Month: January 2023

Partnership between races key to accomplishing Great Commission, IMB strategist says

Editor’s note: Sunday, Feb. 5, is George Liele Church Planting, Evangelism and Missions Sunday in the Southern Baptist Convention.

NASHVILLE (BP)—The value of partnerships is at the heart of George Liele emphasis Sunday, an International Mission Board strategist said. The day is set for Feb. 5.

Jason Thomas, the African American church mobilization strategist for the IMB, unpacked the importance of celebrating the ministry of George Liele and encouraging Black churches to lean in to church planting, evangelism and missions on a recent episode of Baptist Press This Week.

“One of the things I think churches could learn is that even though George Liele had great adversity, he never let that subvert him from building God’s kingdom,” Thomas said.

Liele was a freed slave from Georgia who became a missionary to Jamaica. Scholars believe he left for Jamaica in 1782, 10 years before William Carey left for India, thus making him the first Baptist missionary.

Prior to becoming a missionary, he was the pastor of the first African Baptist Church in Savanah, Ga.

“Our churches can learn so much from his examples because we’re facing barriers of our own,” Thomas told Baptist Press.

“We need to look toward that example to not allow those barriers to distract us from fulfilling the goal of the Great Commission.”

Thomas said sometimes churches composed of racial minorities can be limited in their experience with global travel. This can affect their ability to reach unreached places and to even to think about such places.

He said many Black churches are forced to focus on significant issues in their own neighborhoods or community and this has limited their ability to look beyond their city limits.

“The community has often prioritized the needs of our local communities over international concerns,” Graham said.

A Sunday to focus on the work of George Liele being added to the SBC Calendar of Events came from a partnership between the National African American Fellowship and the IMB.

Resources on the emphasis Sunday are available on the IMB’s website.

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

U.S. Hispanic Protestant landscape full of growing, vibrant churches

NASHVILLE—Hispanic churches in the United States face unique challenges but are finding success in building community within their congregations and reaching those outside their walls.

Lifeway Research partnered with two dozen denominations and church networks to include what is likely the largest number of Protestant Hispanic congregations in the U.S. ever invited to a single research study. Sponsored by Lifeway Recursos, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse, the study surveyed 692 pastors of congregations that are at least 50 percent Hispanic.

“For decades, the Hispanic population in the U.S. has been growing exponentially, and it is imperative for churches to be informed about the specific needs of this community,” said Giancarlo Montemayor, director of global publishing for Lifeway Recursos. “This study will help us to continue the ongoing conversation of how to serve our brothers and sisters in a more strategic way.”

Congregational snapshot

The study reveals a picture of Hispanic churches that are newer, younger and more effectively evangelistic than the average U.S. Protestant church.

Most Hispanic Protestant churches (54 percent) have been established since 2000, including 32 percent founded in 2010 or later. Fewer than 1 in 10 (9 percent) trace their history prior to 1950.

Not only are the churches relatively new, but most people in the congregations are also new to the United States. The majority are first generation Americans (58 percent), born outside the country. A quarter are second generation (24 percent), with parents who were born outside the U.S. And 17 percent were born in the U.S. to parents who were also born in the U.S. As a result, a majority conduct their services only in Spanish (53 percent), while 22 percent are bilingual.

Half of the churches (50 percent) are in a large metropolitan area with a population of 100,000 or more. Around 3 in 10 (31 percent) are located in small cities, 9 percent are in rural areas and 8 percent are in suburbs.

In the average Hispanic Protestant church, a full third of the congregation (35 percent) is under the age of 30, including 18 percent under 18. Another 38 percent are aged 30-49, and 28 percent are 50 and older.

“The growth in the number of Hispanic churches in the U.S. has been remarkable,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “While some of these congregations were started within Anglo churches – 14 percent of Hispanic congregations in this study currently are conducting services within a church that is predominantly non-Hispanic – the missional impetus has clearly come from within the Hispanic community itself as two-thirds of these congregations are led by first-generation immigrant pastors.”

In U.S. Hispanic Protestant churches, the average worship service attendance is 115. Like most other churches, they’ve not yet fully recovered from the pandemic. In January 2020, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the average attendance was 136. Still, 13 percent of churches are currently around their pre-pandemic levels. And 32 percent say they’ve grown in the past three years, despite the pandemic.

