuse. The SBTC should consider establishing working relationships with other organizations that it can recommend to assist churches in the areas of peer-to-peer abuse prevention and awareness training, caring well for the abused, trauma-informed care, addressing pornography addiction, and establishing relationships with local law enforcement and legal representation.

The Recommendations

Recognizing that each church is autonomous and controls its own ministry, activities and staff, the Advisory Committee recommends these steps in connection with their assignment from the 2021 Annual Meeting messenger body.

  1. We recommend the SBTC contract with a designated consultant(s) and/or organization(s) to aid the convention and its member churches regarding matters of sexual abuse.
  2. We recommend the SBTC, in consultation with experts in the field, develop a church resource guide for (a) assisting churches in training their congregations for sexual abuse prevention, (b) ministering to sexual abuse survivors and their families, (c) protocols for sexual abusers and accused sexual abusers in the church, and (d) appropriate reporting of suspected sexual abuse in accordance with state law.
  3. We recommend affiliated churches and SBTC staff cooperate with the Southern Baptist Convention’s “Ministry Check” effort.
  4. We recommend the SBTC strengthen its internal policies and practices regarding reporting sexual abuse, accessibility of resources to affiliated churches, and informing staff of available resources and services.

Todd Kaunitz, SBTC President
Justin Arnold, Chairman
Michael Criner
Adam Mason
Joyce McKinley
Christy Piles
Spencer Plumlee
Tamera Turner

FBC Forney’s Lopez, Emmaus Church’s Cooper join list of SBTC officer nominees

CORPUS CHRISTI—Eddie Lopez, pastor of First Baptist Church of Forney en Español, will be nominated to serve as vice president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention at its 2022 annual meeting Nov. 14-15 at American Bank Center in Corpus Christi. Lopez will be nominated by Ed Hancock, FBC Forney’s executive pastor who also serves on the SBTC Executive Board.

Sharonda Cooper, a member of Emmaus Church of Georgetown (a new SBTC church plant), will be nominated as convention secretary. Cooper, who has previously served with the Texas Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee, will be nominated by her pastor, Marshall Canales—who previously served with pastor and former SBTC President Juan Sanchez at High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin.

Lopez and Cooper will join Todd Kaunitz, pastor of New Beginnings Baptist Church in Longview, in rounding out the slate of officers to be nominated in Corpus Christi. Kaunitz will be nominated for SBTC president by Caleb Turner, co-pastor of Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church. Kaunitz was first elected to serve as SBTC president on Nov. 9, 2021, at the convention’s annual meeting in Flint.

Does God have your full attention when you pray?

Ihad the privilege of interviewing Bill Elliff for a Q&A that is featured in this month’s issue of the Texan. If you don’t know him, Elliff is an Arkansas pastor, an author, and a lifelong student of historic revivals and spiritual awakenings. He will talk about these things as the guest speaker at the President’s Lunch at this month’s Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Annual Meeting in Corpus Christi.

I not only enjoyed our conversation, but the Lord used it to guide me to reevaluate some of my own personal spiritual disciplines—including prayer. Elliff and I talked quite a bit about the role prayer plays in revival and spiritual awakening. A couple of years ago, he wrote a book called “Simply Prayer,” which I began reading shortly after our interview. 

Prayer can be a struggle for me. It’s too easy for me to close my eyes and hastily string together a series of religious-sounding words that feel more like I’m reading them off a shopping list than the tablet of my heart. My mind during prayer is prone to wander (Lord, I feel it!), lining up the day’s troubles and tasks while simultaneously offering a modicum of my attention to the King of kings.

"When I pray, does the Creator of all existence have my full attention?"

“Simply Prayer” has challenged me in many ways, none more impactful than my lack of focus when I pray. “We charge into prayer,” Elliff writes, “and quickly reel off a laundry list of things we want God to do. Failing to realize who we’re approaching, we never really engage God’s presence consciously.”

Ouch. Yeah, that can be me sometimes. Those last words have stuck with me: engaging in God’s presence consciously. When I pray, does the Creator of all existence have my full attention? Can I really get singularly locked in with Him and navigate Dallas traffic at the same time? Do I ever stop to listen to the Author of all things, or am I just narrating the way I want my story to play out? 

One of the practices Elliff offers in “Simply Prayer” is called “entering in,” which is to say that we don’t start speaking to the Lord until His Holy Spirit has carried our minds into the throne room of His presence. There’s nothing complicated or mystical about this; for me it has meant closing my eyes (so you know I’m not praying in Dallas traffic), mentally picturing myself entering the throne room, and kneeling directly in front of my Lord. It’s been a continual battle of swatting a swarm of thoughts away, but I feel like the practice has already benefitted my prayer life. 

