Month: December 2022

God merges man’s dream of entrepreneurship with reaching others at FBC Forney en Español

Doing the Father’s business

Pastoral ministry has always been a close part of Eduardo “Eddie” Lopez’s life. He grew up the son of a pastor and watched as many others in his extended family answered God’s call to preach.  

That may have been good for them, but Lopez had other plans for his life. He always wanted to be an entrepreneur. 

“Ask me for anything you want,” Lopez recalled saying to God during a time of prayer many years ago, “except to be a pastor.” 

But as Lopez started down the road of entrepreneurship, he felt a void that his business pursuits could not fill. That void, he came to understand, stemmed from his running from what he knew was God’s will for his life—to serve in the pastoral ministry. 

“The Lord allowed me to fulfill all my dreams to show me that none of that will fill my life,” Lopez said.

Lopez ultimately answered God’s call to pastoral ministry and dedicated three years to preparing himself for service. It was during that time he received a call from the missions pastor at First Baptist Church of Forney, who presented him with a proposal to start a Hispanic church. Forney, located about 25 miles east of Dallas, has a population of about 24,000 people—20% of whom are Hispanic. 

The dream of planting a Hispanic church began when FBC Forney Senior Pastor Jimmy Pritchard, who passed away in 2021, saw the need to minister to a group of Hispanic believers working in the church kitchen. Those workers were given Bible study materials through a Hispanic missionary who had come to the church, but Pritchard felt like they needed more than study aids. 

They needed a pastor who spoke their language.

“When I met the senior pastor, he knew right away that I was the person God was calling to start the Hispanic work in Forney,” Lopez said.

Lopez served alongside his wife, Zoila, whom he describes as an “unconditional help and essential piece” of his life and ministry. The Hispanic group began meeting in a chapel owned by FBC Forney that accommodated about 50 people. With his wife at his side, Lopez did a little bit of everything, from leading worship to teaching. He also began working with the Hispanic group in the church kitchen, gaining their trust and teaching them to invite their lost friends to their personal get-togethers.

 “As pastors, we sometimes doubt what God is calling us to do. But if God has called us, He will provide all the resources and people for the right time.”

“It is easier for [lost people] to come to a celebration than to church,” Lopez would tell them. In this way, when Lopez attended the church members’ activities, he introduced himself as the pastor of the Hispanic church and became friends with them. This, in turn, opened the door to share the gospel. Many began giving their lives to Christ, and the new Hispanic church began to grow.

Today, missions and multiplication are the focus for Lopez and FBC Forney en Español. However, Lopez said his concern is not on multiplying the number of church members. Instead, his focus is on planting churches and extending its gospel reach for the benefit of the kingdom. 

“In our church there are two types of people: the one who goes [to the mission field] and the one who sends [missionaries],” said Lopez, who was recently elected vice president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. This missional mindset, he added, helps members spend more time in their lives focused on others rather than themselves.

One of the opportunities the Lord has given the congregation to focus on others in the community is through an annual outreach event called Celebrando la Herencia Hispana (Celebrating Hispanic Heritage). As part of the event, the church invites community members of various nationalities—not only Hispanics, but also Asians, Indians, and others—to fellowship and sample snacks from different countries. The event has been so well received that the English- and Spanish-speaking congregations at FBC Forney have committed to jointly host the event next year.

Beyond reaching people in their own back yard, Lopez said FBC Forney en Español has planted three churches in the Metroplex cities of Dallas, Seagoville, and Mesquite.

Additionally, God has opened the doors for the church to operate an international ministry called “Semilla de Vida” (Seed of Life) in Mexico. The ministry offers free support to marginalized churches that do not have the financial resources to continue preaching the gospel and training to pastors and their families. Forney en Español provides resources for three churches in very remote villages in Mexico and has also supported congregations in Cuba and Puerto Rico. 

 “As pastors, we sometimes doubt what God is calling us to do,” said Lopez, who owns a restaurant in nearby Sunnyvale in addition to pastoring. “But if God has called us, He will provide all the resources and people for the right time.”

Small-church pastor says key is found in faithfulness, not numbers

‘Keep on keeping on’

Because church growth is a supernatural act of God, faithfulness is a better measure of success than numbers-based fruitfulness, Francis Calimbahin, pastor of Caprock Church in Arlington, said.

Calimbahin also is a physical therapist, and 17 years ago God led him to plant Caprock after he graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. 