Almost every Hispanic Protestant pastor (99 percent) agrees, including 94 percent who strongly agree, their congregation considers Scripture the authority for their church and their lives.

Around 7 in 10 (69 percent) say their church has the financial resources it needs to support their ministry, which include some aspects that are common among most other Protestant congregations. Most Hispanic Protestant churches say they regularly offer weekly adult small groups or Bible studies (74 percent), weekly prayer meetings (66 percent) and weekly children’s small groups (52 percent). Fewer have weekly youth small groups (45 percent), weekly young adult small groups (40 percent), one-on-one discipleship or mentoring (34 percent), evening large group Bible study (25 percent) or evening praise and worship (24 percent). Just 3 percent say they offer none of these.

When asked about moving weekend worship service participants to small groups, 42 percent of pastors say at least half of their adult churchgoers are involved in group Bible studies, including 15 percent who say at least 75 percent are connected to a small group. Around a third (34 percent) say fewer than 1 in 4 churchgoers also are members of small group Bible studies, including 9 percent of pastors who say none of those attending worship services are involved in groups.

As to what hinders their congregation from participating more regularly in church activities, most pastors point to long work hours for their churchgoers (61 percent). Others say extended family gatherings (35 percent) and personal hardships or crises (30 percent). Around a quarter point to recreational or entertainment pursuits (26 percent) and lingering fear of COVID (24 percent). Fewer say sports activities (20 percent), a preference to watch online (18 percent), lack of transportation (17 percent), school events (13 percent) or caregiver responsibilities (11 percent).

“Many of the activities within Hispanic Protestant churches look similar to those in non-Hispanic churches in the U.S. with worship services, prayer meetings, Bible studies, and Sunday School classes being common,” McConnell said. “But pastors of Hispanic congregations are quick to point out immigrant families often have less time for church as many are working long hours, have family traditions and are impacted by American cultural distractions.”

Evangelistic outreach

Almost 4 in 5 pastors at U.S. Hispanic Protestant churches (79 percent) say they regularly schedule opportunities for members to go out and share the Gospel.

Specifically, most pastors say their outreach activities in the past year included church members inviting people to church (86 percent), using social media to share church activities (74 percent), children’s special events like VBS, Easter egg hunts or fall festivals (59 percent), community programs like food distribution, toy giveaways or clothing drives (58 percent), and church members sharing the gospel in conversations (56 percent). Additionally, some congregations did door-to-door evangelism (30 percent), evangelism training (24 percent) and provided financial support for a new church start (12 percent). Hardly any churches (1 percent) say they have not been able to do any of those recently.

Their outreach seems to be effective, as close to half (47 percent) say 10 or more people have indicated a new commitment to Christ in the past year, including 24 percent who have seen 20 or more such commitments. Fewer than 1 in 10 (9 percent) report no new commitments.

As they’ve reached these new individuals, pastors say most are sticking around. Almost 3 in 4 (73 percent) of those new commitments have become active participants in the life of the church, according to pastors. As a result, 88 percent of Hispanic Protestant pastors say they consistently hear reports of changed lives at their churches.

“Hispanic congregations are very active in engaging new people,” McConnell said. “Not only is there much evangelistic activity in Hispanic churches, but God is also blessing them with new people who commit to following Jesus Christ.”

Building community

As new members join Hispanic Protestant churches, they become part of congregations that are actively trying to grow together, according to their pastors. Almost 9 in 10 (88 percent) say their church has a plan to foster community in their church, including 53 percent who strongly agree.

Pastors point to numerous activities as vital to building a strong sense of community within their congregations. At least 9 in 10 say praying together (96 percent), studying the Bible together (95 percent), choosing to get along and promoting unity (93 percent), welcoming those from different cultures and backgrounds (93 percent), choosing to be transparent and accountable with one another (89 percent) and checking in or noticing when others are absent (90 percent) are very or extremely important aspects of unity in their churches. Additionally, most say the same about members working together to serve people in the community (79 percent), socializing outside of church (81 percent) and sharing resources with each other (74 percent).

Most pastors say they’ve heard about their church members engaging in each of those actions at least a few times in the past month.

“Fellowship among believers in a local congregation is something the Bible communicates should be taking place,” McConnell said. “Hispanic churches take this seriously and invest in these relationships.”

