Month: January 2023

First post-Roe March for Life marked by ‘celebration and resolve’

WASHINGTON (BP)—Thousands of pro-life Americans gathered Friday, Jan. 20, for the 50th annual March for Life to rejoice in a long-sought victory and to restate their commitment to protect preborn children and care for their mothers.

Initiated in 1974, the latest March for Life was the first to be held since the U.S. Supreme Court overruled in June of last year the Roe v. Wade decision. That 1973 ruling legalized abortion nationwide, ultimately resulting in the deaths of more than 60 million preborn children, and prompted the launch of the pro-life march a year later. The high court’s June ruling returned abortion regulation to the states.

Brent Leatherwood, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), and other staff members participated in the march and the rally that preceded it on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

“This year’s March for Life is one of both celebration and resolve,” Leatherwood said in written comments for Baptist Press. “It is an extraordinary reality that at what we thought would be the 50-year mark of the disastrous Roe decision, we are gathered here today in a post-Roe world.

“It is right and good to take a moment to celebrate that our nation has taken this first step towards protecting life,” he said. “But we know that more work remains.

“We will press on towards a day when both mothers and their children are fully valued as image-bearers of God. We are committed to establishing a true culture of life by developing innovative solutions and policies that actually serve mothers and help families flourish, and we will march until abortion is no more.”

The march came two days before Sanctity of Human Life Sunday and the actual date of the Roe opinion, Jan. 22. It was the 38th year for the observance on the SBC calendar, one many Southern Baptist churches commemorate.

In celebrating Roe’s reversal, March for Life President Jeanne Mancini expressed gratitude at Friday’s rally to the marchers and to longtime pro-life advocates, including the late Nellie Gray, the march’s founder. After Roe was reversed, the March for Life staff was often asked if the event would continue, Mancini said.

“[W]hile the march began as a response to Roe, we don’t end as a response to Roe being overturned,” said Mancini, March for Life’s president. “Why? Because we’re not yet done.

“While this year marks our most significant victory, the human rights abuse of abortion is far from over” she said. “We will continue to march until the human rights abuse of abortion is a thing of the past. We will march until abortion is unthinkable.“

The theme of this year’s march was “Next Steps: Marching Into a Post-Roe America.” Speakers addressed the future efforts of the pro-life movement, including through legislation, adoption and maternity homes.

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, whose defense of the state’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks’ gestation led to Roe’s reversal, rejoiced in the Supreme Court decision and said, “But this is not the end of our journey.

“Until we can give women when they are most vulnerable what they need and what their children need to thrive, and until we can make changes in our laws that reflect our compassion for all life and until we can change hearts and minds in our fellow Americans, until then, life remains fragile and the embrace of human dignity remains aspirational,” she said at the rally.

Standing with other members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., said he attended the first March for Life as the leader of a college pro-life organization.

“Countless times we chanted the slogan, ‘Hey, hey, ho, ho, Roe versus Wade has got to go,’ and today we celebrate—Roe is gone,” he told the crowd.

“The United States and the world must recognize the breathtaking miracle of the newly created life of an unborn child and that women deserve better than abortion,” Smith said. “We need to care for them both.”

The House is expected to vote soon on his legislation, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, Smith said. The legislation would bar federal funding of abortion.

The March for Life changed its route this year in acknowledgement of the post-Roe, political reality. Instead of marching straight to the Supreme Court building, participants passed the Capitol on the House side on the way in recognizing Congress’ important role of regulating abortion at the federal level.

Rep. Trenee’ McGee—an African-American Democrat in the Connecticut legislature—commended black pro-life women and said of what she described as the “systematically racist abortion industry:”

“You’ve mocked impoverished communities all while putting clinics in them. You’ve told me I can’t be black and pro-life because black women need abortion more than anyone.”

Former National Football League coach Tony Dungy and his wife Lauren encouraged the crowd to continue in the pro-life cause. The Dungys have 11 children, eight by adoption.

As an adoptive mother, Lauren Dungy said she is “so grateful for these birth moms who chose life rather than abortion. They’ll never know what a blessing it is to have these children in our life.”

In the post-Roe era, “we have to pray that we will have enough adoptive families to care for these precious lives,” she said.

Jonathan Roumie, the actor who portrays Jesus in the television series “The Chosen,” said at the rally, “History has been made. Life has triumphed in a miraculous way.”

After reading from Psalm 139 about David’s testimony of God’s sovereign care for him in the womb, Roumie said, “Having lived under a grim cloud of darkness for the last 50 years, the world has once again been given a glimmer of hope. And I pray that with this recent step in protecting life, despite the grievous nature of what we’ve allowed, that God might still look upon us in His infinite mercy and see the hearts of those of us here in support of life today and say to us in this hour, ‘It is good.’ And it is good, but it is far from finished.”