“We had exponential growth [from year three to year seven]. It was wonderful,” Calimbahin said. “We were meeting in another church, and then we rented a barber shop and converted it to a worship center. Three years into it, the Lord blessed us and we were able to purchase our own building.”

In 2012, though, Caprock experienced a church split. 

“That was a rough several years, but the Lord is faithful,” Calimbahin said. “I stayed on it, and God blessed us with some growth again.”

Then the pandemic hit, and more than two years later, more people watch Caprock’s services online than join in person, the pastor said. They have just over 50 people in the building each Sunday. 

“From the church split to the hardships [experienced over] several years, I actually wanted to quit,” Calimbahin said. “I was upset. I was telling God that I’m a [physical therapist] and I could always work full-time and do ministry—physical and spiritual—at the hospital. People are in transition, there are tensions in their lives, but God kept me at the church.”

With a renewed calling, Calimbahin returned to Southwestern for a doctor of ministry in pastoral leadership. “I wrote my dissertation on what God was teaching me,” he said.

Mainly, God taught Calimbahin, personally and through other pastors, to value faithfulness. 

“One of the things that I really held onto was what Dr. Jim Richards said to me once when he came to preach at my church,” Calimbahin said, referring to the SBTC’s executive director emeritus. “I invited him, and I said, ‘I don’t know if you are willing to preach at a small church.’ He said to me, ‘In God’s economy, there is no small church.’”

Calimbahin said, “God is not looking at my ministry based on the numbers, but in terms of my character, whether I’m becoming more Christlike, faithful to Him.” 

“Recently, I studied Matthew 25 once again, and God revealed to me there at the end of the commendation, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ One is given five talents. He was able to double it,” he said. “One was given two talents. He was able to double it. But God never said, ‘I’m glad you got five. That’s more than two.’ He said the same thing, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’”

Caprock Church in Arlington is a diverse congregation focusing on the Great Commission.

During his doctoral work, Calimbahin learned that two-thirds of churches in America have fewer than 100 people. 

“Before going back to school, I was thinking that the person to blame for the lack or minimal growth of our church was me—either being bivocational or doing something wrong,” he said. “But then, my project helped me a lot because I discovered that out of so many bivocational pastors I talked to [who] are pastoring small churches—100 people or less—they are faithful, they are witnessing, they are making disciples, and yet the church is still small.”

The important lesson Calimbahin has learned is that “church growth is a supernatural act of God,” he said. “It’s not what I do; it’s what He does. It’s not, ‘because the church is small, the church is a failure.’”

Caprock’s vision is to make disciples, and they have frequent evangelism training and monthly outreach efforts at laundromats and gas stations. Yet, “the result is very, very minimal,” Calimbahin said. People often seem spiritually hardened, answering knocks at the door through video intercom doorbells to say they’re not interested.

“What is best is still personal evangelism, witnessing to a friend or coworker,” he said. “At the hospital, I’ve led many to the Lord. That doesn’t mean it translates to them coming to Caprock, but at least it leads to them thinking and saying, ‘I’m going to visit this church next to my house.’”

A saying often repeated at Caprock, the pastor said, is, “Keep on keeping on.”

“We have tried to stay true to the Word, and whether people are listening or not, we’re just going to keep on spreading the Word.”

In Caprock’s faithfulness, God has blessed them with boosting other congregations. 

“Our church is small, but we are investing in church planting,” Calimbahin said. “In the last eight to 10 years, we have sponsored and planted six churches in North America. I always tell my church that our church planters’ success is our success, and that encourages us to press on.”

The 5: Strengthening your study of the Bible in 2023

For the next six months, I want to help you grow in your spiritual disciplines, which my friend Don Whitney defines as “those practices found in Scripture that promote spiritual growth among believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ.” This month, I focus on strengthening your Bible study. 


Have a plan. 
It’s tough to stay faithful in Bible reading when you have no plan in place. Regardless of what that plan is, you need to know ahead of time what you will read for the next day. At least for me, having to figure out what to read each morning is an invitation for me to find something else to do. Having a plan (which I generally find via an Internet search) lessens the possibility of my not reading each day. 


Read something every day.
My general philosophy is that consistency plus quality and accountability is greater than quantity in Bible reading. Even if you read only one verse a day, I would rather you do that than read one full chapter one day each week. The greater quantity of reading one chapter each week might seem better, but the daily consistency is likely to lead to deeper reading and even more quantity.