Pastoral portrait

Among pastors of U.S. Hispanic Protestant congregations, 93 percent are Hispanic themselves. Almost all (95 percent) are the senior or only pastor of a congregation, while 5 percent are Hispanic campus pastors with a multi-site church. More than half (56 percent) serve as a full-time pastor, 27 percent are bi-vocational, 10 percent are part-time, 6 percent are volunteer and 1 percent are in interim positions.

Almost half of pastors in Hispanic Protestant churches (48 percent) are between the ages of 50 and 64. Pastors are more than twice as likely to be under 50 (37 percent), including 4 percent under 30, than 65 or older (16 percent).

Almost 8 in 9 pastors (85 percent) are male. Two in 3 (66 percent) are first generation Americans, while 15 percent are second generation and 19 percent are third. Close to 3 in 4 are college graduates, including 44 percent who have a graduate degree, while 17 percent have some college and 10 percent have a high school education or less.

Theologically, 4 in 5 (79 percent) pastors at U.S. Hispanic Protestant churches self-identified as evangelical. Around 1 in 6 (16 percent) say they’re mainline.

My next 20 years

Last month I was invited to speak at the university I graduated from. As I began to pray and think about what to share with the students, it dawned on me that I graduated from there 20 years ago in May. Where had time gone? Have I done the things I dreamed about as a student walking those halls two decades ago?

As these questions gripped my mind, I began to reflect on the last 20 years. There were three major things I learned and committed to in those formative years that I have attempted to keep as priorities in my life.

1. Make time with God the highest priority.
One of my mentors, Dr. Rod Masteller, used to continually remind me that nothing should ever take the place of my time alone in the Word and in prayer. He would say, “It’s not enough to get in the Word—you have to get the Word in you.” Over the last 20 years, I have sought to be consistent in my time with the Lord. As you probably have experienced yourself, I haven’t always been as diligent as I hoped to be. However, I know this must be the greatest discipline in my life.

I want to live my life with the utmost integrity. To do this, I need to walk closely with God every day. Dr. Masteller also used to say, “It’s not in the day-to-day—it’s in the daily.” The daily routine and discipline of time with God will lead us to greater intimacy with God.

"Twenty years has come and gone. I am so grateful for all God has done in me, and I desire to see Him do more in me than ever before."

2. Live out your faith with passion.
As a college student who was passionate about serving God, I had not yet experienced the pressures of being in ministry or even dealt with the challenges of life. I was certainly a young man with a lot of vision and ideas, but I had no real experience. Even so, I made a commitment to live my faith out with passion. I knew I did not want to live or do ministry devoid of passion.

Over the last 20 years, there have been moments when leading was difficult and sometimes not enjoyable. However, in both difficult moments and incredible seasons, I have sought to be passionate about my faith. As we live and lead, our joy is not based on the ups and downs of leadership. Rather, it is based on Christ in us!

3. Live with a burden for the lost.
In college, I began to learn about tools for sharing the gospel. Long before I knew about these tools and methods, I felt a deep burden to reach people for Jesus. While I didn’t necessarily know the best way to do it, I knew I must do it. My heart became so burdened in those years for people who do not know Christ, and I knew I did not want to be indifferent to the lostness around me. I committed to live with a passion for lost people hearing the gospel. As I reflected over the last 20 years, I found that I am more burdened today than ever before. God is bringing the world to Texas and our state has over 18 million lost people living among us. Let us live with a burden for every one of those who need to hear the gospel.

Twenty years has come and gone. I am so grateful for all God has done in me, and I desire to see Him do more in me than ever before. May the three commitments I made all those years ago be stronger than ever.

On another note, this month we will host our 2023 Empower Conference. It is going to be an incredible time of worship, preaching, learning, and networking. You don’t want to miss it! I hope to see you there. I am honored to serve our family of churches!

Farmersville student pastor carries on church tradition of letting teens put the gospel to work

When Cameron Crow preached in view of a call as student pastor at First Baptist Church of Farmersville last November, he gave a gospel invitation, as is his habit.

A couple of female students came forward in response, bringing their friend who was interested in being baptized. Crow sat with the girls for a minute, even while a crowd of people lined up to greet their newly elected staff member. He asked the girl about her salvation and she said she wasn’t saved. So the crowd waited as Crow explained God’s plan of salvation to her.