I hope and pray you’re blessed by what Elliff has to say in this month’s issue. More than that, I pray that we will all take more seriously the privilege and honor of having a heavenly Father who doesn’t demand our attention, but who wants it as a perfect and loving Father would. 

We are fond in our Christian culture of saying things such as, “He is worthy!” Surely our full attention is one of the things of which He is worthy.

Revival bursts out at East Texas church after pastor’s wife gets saved

Jaclyn Horine missed a trip to the Holy Land a few years ago when she started a new job. Now,  unexpectedly, she has seen Jerusalem through the eyes of a new believer. 

Her coming to faith as an adult—and as a pastor’s wife— has stirred the congregation of Friendship Baptist Church in Blackfoot, where her husband, Jerry, serves as senior pastor. Since her decision to truly follow Jesus, baptisms at the church have multiplied.

“I thought for years that I knew God,” said Jaclyn, a self-described preacher’s kid from Indiana. Both she and Jerry believed she was a Christian. Jerry remembered an occasion when Jaclyn had some trouble articulating her testimony, but she had been raised in the church and surely knew Jesus.

Except she did not.

“Her hope wasn’t in Christ. It was in her religion and herself,” Jerry said.

“My religion was me,” Jaclyn said.

When a professor from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where Jaclyn is pursuing a master’s degree in counseling, suggested that she might be building a foundation on her family background rather than Christ, Jaclyn initially disagreed. Yes, the move away from family in Indiana to Texas had been difficult, but she had been involved in church all her life, hadn’t she?

Then the truth dawned on her on Sunday, March 6, as Jerry preached from Romans 3 at Friendship. Jaclyn had recently been studying Romans 3:21-25 for a seminary hermeneutics class, and suddenly, in the middle of her husband’s sermon, it all made sense.

“My husband is preaching on the hope we have in Christ. I basically realized I didn’t have that hope,” Jaclyn said. Admitting she “just felt broken” as Jerry issued an invitation at the close of the sermon, Jaclyn recalled, “God just picked me up and took me to the altar. It was a beautiful moment.”

Both husband and wife could tell the Spirit of God was moving. Women from the church surrounded her at the altar. Jaclyn felt embarrassed at the thought of the other women hearing her admit she had sinned and needed a Savior.

Jaclyn’s baptism has helped spark revival at Friendship Baptist Church in the small community of Blackfoot. Photos Submitted

“As I was praying to God for a new heart, I heard people praying for me.”

“God gave her a new heart. Salvation was just so real that day,” he added.

Since then, the church has experienced nothing short of a revival, with 32 people baptized since Easter. The church is rejoicing about all those baptisms, but number 31, on Sept. 11, was extra special, Horine said. A local young man whom “everyone had written off” as “too far gone” in substance abuse came forward for baptism. 

“Now he comes to our prayer services and he is starting to lead his circle of influence to Christ,” the pastor said, adding that he believes more conversions and baptisms would follow this young man’s actions.

An ongoing revival

Growth continues at Friendship. The historic church, founded in 1860, had about 60 members when Jerry, formerly a church planter in Indiana, was called there five years ago at age 23 after attending Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Now some 200 attend the church and every children’s class is “busting at the seams,” Jaclyn said, noting that the congregation had prayed for children to come. The couple’s four-year-old foster daughter was recently overheard “baptizing” her Barbie doll, now that baptisms are a regular event at Friendship.

The growth is all the more remarkable when one realizes that Blackfoot, an unincorporated community of 33 according to the 2000 census, is nestled on a back road seven miles off the two-lane highway that connects Corsicana and Palestine. It’s not a place one will just happen upon.

Jaclyn’s profession of faith has inspired many of the baptisms that are a part of the growth.

“God is opening eyes. It’s beautiful,” she said.

“It’s an ongoing revival,” Jerry added.

“Well, if you came to know Jesus, Lord knows I need to come to know Jesus,” one older lady told Jaclyn. Jerry had been praying for the woman’s husband, and both came to faith during lunch with the pastor one day.

Jerry and Jaclyn Horine renewed their vows at the Sea of Galilee during the recent SBTC-sponsored trip to the Holy Land. The exchange of vows symbolizes the renewal of their marriage after Jaclyn’s salvation. 

Renewal of vows in Israel

As for the journey to Israel in 2022—a trip sponsored for pastors and their wives by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention this past July—Jaclyn is thankful she could go and even grateful that she was not able to accompany Jerry on his original trip in 2017.

“The Lord opened my eyes to so much in Israel,” she said, admitting that her initial expectations of experiencing the places where Jesus walked had been replaced by a sense of mission to Israel. 