Use a good study Bible.
I use a study Bible primarily to help me understand background, names, history, etc., as I read. In fact, I look to the notes only when something’s not clear to me. Find a study Bible with enough notes to be helpful, but not so many that they become distracting or overwhelming. I have enjoyed using the CSB Everyday Study Bible, which is a concise version of the more extensive CSB Study Bible. 


Journal what you learn.
I’m not by nature a journaler, but I’ve learned the importance of writing down what the Lord is teaching me. If I don’t take notes, I too quickly forget what I’ve read. Maybe the plan I’m following this year will help you: I’m writing insights or ideas in the margin of my Bible. That way, I not only keep my Bible open as I write, but I will also have a marked-up Bible to give someone at the end of the year.


Tell somebody else what you’re learning.
For years, I’ve done this by sending a daily email to a group of believers after I’ve read the Word. The email is not long, and I use it simply to say, “Here’s what I’ve read. Here’s what I’m learning. Here’s how you can pray for me.” You might send this kind of message to other church leaders, to people you’re mentoring, to your adult children, or even to a non-believer interested in hearing what you’re learning. 

Chuck Lawless is dean of doctoral studies and vice president of spiritual formation and ministry centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. For more from Lawless, visit

What’s your story? If God can do it for me, he can do it for anybody!

Igrew up in church. My mom kept us in church growing up, but just like many teenagers, I kind of strayed away, going off to college to do my own thing. I struggled with finances and grades in college and developed depression and mental illness problems. I was in jail a few times and was put in hospitals a few times. 

Fast forward a little and I had to drop out of school. The illness pretty much hampered my life, putting me in debt because of spending sprees and medical bills. Through it all, I’m aware that God kept his hand on me, protected me so that I didn’t hurt myself or anyone else. 

I met my wife, Crystal, about 21 years ago. She was a nursing student and I thank God she was there when I went into the hospital again. She was my confidante; she kept me going. I’m grateful she knew how to guide me as far as medicine and doctors. With her encouragement, I got back to school and finished. God used her to motivate me to get into a career. I haven’t had any of the old issues in 21 years. 

Crystal and I have been married nearly 19 years. Though I grew up in church, Crystal wasn’t really a church-going person, but God had His hands on us and kept us together. As we started our family, had our first child, and then lost our second child, a little girl, we grew closer together. We also began to be closer to God and started to look for a church. 

I work in telecommunications but also have a side business screening logos on shirts and other items. I was driving to work one day, and I looked over to the left and saw this huge white church with a blue roof, Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church.

I was thinking of connecting with them to do business with them. Early one morning, I went to the church when no one was there. I stuck a business card under the door, hoping I didn’t set off an alarm or anything. 

"This ministry has been a blessing in my life. We get a chance to disciple the boys, teach them about God, teach them about Bible lessons, but also lead them on field trips such as bowling or fishing. "

A couple of years later I met up with a customer that I was doing some side business with. He was a member of that church and he said, “Hey, I need you to do some shirts for our church.” I just accepted the order and went about my day.

Well, that contact led to more business with the church, and I later met Pastor Caleb [Turner]. He walked up to me, saying, “Hey, how you doing? I appreciate you for doing business with us, and are you saved? Have you accepted Jesus Christ in your life?” I said, “Yeah, I am saved.” Because at that point I turned away from sin, though I wasn’t really engaged in a church. I knew Jesus was the Lord of my life. He said, “Okay, well we would love to have you come visit us at church.”

I didn’t think anything of it. My wife and I, we were like, “OK, well let’s go take a visit.” A few months later we visited the church, and from that first visit, we just fell in love with it. We felt comfortable, everyone welcomed us, everyone greeted us. We joined Mesquite Friendship in 2018 with a desire to really give God our all. 

With Pastor Caleb’s encouragement, I started helping out with the youth ministry. From there God pressed on my heart to start a young men’s mentoring group, we now call Men in Training. It’s based on the fact that some of the younger boys didn’t have much interaction with men in the church. Some of them didn’t have a father in their homes. We tried to launch in 2020, but COVID prevented us. So we pushed it back to the 2021-2022 school year. We’re currently in our second year.  

This ministry has been a blessing in my life. We get a chance to disciple the boys, teach them about God, teach them about Bible lessons, but also lead them on field trips such as bowling or fishing. We have fun and disciple the boys, hoping to form long-lasting relationships. We only meet once a month. Over the past year-and-a-half, I believe we’ve made an impact. 