Afterward, she shared that she wanted to give her life to Christ. At that point, he spoke to the friends who brought her forward.

“I looked at her two friends and said, ‘Which one of y’all is confident to [help her]?’ And they both said [they were], so I walked away and they led her to Christ,” he said. “My most favorite thing is watching students lead their friends to Christ. Me leading a student to Christ is addition, but students leading their friends to Christ is multiplication, and that’s how we’re going to see this generation reach their friends.”

The student ministry in Farmersville makes evangelism an integral part of its events. Students do the normal calendar of retreats, camps, fun activities, and weekly discipleship. Several students professed Christ during camp last summer, before Crow came to the church, and those students are being discipled and some are ready to be baptized. Their weekly discipleship meeting, called Having A Vision Of Christ (HAVOC), also includes a time for students to respond to the gospel.

Cameron Crow, student pastor at First Baptist Church of Farmersville, pictured with his family.

“Students who are walking with Christ benefit from connections with fellow church members of all ages.”

“I’m a firm believer of always presenting the gospel … I don’t know how to preach without giving an altar call,” he said. “And so, when you’re in soil that’s been prepped and prepared and ready, it makes it easy to just present the gospel and then watch our leaders respond to those students, watch our students respond to each other, and see new brothers and sisters in Christ.”

Crow is determined to integrate evangelism naturally into all that his youth group does together. Students riding in Crow’s car to visit homebound members share with each other how they became Christians. Those who visit the weekly HAVOC event share their stories, including whether they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

“If they say, ‘No,’ or, ‘I have questions,’ then we immediately stop. God did not bring them in that door so they could play a fun game or hear a Bible study. If they don’t know Jesus, we’re failing. That could be the only time they hear the gospel and have a chance to respond. It’s hard to build a student ministry that is attacking hell with a water pistol if we’re not giving students a chance to respond.”

Students who are walking with Christ benefit from connections with fellow church members of all ages. The music program of the church, for example, includes a family choir as well as a student ministry music program led by the church’s music minister. Crow’s team of student ministry volunteers includes those of various ages, some who’ve served 12 years or more.

“Discipleship is finding someone who is further down the road than you in your spiritual walk and having them come along, or you coming alongside them,” he said. “My age range of leaders is up and down the board. It’s not just parents of students, it’s not just grandparents of students, it’s different people all through the church. We need five people within the church speaking into every student’s life.”

Crow came to Farmersville from Austin and has been excited to find a well-developed and healthy student ministry. His predecessor, Tracy Odneal, served in the position for 25 years. Odneal now serves as First Baptist’s connections pastor, a new staff slot for the church. Crow is the third student pastor at First Baptist in the past 42 years. That kind of stability in student ministry is remarkable when an average student ministry tenure is closer to three years.

“Tracy Odneal has done an incredible job. One thing he’s done is create a youth ministry that thrives without him,” he said. “He was the leader, but on Sunday mornings, he has this incredible group of teachers who gave him a chance, and now gives me a chance, to have that relational ministry with students.”

After working with students in large and small towns throughout his ministry, Crow sees promise in the rising generations, even as they face the challenges of their own context, including those that remain from a long COVID-19 disruption.

“Coming out of COVID,” he observed, “students, when I sit down and talk to them, they sound and feel physically and spiritually mature, but the ways they respond to things aren’t spiritually mature. So it’s almost like we’ve taken a step back a little bit in our spiritual maturity because of that isolation.

“But you’re not going to see them being fake,” he added. “They’re going to be just blunt and honest. But when you get down to the core, they just want to understand their purpose, that they have purpose, and that God cares about their lives.”

Lone Star Scoop • January 2023

SBTC once again offering tax seminars via Zoom

Managing the financial elements of local church ministry requires significant effort by someone who is diligent and well-informed. Offering our best efforts to steward financial resources well honors the Lord and gives confidence to the church. To remain above reproach, we should stay up to date with current best practices and legal requirements while learning to recognize potential pitfalls along the way. 

To assist churches in the area of financial stewardship and best business practices,  the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention is offering three online tax seminars in January: Jan.17 from 1-5 p.m.; Jan. 18 from 6-9 p.m.; and Jan.26 from 1-5 p.m. The seminars are free and will be led by professional tax accountants with PSK LLP, who specialize in providing audit and accounting services to churches.