Now she has a heart for the lost for whom Jesus wept: “We should be weeping for those people [over] the things that made Jesus weep.” She also understands the legalism and tradition enveloping many in Israel.

“I had been following tradition in religion all my life,” Jaclyn said. “I assumed if the letter of the law was intact, the Spirit would follow.”

Her salvation has brought renewal to their marriage as well, the Horines said.

“I am still super thankful for the quick sanctifying that showed me things in my married life, like pride. It really changed things in our marriage,” Jaclyn said.

Along the Sea of Galilee, the couple renewed their vows as Matthew Timmons, pastor of Norwood Heights Baptist Church in Palestine, officiated.

The ceremony was Jerry’s idea: “After her salvation, the Lord laid it on my heart to renew those vows.”

They rebraided the cord of three strands that they had braided in their original wedding.

“This shows there are truly three in our marriage,” Jaclyn explained, referring to the fact that mutual faith in Christ now characterized their union. 

Said Jerry: “It’s God’s providence, knowing that she just came to Christ and got to experience that.”

More state conventions join NAMB in Send Network partnerships

ALPHARETTA, Ga. – The North American Mission Board (NAMB) has, in recent years, developed Send Network agreements with state conventions across North America to enhance partnership and church planting within the SBC.

So far, 23 state conventions and Canada, have signed up to become official Send Network states, opening the door for Send Network’s processes for assessment, training, coaching and care to become a resource for more church planting missionaries.

Most recently, the Nevada Baptist Convention (NBC) announced its agreement and the launch of Send Network Nevada during its annual meeting, Oct. 17-18 at LifeChurch Reno.

“We are thankful for the church planters around the country who are being called to Nevada,” NBC Executive Director Damian Cirincione said during the meeting. “But we also want to create a culture of church planting that results in Nevada church planters being developed in Nevada churches. This will be a natural result of a greater discipleship focus in our churches.”

Many different cultures and ethnicities comprise the state, and the NBC aspires to help churches in big cities and small towns develop an ethic of evangelism and discipleship that will expand the kingdom of God throughout the state, Cirincione added.

“Nevada is the fifth-fastest growing state in the nation, with Las Vegas being one of the fastest-growing, most global cities in the nation,” said Josh Carter, director of Send Network Nevada. “In northern Nevada, Reno is growing tremendously. No church will, on its own, ever be able to multiply quickly enough to move the needle in the right direction. We must have another level of kingdom collaboration happening where churches of all sizes play a part in church planting in some way.”

The NBC’s announcement comes on the heels of the California Southern Baptist Convention (CSBC) announcing during its September board meeting its decision to join NAMB for Send Network California.

A higher percentage of Californians identify as “none,” in terms of their religious affiliation, than evangelical Protestant, according to Pew Research – 20 percent evangelical compared to 27 percent religiously unaffiliated.

“Now, more than ever, we have a clear understanding that we must work together as a Convention,” said CSBC Executive Director Pete Ramirez during the CSBC board meeting. “We are in a post-COVID era, and many of our churches have felt the impact. We have no choice but to rethink both how to plant churches and where to plant churches.”

Baptist state conventions in the southern U.S. have also begun reaping the benefits of Send Network partnerships, with Arkansas Baptists and North Carolina Baptists recently announcing church planting agreements with NAMB.

“The impact of this enhanced partnership will result in many more positive benefits to our church planters, sponsor churches and church planter residency churches,” Arkansas Baptists Executive Director Sonny Tucker told the Arkansas Baptist News. “Several of our sister southern state conventions have entered into a similar partnership, and they give this enhanced partnership the highest reviews with greater church-planter benefits, care and more churches planted.”

N.C. Baptists and Send Network came together to launch SendNC on Sept. 27.

“This partnership will combine the best of our existing church-planting leadership and relationships with NAMB’s planter care development pathway,” said N.C. Baptist Executive Director Todd Unzicker. “It will give numerous opportunities for church planters to gain experienced coaching, expanded planter care, synchronized training, improved benefits and greater funding.”

These and other state conventions, such as Iowa and Montana, have begun this fall with several others expected to develop in the future. The key to these enhanced partnerships has been the continued increase in Southern Baptists giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American missions.

“The faithfulness of Southern Baptists is helping to fuel the expansion of God’s kingdom throughout North America,” said Send Network President Vance Pitman. “It’s humbling to see everyone rally together to encourage a movement of churches planting churches, and it’s my prayer that state partnerships like these will bear fruit that makes an eternal impact in cities and nations around the world.”

This article was originally published by the North American Mission Board.