[Eventually] Pastor Caleb talked to me about being a trustee for the church, helping with administrative responsibilities. So now I serve in that capacity as well. 

God has brought me a long way. In my life, He moved me up from being a door greeter to having more responsibility and a good living. In my personal life, He’s cleared my debt and protected my health. In my family, He’s given me two sons and a loving wife. 

I didn’t deserve it, but in His perfect timing everything just kept lining up. It’s just been truly a blessing ever since I connected with God and started to study the Bible under Pastor Caleb and under his father, Dr. Terry [Turner]. We’ve seen a sustained connection with God, a relationship. Now we can really say that we are helping build the kingdom. We’re participating and we’re investing our lives in God’s kingdom.

So, what’s my story? If God can do it for me, he can do it for anybody else. Give it a try and you’ll see great things happen in your life. 

What's your story?

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

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Ready, set … wait?

Ihad a major surgery late last year that left me laid up in my recliner at home for several weeks. As a result, I found myself watching most of the World Cup, which has since ended.

Of all the sports I grew to love as a kid, soccer was not among them. I never played it, I didn’t understand the rules, and there wasn’t enough scoring. Not to mention, I could never understand why an attacking offensive player would at times drive hard toward the goal and then suddenly pivot and kick the ball 50 yards backward to a teammate. 

As I’ve grown older and come to appreciate soccer a tiny bit more, I now understand that an advancing player often retreats the ball for a number or reasons. Sometimes there are too many defenders who will easily take the ball if he continues forward. Sometimes there are not enough of his teammates in position. In other words, sometimes the offense pulls back a bit because it’s not yet in the best position to score. 

Hold that thought.

It’s the first month of 2023, and so many of us use the new year as an opportunity to make resolutions and set big goals. Nothing at all wrong with that, but from a spiritual perspective, I wonder how often we plan all our desired life destinations in such a way that we get ahead of the Lord.

"Some of us are starting what is going to be a great year, while others of us will end this year feeling as if we’ve walked through the valley of the shadow of death. Either way, there is no greater place we could be than in the presence of God."

We are wired to score. Our culture has conditioned us to attack the goal. It’s incredibly difficult for us to imagine a scenario where we pull back and kick the ball backward, so to speak, because we’re not quite ready to push ahead. Of all the spiritual disciplines, I’ve found that waiting on the Lord is among the hardest.

I can think of a number of circumstances when I prayed about a direction I wanted to go in my life, and immediately after saying “amen,” I was already heading in my predetermined direction—not waiting to see what the Lord might want to do. Because of this, I have a few testimonies (and a few scars) about what happens when you charge ahead toward the goal when the Lord hasn’t cleared the path. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding,” the proverb urges. “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

Where do you want to go this year? What do you want for your life? These are legitimate questions we should all think about. But I pray this year that you and I will find that the “what” and the “where” are not nearly as important as “Who” is with us as we walk through the days ahead. 

Some of us are starting what is going to be a great year, while others of us will end this year feeling as if we’ve walked through the valley of the shadow of death. Either way, there is no greater place we could be than in the presence of God. Not behind Him, not ahead of Him, but right there with Him—even if He doesn’t seem to be opening the path for what appears to you to be a clear opportunity to score. 

In the game of life, that’s the real win.

What happened at our church when we prayed like we’ve never prayed before

The Lord challenged me at the beginning of last year, in a time of personal prayer, not just to lead a church that prays but to lead us to become a praying church. There is a difference. And as we’ve made that transition, the power of heaven has poured out upon us.

This past year, our local congregation in the DFW area has seen more miracles than any other year in its 67-year history. We have seen two cases of people healed from stage 4 cancer. A man has been healed of chronic headaches he’d suffered for more than 30 years. We’ve seen marriages hanging on by a thread completely redeemed. A man testified that after 20 years of sharing the gospel with his father, after and lifting his father up at a prayer gathering, he placed his faith in Christ the next week. These are genuine miracles.

The most unexpected miracle, though, has been the number of people who, like the Ethiopian eunuch who could hardly wait to be baptized, have decided to express their newfound faith in Christ before they even leave the morning service. As of the writing of this article, 258 people have been baptized in just over eight months at our church. Nothing like that has ever happened at Fielder Church.

One couple, watching the online service, drove up to the campus to be baptized because the Spirit prompted them to respond to the gospel that day. One young lady, her first time ever setting foot in a church, came forward at the end of the service to place her faith in Christ and be baptized. The services have been filled with a power they’ve never had before.