“Participating in the SBTC’s tax seminars is a great way to stay current on tax law changes or just confirm best practices on the business side of things at your church,” SBTC Chief Financial Officer Joe Davis said. “Meeting by Zoom makes it easy and efficient. I hope you will join us for one of the January dates. You never know what vital bit of information you may pick up.”

Topics will cover tax considerations of churches and ministers, top legal issues facing churches and ministers, and financial/stewardship issues, along with building and operational issues. 

Registration is required. If you need assistance with registration, contact Easter Cooley at or call 817.552.2500.

—Staff reports

Amarillo church ballet melds classic work with Lottie story

AMARILLO  Paramount Baptist Church has put a new spin on the oft-told story of Lottie Moon.

Doxa, a ballet studio based at the church, presented “In a Nutshell” the first weekend of December. The show was a retooling of the classic ballet “The Nutcracker,” only instead of telling the story of Clara and her journey to the Land of Sweets, it told the story of a girl named Lottie and her passion for international missions.

“In a Nutshell” centered around Lottie making a public profession of faith in Jesus Christ at a church service and subsequently going on a journey of learning about missions and spreading the gospel to different people groups around the world.

All of the proceeds from the performances went to Paramount Baptist’s missions offering, with 75 % going to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and 25 % going to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.

—Baptist Press

SWBTS professor’s latest evangelism book set for release

Recapturing Evangelism: A Biblical-Theological Approach, the latest book written by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Matt Queen, is scheduled to be released by B&H Academic on January 5.

According to B&H, the book is written for college and seminary students, pastors, church leaders, and everyday Christians eager to take a deeper look at what evangelism is and how to go about doing it. Recapturing Evangelism explores the Bible’s many teachings on evangelism, deriving from them a philosophy of evangelistic practice and theory. In it, readers will find a sound basis for evangelism, insights on methods and strategies, and motivation to engage unbelievers with a renewed confidence in the power of the gospel.

—Staff reports

Mesquite’s Turner makes SBTC history with election

In November, Caleb Turner—co-pastor of Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church—was elected chairman of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s Executive Board. In doing so, history was made. Turner became the first African American, as well as the youngest, board chairman ever elected.

Turner previously served as the board’s vice chairman. He is succeeding Mark Hogan, who also held a historic post as the first-ever layman elected board chair. Turner is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, having been stationed at Air Force Special Operations Base, Hurlburt Field, Fla. He served a tour at Bagram Air Base, Bagram, Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. 

Turner is married to his high school sweetheart, Tamera, and the couple has three boys.

—Staff reports

What’s your story? He’s the God of the mountaintops and the valleys

Both our daughters were in intensive care for over 100 days after their births. But it was our first daughter who needed a miracle.

Alanna was born just about the time of the COVID lockdown, March 2020. She was about seven weeks premature, but the doctors thought everything was looking good. She was healthy and we were excited.
About three days after she was born, we got called down to the ICU and the doctor told us he heard something in her heart. He called it a heart murmur. It basically was making a noise that it wasn’t supposed to make. He said in all his years of working as a doctor, he’s only seen it three times. Our Alanna had a rare congenital heart defect that caused a vein in her heart to pump blood to the wrong spot. We noticed that her skin color was almost a bluish tint—she just wasn’t getting the oxygen she needed.

The doctor told us we had to transfer her to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, so we used an emergency transport from Arlington. This was the third day after we knew she was ill.

As you can imagine, my wife, Jamille, and I were just praying. We were so fearful. And Jamille actually wasn’t allowed to leave the hospital because her blood pressure was high because of the shock of the event, I guess. So it was just me. I ended up following the ambulance to Cook Children’s.

I remember following the ambulance and, like any other father would do, just saying a prayer and asking God to heal her. After getting to Cook, I didn’t hear anything for about an hour. And then a nurse stepped out and said, “We got her stable, but she almost didn’t survive the car ride because of the transportation and the stress on her body.”

Fast forward a few days later. My wife is out of the hospital and we’re both able to go to Cook Children’s. They explained that Alanna’s situation was so severe, she’s going to need open-heart surgery. Because she is premature, they wanted to wait three months before doing the surgery.

"It’s easy to remember that God walks with us on the mountaintops, but now I know He walks with us in the valley."