In the closing prayer, evangelist and Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham prayed “for the millions of women who feel that they have no hope, that they’re condemned because they had an abortion. Father, my prayer is for these millions of women that they will come to know that You love them and care for them and that You will forgive them of their sin if they would repent and believe on the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ.”

March for Life intends to expand the number of marches in states, Mancini told the crowd. Marches will be held in 10 states this year, and the plan is to hold marches in all 50 states in the next five to seven years, she said.

Sanctity of Human Life Sunday serves as reminder of critical need to support PRCs

GRAPEVINE—On June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision in Dobbs v. Jackson. The court, in this 5-4 decision, saw no constitutional right to abortion and said, “… the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives.”

Abortion is not illegal in the U.S. as we approach this historic Sanctity of Human Life Sunday (Jan. 22), but states are now able to regulate or ban abortion within their borders. For a conservative state like Texas, this means a near ban on elective abortion. It changes a lot, but it does not change everything.

The Dobbs decision does not return our society to pre-Roe boundaries. Political, commercial, and not-for-profit infrastructures have been constructed during the past 50 years. Abortion has become a revenue stream for organizations like Planned Parenthood and a call to service for a network of pregnancy resource centers across the country. None of these infrastructures will likely go away. But they will shift their strategies in light of the new legal reality.

Pregnancy resource centers in all parts of Texas celebrated the overturn of Roe but understand that the needs of the women they serve will continue. They face new challenges and opportunities now that God has answered the prayers of millions regarding abortion in America. Michelle Gregory, executive director of the Mid-Cities Women’s Clinic in Euless—one of the oldest pregnancy resource centers begun by a Southern Baptist church—said it has been a busy season.

“We experienced an overall increase, post-Roe, of about 20% in pregnancy tests and sonograms, but a 79% increase in abortion-minded patients (patients intending to abort when they visited our clinic). We also saw a 64% increase in patients who were abortion-minded when they arrived at our clinic and changed their minds to carry after our services. Praise God!” Gregory said.

Monica Gonzales is the executive director of the Pregnancy Resource Center of Grand Prairie and has also noticed an increased urgency in some patients. The increases can be seen as both an opportunity and a challenge. But Mid-Cities saw it coming.

“[We have] been praying and strategizing since the Heartbeat Act back in September 2021 so, when the time came, we would be ready for the increase in patients. I believe we were,” she said. “Part of our preparation was an education piece for our patients to help them understand how the Roe decision affects them directly and their rights, post-Roe.”

Gonzales noted that even women who don’t think they are pregnant can benefit from the most important message her center’s volunteers share.

“We are still on the same rescue mission to provide hope for the hurting by sharing the gospel,” she said.

One major change in the battle for life is the easy access to chemical abortions through pills. Online “telehealth” doctor visits and home delivery of abortifacient medicines enable women to completely bypass the need for a sonogram or free pregnancy test. It also allows abortion-minded women to work around laws that ban most abortions.

“This is a Goliath of a battle we fight, and we’re trusting God to bring it down,” Gregory said. “Texas has seen a dramatic increase in chemical abortions.”

Gonzales also mentioned the possibility of violence against clinics, beginning after a leak from the high court signaled a likely overturn of Roe.

“Three weeks prior to the Roe overturn, our Grand Prairie chief of police placed a mobile video surveillance camera facing our center and had officers patrol our area frequently,” she said.

Both directors praised the faithfulness of volunteers, donors, and churches. The Dobbs decision came down soon after the country awoke from a disruptive pandemic that left some churches and parachurch institutions struggling. Gonzales said some former donors can longer support the Grand Prairie center at their prior level, but that new donors have arisen. She also noted a new level of community involvement.

“We have developed new partnerships with mentor ministries, maternity homes, as well as social services,” she said. “We are now members of The Chamber of Commerce of Grand Prairie and Metro-Rotary Club.”

Mid-Cities has also gained new friends and supporters in this new season of prolife work.

“I believe it was a wakeup call for the church!” Gregory said. “We’ve had so many churches reach out to us to find out how they can partner with us in reaching the abortion-minded and being the hands and feet of Jesus to those facing unplanned pregnancy.”

Tony Wolfe, associate executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, praised the work of pregnancy resource centers that partner with many of the convention’s churches.

“Ongoing, sacrificial support for pregnancy resource centers is a clear demonstration that SBTC churches are not only convictional about pro-life policies but are practical about pro-life ministry as well,” he said. “I join with the prayers of the churches when I ask that God would grant favor and joy to these mothers, their children, and those precious hands that serve them in pregnancy resource centers across the Lone Star State.”