"When you’re desperate enough for God to move, when you’ve come to the end of yourself and realize no other strategy will work, that’s when you’ll change anything, move anything, and leverage anything to seek the power of God rather than your own."

I have to be very cautious as I tell the story of what the Lord has done at our church. The temptation always exists to claim credit where it isn’t due.
I don’t tell you this to discourage you if you aren’t seeing these results. I share this to whet your appetite for what the Lord can do in your congregation as well.

Hear me: these results have not been the result of strategy, hard work, or talent. We’ve had those for decades and not seen a move of God like we are right now. There has only been one explanation for this power—prayer. Fielder Church has prayed like we’ve never prayed before and seen the power of God like we’ve never seen before.

This past March, we began weekly prayer gatherings for an hour-and-a-half on Wednesday nights, praying for the lost, praying over needs in the congregation, and inviting the Spirit to move among us. And as He always does, the Lord has answered. My greatest regret has been taking so long to arrive at such a simple conclusion. Prayer is our most important work.

I’m not alone in seeing these results. As I’ve spoken with other pastors in Texas and beyond, I’m hearing more and more churches starting prayer ministries and seeing unprecedented results. All of us have a common story—the prayer ministry was born from desperation.

When you’re desperate enough for God to move, when you’ve come to the end of yourself and realize no other strategy will work, that’s when you’ll change anything, move anything, and leverage anything to seek the power of God rather than your own. That’s my story, and I pray it becomes yours as well.

Examining our relationship with technology with godly eyes

How do we see through the veil and allure of technology to the underbelly of the digital age? How do we identify the good it can do for us, while also pinpointing the bad it’s doing to us?

There are many answers to those questions, but the first thing we need to do is step back and try to understand our complex, long-term relationship with technology (not to mention what technology even is). We didn’t just all of the sudden wake up in the last decade or two and face these complex challenges. They’ve been building for a lot longer than that.

It may be tempting to think of technology simply as computer innovations or electronic gadgets, but the truth is that technology has been around since the very beginning of time, and it has always shaped how we view the world. Technology is anything humanity creates to aid us or augment our work. For example, a shovel or hammer is a piece of technology in a similar way to the printing press and even our smartphones. While each are unique in some sense, they are all examples of technology. Technologies like these have, for a long time now, extended our abilities, caused us to ask different questions, and pushed us toward new frontiers in God’s creation.

Problem is, when we think about or engage the modern complex ethical questions of technology, we naturally seek out new ways of engaging these tools because we falsely believe that older generations don’t really understand the problems of today or address these modern issues we have about technology. We often fall prey to what C.S. Lewis calls “chronological snobbery,” which is the tendency to look down on figures and ideas from the past as if we have outgrown their advice and wisdom given our modern understandings of how the world works.

Looking to the past

But when it comes to how technology shapes us and alters how we view the world around us, some of the most helpful voices come from the past, as these thinkers were able to see the things that we often miss, given how all-encompassing technology has become in our lives. We can’t see out of our own moment. They often can, simply because they aren’t in it. Not to mention, as it is with a boxing match, watching someone else grapple with a hard subject before you jump in to wrestle it down yourself proves not only instructive, but far less painful.

One such helpful voice from the past is a French sociologist and theologian named Jacques Ellul. While I don’t always agree with his conclusions, Ellul has become a profoundly influential thinker for me when it comes to bridging the gap between the nature of technology and the world around us. To my own surprise and hopefully to yours, I have found that he knows more about our struggles with technology today than many may think.

Ellul opens his widely influential work, The Technological Society, by saying, “No social, human, or spiritual fact is so important as the fact of technique in the modern world. And yet no subject is so little understood.” These words frame this work that he penned in the 1950s, well before the advent of our current-day innovations. This speaks directly to the contemporary debates over technology and its proper role in our lives, as well as how it is radically altering how we perceive the world around us. Throughout this work and his other writings, Ellul helps us to see past simplistic understandings of technology and see how far-reaching its influence goes in our lives.

Examining the role of technology

Today, technology is assumed and assimilated rather than examined or questioned about its nature and proper role in our society. In other words, we don’t routinely look behind the curtain. Instead, we just take these tools at face value. We regularly reach for a technical solution to the problems we face because we have been trained to believe that technology can help solve whatever problem is before us. Think of how it was ingrained in us as smartphones were just becoming popular that “there is an app for that.” Need to lose weight and eat better? There is an app for that. Need to be more disciplined in your prayer life or Bible reading? There is an app for that too. Need a break from some rambunctious kids? There are plenty of apps for that.