Nearly every day we were at the hospital. Jamille and I took a break from our jobs—she’s a nurse and I worked for an insurance company. COVID restrictions had kicked in by this time and only one of us could be in the hospital at a time, so we switched off. Jamille usually stayed during the nights while I slept in the car. It was pretty difficult for us.

We did that for three months. Alanna made progress and was just growing as we prepared for the heart surgery. And then, three months later, she was big enough for the doctor to feel comfortable doing the surgery. The surgeon sat us down and explained the risks.

All along, we’re just praying, hoping, believing that God would heal her. And she was healed, through an hours-long surgery. The surgeon said there weren’t really any major complications with the surgery itself, but that she would need routine heart checkups as she continues to grow. She’s doing well now.

I think the big question for us was, “Why?” But looking back, one of the lessons we learned is we can’t confuse God’s silence as absence. All the way through that whole process, He was with us, talking with us, providing for us, carrying us, giving us support. There are so many things that I can look back on and can see how God was with us the whole way. We’re just really grateful. And now we have an awesome story to share about our daughter and her life. It’s turned out to be a blessing.

Our church is called Mosaic Fellowship Church. We’re in Arlington. My father founded Mosaic in 2007 and pastored it until he passed away in 2018. I have been the pastor for about four years this month. God has surrounded us with great people. Our church supported us with love, prayers, and even finances. They supported us while we were staying with Alanna.

There is one story where, about two months in, we were just blowing through our savings because neither of us was working. I was thinking I should probably go back to work, but I didn’t want to because Alanna still needed the surgery. I remember going to our mailbox and finding a check for two months of expenses for us. We received this check at just the right time we needed it. It allowed us to stay at the hospital and make sure she was all set before we went back to work.
So what’s my story? It’s easy to remember that God walks with us on the mountaintops, but now I know He walks with us in the valley.

What's your story?

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

Share your story here

Reaching the nations through prayer, partnership

We finally had boots on the ground. It was surreal, frightening, and thrilling all at once. After months of applications, interviews, and scrutiny, the Foreign Mission Board (now known as the International Mission Board, or IMB) had said, “Yes!” My husband and I had stepped off a trans-Pacific flight into a bright, cold day in an East Asian nation. With our little girl standing between us, we faced a new life.

The early months were demanding and exhausting as we learned to function in our adopted land. Buying food, learning to get around in a city of millions, and studying language four hours a day for two years sorely challenged our calling. However, it was those very things that helped us to engage the people and their culture. We began to love and understand our new people with their unique language and worldview.

This process is called cross-cultural engagement. It can begin with “pointing and grunting,” accompanied by open hearts and hands, conveyed with never-ending smiles. Later, this language can grow to shared expressions of distress or a good old-fashioned belly laugh! Undignified though this may seem, bridges and bonds can often be built.

Maybe you are wondering what makes my story relevant. How are my 27 years of international relationship-making germane? According to one online source, there are 4.3 million immigrants living in Texas. The website goes on to say that one in six Texas residents is an immigrant. Surely the sovereign Lord has not only brought the people of the world to our great state, but to our nation as well.

Eric Liddell, the Scottish Olympian of 1924, said he felt “the pleasure of the Lord” when he ran. I have known no greater pleasure than being involved with people from other ethnicities who love, cry, laugh, dream, get sick, and worry about their children just the way I do. I want you to know this pleasure as well.

To believers, it is mandated to show God’s glory, the witness of His creation, the sacrifice of His love, and His plan to restore all that was destroyed once and for all. The motif of God drawing the people of the world to Himself begins with His promise to Abraham, continuing through the Scriptures. It ends in the book of Revelation with the nations gathered before God’s throne. Wouldn’t you like to be involved in this great gathering?

May I offer some ways to begin? We must start with prayer:

  1. Won’t you ask the Holy Spirit to shape in you a passion for the internationals in your community who look, speak, eat, and think differently?
  2. Will you ask Jesus to make you a “fisher of men?”
  3. Will you ask to thrive spiritually out of your comfort zone?
  4. Won’t you pray for these things consistently and keep them in the forefront of your priorities?

Since our Lord Jesus sent out the disciples two by two, we need a partner to reach out as well. Most definitely, we must pray for someone special to walk with us.  The disciples Jesus sent out in pairs reported that even the demons had been subject to them. You will encounter spiritual opposition, but you and your partner will face it together. This is no reason for fear. The challenge will grow your faith. You will learn new things about walking with the Holy Spirit.

Are you ready to begin your journey?

Loretta Morris is a retired IMB missionary and member of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano.




Pastor, who is the Barnabas in your life?

Every pastor needs a Barnabas in his life. Barnabas was not only a mentor to Paul, but a faithful friend and peer. I have a handful of ministry friends who have been firewalls for me against isolation, loneliness, and spiritual drift for 35 years of vocational ministry. 

Pastoral wellness is not realistic or sustainable without the help of other pastors. So why don’t more pastors receive this kind of support from other pastors? The primary reason, in my opinion, is that we don’t ask or don’t know what a Barnabas looks like.

What does a Barnabas-type friendship look like?

A Barnabas will be supportive. 

Barnabas was a Jewish priest from Cyprus whose real name was Joseph. The apostles preferred to use his nickname, which is translated “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36).

All pastors and ministry leaders need a Barnabas who will speak words of encouragement, and sometimes rebuke, into their lives.  

When his nephew, John Mark, “wimped out” on his first mission trip, Paul wanted to permanently kick him off the team. Barnabas chose instead to mentor Mark, who got back on his feet and became a contributing author to the best-selling book in history. Mark would also become an invaluable partner to Peter, and yes, even Paul.

A Barnabas will be unselfish. 

In Acts, we read about the generosity of this church leader: “Barnabas sold a field he owned, brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:36-37).

You have enough takers in your world. A Barnabas is the type of friend who will think of your needs as more important than his own (Phil 2:3).

A Barnabas will be loyal. 

When the Jerusalem church leaders sent Barnabas to Antioch, he took along a risky new convert named Saul (aka: Paul). Paul had a reputation for persecuting Christians before his conversion, and few assumed Paul was a genuine convert. However, the apostles trusted Barnabas, and Barnabas trusted Paul. Otherwise, Paul may not have had his first ministry opportunity (Acts 11:22-30). 

"Pastors need more sons of encouragement who are committed to helping other pastors succeed. Who are you encouraging, and who is encouraging you?"

A Barnabas will be mature. 

When the church at Antioch began to grow exponentially through the conversion of Gentiles, the leaders in Jerusalem got a little nervous. They sent a mature and trusted representative, Barnabas, to check it out, “For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith” (Acts 11:24). 

Pastors need a mature confidant they trust, as much as the early church trusted Barnabas, to share victories and defeats with. This kind of partner is invaluable when we need someone to talk us off the cliff of ministry suicide, when we are on the verge of a tantrum, or worse.

A Barnabas will be humble. 

Paul was a good writer and speaker, yet there was no evidence of Barnabas doing either. Most Christians are not called or gifted to take up the pen or microphone, so we may be tempted to assume that our gifts are inferior to those on stage. 

Somewhere along the way, “Barnabas and Paul” became “Paul and Barnabas.” It is a change that Dr. Luke subtly, but intentionally, makes in the book of Acts. 

A Barnabas will be bold. 

Barnabas was more than just a nice guy. He didn’t back down from Paul when they had a sharp disagreement about John Mark (Acts 15:36-39). Sons of encouragement don’t look casually beyond our weaknesses. They walk through those challenges with us.

Pastors need more sons of encouragement who are committed to helping other pastors succeed. Who are you encouraging, and who is encouraging you?

6 things to help make your mission trip impactful

Let’s face it, churches spend a whole lot of money and time doing short-term mission trips around the globe. If we are going to invest so much, let’s do it right by being intentional from the beginning.

My husband, Tim, and I have hosted teams taking entry-level mission trips in Panama. Our goal is always to help churches not only see but experience their role in carrying out the missionary task. We’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. Through the years, we’ve found when you add prayer to the following six things, your mission trip will be intentional and impactful:

1. Flexible doesn’t mean “wing it.” Send teams that are prepared.

Try to paint a picture for your team about what they signed up to do. Help them know what to pack, wear and what not to take. Make sure your team leaders spend time talking to missionaries on the field. They will have tips and hints on the best way to prep your team. Practice cultural greetings. Try food that might seem weird. Take a bucket bath. Talk about the concept of “time” as it relates to the people you will serve. This helps to get the “Ooh that’s weird” comments out of the way while still in the U.S. When you get to your country of service, it’s easier to slide right into the culture.