The truth is that we often adopt these innovations without any real thought to “should we,” simply because we’re more focused on “can we.” We pursue innovation for innovation’s sake rather than examining the ethical challenges it may bring with it. This “should we” is the question of ethics or morality. It’s the point in the process where we slow down and ask is this even good, what does it do to me, and what are the long-term side effects on both me and my society?

Technologist John Dyer says it this way, “When technology has distracted us to the point that we no longer examine it, it gains the greatest opportunity to enslave us.” An essential first step to following Jesus in a digital age is to slow down and examine the proper role of technology in our lives. Because it is through this intentionality that the Lord can open our eyes to see clearly how technology shapes us, as well as begin to see how to pursue wisdom as we seek to tackle some of the biggest technology-related problems.

Pushing for efficiency

Jacques Ellul wrote his classic work on technology in the midst of his era’s explosion of modern technologies, such as the spread of television to most homes, the rise of many automated systems in homes and factories, and even the earliest beginnings of artificial intelligence in the West. He prophetically warned of the countless ways that technology was negatively affecting humanity in the pursuit of efficiency and progress, often without any real moral clarity or ethical response especially from the church.

One of Ellul’s greatest insights was how technique pushes everything in our lives toward greater efficiency. But what does this mean? It means that the goal of technology is to streamline everything by removing the obstacles or hindrances in our pursuit of more information or information processing. Ellul rightly believed that technology was not merely an isolated tool or instrument that we simply use as commonly understood in past generations, but it represented a more totalizing force in our modern life that shapes everything about us and our society. He understood technology not as a neutral tool simply used for good or evil but recognized that it has a dominating and reorienting effect on every aspect of human life toward efficiency.

Opening our eyes

Efficiency. Isn’t this the real “why” behind most of the technologies you’ve adopted in your life? Isn’t this in some sense one of the reasons we keep our devices at arm’s length? I know the answer for me is yes. Why do I use a digital, satellite-powered map on my phone to get me back home after a long work trip instead of a physical map? Because think of the time I save! Why do I use the same mapping app even when I drive home from the office? Well it shows me the traffic and helps me to get home faster! When the technology of “maps on your phone” came out, I admitted its entrance into my daily life immediately. Now I can go anywhere without having to know road names, landmarks, or even what state I’m in. I just have to follow the little blue line, and I’m there.

Speaking of how quickly we incorporate technology into our lives, media theorist and cultural critic Neil Postman describes a similar idea to Ellul by saying that, “once a technology is admitted (in our lives), it plays out its hand; it does what is it designed to do,” and then he goes on to say that “our task is to understand what that design is—that is to say, when we admit a new technology to the culture, we must do so with our eyes wide open.”

Following Jesus in a digital age requires just that: having our eyes wide open and seeing how technology is subtly shaping us in ways often contrary to our faith. We need to learn how to ask the right questions about our relationship with technology, examining it with clear eyes grounded in the Word of God. This clarity can pierce through the mysteries of technology and help us to faithfully apply God’s word to these pressing challenges of the day.

Excerpted with permission from Following Jesus in a Digital Age by Jason Thacker. Copyright 2022, B&H Publishing.

Send Relief’s 2022 underscores value of Southern Baptist cooperation

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)—Between the brutal war in Ukraine, an alarming global hunger crisis and another year of battling the economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2022 was a year stained by global crises. Through it all, Send Relief was able to deliver the physical help and the hope of the Gospel that vulnerable communities desperately needed.

Southern Baptists did not falter in showing record-breaking support for the work of Send Relief, allowing the Southern Baptist arm for compassion ministry meet more needs and change more lives than ever before.

Responding to the war in Ukraine

With the abrupt and violent declaration of war in Ukraine earlier this year, millions of women and children were forced to flee the emerging warzones. Because of Southern Baptists’ record-breaking generosity, Send Relief was able to show up for these families in their time of grief.

More than 500,000 Ukrainian refugees received food boxes and hot meals to keep them healthy and strong on their journeys away from home. Nearly 50,000 heard the Good News of Jesus and witnessed His love in action through the 445 churches overseas who mobilized in response to this ongoing war. With many projects still underway, an estimated 1.3 million Ukrainians will be helped by Send Relief projects in the coming months.

One of the evacuees, Iaroslav, was moved to tears at the sight of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and Send Relief teams waiting to serve weary families along the border. The coffee, snacks and Bibles Southern Baptists provided at the border prompted Iaroslav to share the story of his harrowing flight from invaders. Stories like these have been repeated several times over as Southern Baptists continue serving.

Hurricane Ian relief

With wind speeds topping 155 mph, Hurricane Ian made landfall on the Florida coast in September as a devastating Category 4 storm. Sudden storm surges and 15 feet of raging floodwaters killed more than 100 people. As rescue and mud-out efforts unfolded, damages were estimated to top $67 billion, making Ian one of the five most-destructive storms in United States’ history – and Florida’s deadliest natural disaster in nearly a century.

In response, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) teams from 29 state conventions utilized Send Relief’s emergency resources – including flood recovery supplies, protective suits, gloves, masks and other construction materials – to care for the region’s most affected families. One SBDR leader described the response as the best of Southern Baptist cooperative work. Two grateful homeowners, Stan and Amy Wiggins, were particularly blessed by Southern Baptist volunteer teams’ service.

Serve Tour, serving refugees and ministry in North America

Send Relief, the compassion ministry arm for Southern Baptists, also hosted more than 4,800 volunteers in several cities across North America during the Serve Tour. Through hundreds of projects coordinated through Send Relief by Southern Baptist state conventions, associations and churches, more than 17,000 people were served and 363 people made professions of faith in Christ.

During Send Relief’s Backpack Day on August 7, more than 900 churches participated as Send Relief provided more than 60,000 backpacks for churches to use in reaching out to their neighbors and sharing the Gospel.

September marked one year since the Afghan refugee crisis began. Southern Baptists made a difference for refugees in their communities as Send Relief offered coaching to help churches engage.

Southern Baptist support in 2022 allowed Send Relief’s national ministry center operations to expand greatly, empowering even more marginalized communities to find help and hope in their difficult circumstances.

Send Relief held the grand opening for its ministry center in Puerto Rico that hosts mission teams as they serve the island. Then, in cooperation with Texas Baptists, Send Relief also launched a ministry center in Laredo, Texas, that helps to connect churches to ministry opportunities at the U.S.-Mexico border. That brings the total Send Relief ministry center count to 20 with additional 2022 launches in Baltimore, Md., St. Louis, Mo., and Toronto.

Send Relief also met urgent needs in the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona’s landfall in Puerto Rico and supported SBDR volunteers as they ministered to survivors of intense flooding in Kentucky.

Fighting a historic global hunger crisis

Between multiple international refugee crises, the war in Ukraine and ongoing pandemic recovery efforts, global hunger exploded at an incredible rate in 2022. Across the world, more than 800 million people still go to bed hungry every night, with more than 30 million of those living right here in the United States. Sadly, 9 million of those are children.

Gifts to Send Relief made it possible for nearly 1 million people living with constant food insecurity to gain access to nourishing, filling meals this year. One of the recipients of these emergency rations was Anmar, a 14-year-old boy who fled war-ravaged Syria at the height of the conflict. Joined later by his brother Mohammad, Anwar got a last-minute spot on a Greek “death boat” – makeshift rafts well-known for sinking mid-journey and often the only remaining choice for refugees with little money.

God made history in 2022, and we got to document it

In a sense, the Southern Baptist Texan is the culmination of tens of people putting in hundreds of hours of work, expressed in thousands of words read by tens of thousands of subscribers. 

And yet, each month, all of this begins with a simple and singular—yet weighty—mandate: tell the stories of what God is doing in our Southern Baptists of Texas Convention churches.

My calling here is as much historian as journalist. In 100 years, I’ll be long gone and mostly forgotten. But the stories of what God did in 2022 will remain. He is, after all, the God of lasting impressions.

As much as the end of this year sends my thoughts ahead to 2023, I can’t help but reflect on the privilege we have had this past year of documenting and sharing with our readers some of the most inspiring stories you’ll find anywhere.

"In 100 years, I’ll be long gone and mostly forgotten. But the stories of what God did in 2022 will remain."

In January, we told the story of how God moved in the life of Jack Peaslee. After nine decades of living, he finally—for the first time—heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. In response, he surrendered all. The words of his pastor, Michael Gossett at Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, stuck with me all year long: “God is always pursuing us. He is never finished with us.”