Short-term trips are jam packed with activities. This means it is important to have your Bible lessons already prepared and be comfortable sharing the gospel. Not only will you have an immediate impact, but you’ll have time to invest in relationships, not to mention sleep more. No long nights preparing for the next day!

2. Partner with local believers. We can help!

Yes, work with your IMB missionary but let us connect you to local believers, churches and ministries. While this may not be possible in every country, work toward partnering with nationals already doing the work. This is important for discipleship. After you go back home, what’s the plan for discipling the new followers of Christ? By partnering with local churches, not only will they take over the task of discipleship, but you become sister churches supporting each other.

3. If nationals can do it, you shouldn’t.

The last thing we want to do is create dependency. Being tied to ministries with national believers keeps dependency down. Spend your time empowering, not enabling. This means if your trip involves teaching a Vacation Bible School, it’s your job to mentor and encourage the local believer as they teach beside you. This allows them to recreate the ministry after you are gone.

This is an important principle with almost any type of ministry, whether it’s door-to-door evangelism or putting on a new roof. This approach is not only biblical but provides a legitimate reason for being in parts of town tourists don’t normally see.

4. The only solution you need is for lostness.

It’s in our nature to fix things and make it better. The Lord reminded me years ago that I didn’t have enough power or resources to fix all the problems in the world. What you can try to fix, however, is your new friend’s eternity. Each day 157,690 people die without Christ. You have the solution for a lost world — the gospel!

5. The entire church should be involved, not just the five traveling.

A short-term trip can transform the entire church. Have a plan to get everyone involved from the beginning and afterward. Ask classes to pray. Create notes of encouragement for your team to read — this can be done by kids, teens and adults. Study the country and people as a congregation. Stay connected with the team while they are ministering.

When the team returns, the trip isn’t over. Your church will be forever changed by this experience. Use this opportunity as a springboard to deepen your church’s walk with the Lord.

6. Short-term trips should lead to a long-term commitment.

Be forward thinking from the very beginning. There are more than 7,000 people groups among the least reached with the gospel in the world. It’s going to take all of us working together to reach the nations. This long-term commitment may lead to ministries not only with a people group in another country but also with them in your own community.

We want to empower short-term mission teams to make disciples and multiply churches among the least reached peoples of the world. The IMB will help prepare you to serve alongside missionaries and national believers.

FBI offers $25k reward for information on pregnancy support center attacks

NASHVILLE (BP)—The FBI is offering a $25,000 reward for information related to attacks on pregnancy support centers.

“As part of a national effort to bring awareness to a series of attacks and threats targeting reproductive health service facilities across the country, the FBI is offering a reward of up to $25,000 for information leading to the identification, arrest, and conviction of the suspect(s) responsible for these crimes,” the FBI’s statement said.

In Washington, D.C., FBI Director Christopher Wray said, “Today’s announcement reflects the FBI’s commitment to vigorously pursue investigations into crimes against pregnancy resource centers, faith-based organizations, and reproductive health clinics across the country.”

Three centers in Portland, Ore., were either vandalized or fire-bombed. Messages were spray-painted on the Mother and Child Education Center in Portland, the FBI said.

The attacks, which occurred on May 8, June 10, July 4 and July 6 of last year, are all referenced in the release.

The Gresham Pregnancy Resource Center and the Oregon Right to Life building in Portland were included in the attacks. Molotov cocktails were thrown into the facilities, causing significant fire damage in Gresham.

The FBI said video surveillance at the Right to Life building shows a possible suspect driving a white 2017-2018 Hyundai Elantra.

Dozens of other attacks were carried out across the country during the spring and summer of 2022.

In Nashville, the Hope Clinic for Women was vandalized on June 30, 2022.

“We are grateful for all the support we’ve received from law enforcement,” said Hope Clinic CEO Kailey Cornett in written comments to Baptist Press. “News of this development reminds me of my initial thoughts when security camera footage was found for our incident – my heart goes out to the woman (or man) whose anger and pain brought them to the point of causing damage like that. We are continuing to pray they find hope and healing.”

The FBI says perpetrators could face up to 20 years in prison for the attacks.

Anyone with information is asked to call 1-800-CALL-FBI or to submit their tip at

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.