A few months later, we shared with you the story of Earl Alcazar, a Filipino pastor in the Houston suburb of Stafford who couldn’t help but notice a growing population of Afghan refugees moving into his neighborhood. He admitted to being afraid to reach out to them because of their cultural differences, but asked the Lord to provide a way. The Lord answered, and before long, Alcanzar started noticing some of those refugees showing up at his church. If that doesn’t make your goosebumps raise their hands in worship, I don’t know what will.

I love the story we got to tell over the summer of Daisy, who heard the message of hope because an Arlington pastor dialed the wrong number one day while making visitor follow-up phone calls. Turns out it wasn’t so wrong after all, and Daisy ultimately gave her life to Christ.

People, God is alive and moving every … single … day. Our job—and I mean all of us—is to tell a watching world about it. There are millions of people who have never sensed the presence and the power of God and millions more who don’t even believe He exists. 

Let’s work together in 2023 to show them something that can’t be denied. Let’s join with our Lord in making history. 

Noel: Great wonders through unlikely people

In those days Mary set out and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judah where she entered Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped inside her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and your child will be blessed! How could this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For you see, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped for joy inside me. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill what he has spoken to her!” (Luke 1:39-45)

Many unexpected treasures are embedded in the Christmas story. One of these treasures is the simple but life-changing truth that God often works through the unlikeliest of people to accomplish the greatest of wonders. There are three operative human characters in Luke 1:39-45. Each of them is an unlikely character in the first noel.


Mary is a very young woman—possibly even a teenager. She’s a virgin. She’s engaged but not yet married. The girl may be young, but she’s not dumb. She knows how babies are made, and she’s not about to have a baby. Then, through His messenger, God calls her to believe a biological impossibility (vs.35-38, 45) that would change every dream she had ever dreamed for her life. In Luke’s gospel, we really don’t know anything about Mary’s parents. She just shows up on this page of Scripture, unexpected and unannounced. But it was God’s delight that, of the tens of millions of women living under Roman rule in that day, a betrothed, teenage virgin from an inconsequential home would show up on the first pages of New Testament history as the mother of the Son of God. How unlikely a character for so great a wonder.


Elizabeth is a barren, old woman, righteous and faithful in God’s sight but plagued with infertility all the many years of her marriage to a respected temple priest. How many decades had she and Zechariah prayed in faith that God would bless their home with a child? How distraught must she have been closing in on this final season of life never having received the one thing she wanted most from God? Then, by God’s grace, she conceives a son in her old age—John the Baptist, a son of ancient prophecy who is to become the voice of one crying in the wilderness, preparing the way of the Lord. And here, even before the birth of her son, Elizabeth becomes the first recorded prophetess in Luke’s gospel as she is filled with the Holy Spirit (vs.42-45) to proclaim the blessings of the incarnate Christ. She is an old woman with a new lease on life. How unlikely a character for so great a wonder.

Preborn Baby John

John is a gift from God—an incubated, developing treasure. He is six months in the making (v.36). God is still forming his little body, knitting him together beautifully and wonderfully in his mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13-14). He is fully human though not yet seen, possessing all the inherent dignity and value of an image bearer of God. At six months, hair is just beginning to grow on his soft, tiny skull. Fingerprints and toeprints have recently formed their unique, one-of-a-kind shapes. His red, wrinkly skin is still translucent enough to trace the course of the little veins carrying lifeblood throughout his body by a fully functioning, magnificently complex cardiovascular system. His eyelids are beginning to part to allow for the opening of his eyes although he can only see, at this point, the cradle of his mother’s womb shielding him from the dangers of a world he does not yet know. John is 12 inches long, no more than two or three pounds. But at the voice of the mother of the incarnate Christ, he leaps for joy in his mother’s womb (vs.41, 44). A preborn infant would be among the first to testify to the greatness of this moment, when God incarnate was conceived in the womb of a human virgin. How unlikely a character for so great a wonder.

This sense of wonder is embedded into the Christmas story, from its first pages until now. Can’t you feel it? Even today, God often works through the unlikeliest of people to accomplish the greatest of wonders.

The wonder of Christ’s incarnation should cause all our souls to leap for joy in these cradles of flesh. Yes, because of the magnitude of the grace of God who tabernacled with us. But also, even if only in some small way, to know that God often works through the unlikeliest of people to accomplish the greatest of wonders. Unlikely people like you and me are on every page of God’s redemptive story unfolding through the generations. So, let’s steward our moment with simple faith and obedience. Let’s believe God for impossible things. Let’s tell the world about it. And let’s marvel at the wonder of it all, together, as his redemption story passes through our generation.