‘God providing’ in hard-hit places following Alabama tornado outbreak

HAYNEVILLE, Ala.—Davey Lyon spent a lot of time over the weekend flipping burgers. He and around 20 volunteers served food from his church’s pull-behind grill to the people of Selma in the aftermath of a tornado that hit their city Jan. 12.

“It’s pretty bad in Selma. Think of Tuscaloosa, just on a smaller scale,” said Lyon, pastor of Imago Dei Church at the 45 in nearby Lowndes County, referring to the tornado that tore through the middle of Tuscaloosa in 2011. “In Selma, it started on the west end and came all the way through town.”

Huge trees are down, houses are destroyed and power is out for many in the city.

Lyon said looking at the damage, “it’s only by God’s grace that there aren’t hundreds of casualties.”

Making good progress

And the people of Selma know that, he said. His wife, Amber, said as she talked to people in the community, they’re just grateful to be alive and thankful for the people who are coming in to help them put their lives back together.

That includes Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief teams who are working hard to clear neighborhoods and fill job requests. Mark Wakefield, state disaster relief strategist, said volunteers have gotten a lot of traction in their first couple of days and are making good progress.

“Selma is an old town with big trees, and that’s slowing them down a little,” he said. “But they’re getting it done.”

Wakefield said Elkdale Baptist Church is a “phenomenal host” for teams as a command center. Teams from Walker, St. Clair, Pickens, Colbert Lauderdale, Shelby and North Jefferson Baptist associations as well as others have been working and will continue to work there this week.

He said teams are also working in the hard-hit areas of Autauga, Elmore, Coosa and Tallapoosa counties.

Lyon and other volunteers have been helping to feed the teams in Selma, along with Alabama Power employees and Selma residents who need a hot meal. He said God recently provided the church with the pull-behind grill and other equipment they’ve been able to use this week.

‘God has just provided’

And he’s seen God meet their needs too as they’ve grilled. The night the tornado hit, he bought $700 worth of food, and he had one person bring him $200 and another person $500 without him asking or disclosing the total amount to either of them.

“We made 180 boxes and got those out that first day (Jan. 13),” Lyon said.

After giving out that food, he went back to Sam’s to buy food for the next day and doubled the amount — around $1,300 of food.

“Then I got a text from a guy we were able to give some food to that day, and he said his company wanted to cover it,” Lyon said. “God has just provided.”

He said they were able to prepare 400 meal boxes Saturday (Jan. 14), and about $8,000 worth of donations have come in since then from people who have seen the posts on social media and want to help.

This article originally appeared on The Alabama Baptist.

Family drops everything, hits the road to encourage church planters nationwide

ALPHARETTA, Ga.—Kevin and Casey Kilgore had what most would consider normal lives. Kevin had served as an associate pastor at Northside Baptist Church in Tifton, Ga., for 14 years. They had four daughters—all in public schools, a mortgage—and a cat.

The Kilgores imagined spending the rest of their lives serving the Tifton community.

But then God said go.

So, the family of six sold their home, their vehicles, and most of their possessions. They bought a fifth-wheel RV in August 2021 and took off across North America, encouraging church planters in the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) send cities. As they’ve visited church planters, they’ve grown more and more excited about how God is using Southern Baptists throughout North America.

“We love what God is doing through Southern Baptists in North America,” Kevin Kilgore said. “We want to be a mouthpiece and to share with churches what NAMB is doing and how they can be a part of it.”

Less than 18 months later, the Kilgores have visited 42 of 50 U.S. states. They have been to 27 of NAMB’s send cities, and they aren’t finished yet. They’ve encouraged more than 125 church planters.

Like many others, 2020 shook up the lives of the Kilgore family. On top of all the changes everyone experienced that year, the family’s beloved pastor, Northside’s Fred Evers, passed away after a yearlong battle with cancer. They were heartbroken at the loss of their pastor, and they also knew that the church would experience a profound season of change. So, the family began asking, what’s next?

Through his ministry at Northside, Kevin had frequently worked with Send Network church planters through NAMB. One day, while perusing the NAMB website, some statistics caught his eye, particularly about how challenging church planting can be for planter families.

“It was clear that discouragement is a big part of that picture,” said Kevin, who considers encouragement one of his spiritual gifts. “I just really became burdened for the church planters, and I asked God, ‘Well, yes, I have this burden, but what can I do about it? What can we as a family do about that particular issue?’”

That’s when God began to give Kevin a vision for Through the Eyes of Our Tribe, the ministry the family created to encourage North American church planters. Casey sensed the same call.

In each city they visit, the Kilgores connect with church planters beforehand. Always looking for tangible ways to serve church planters, they often take a planter’s family out for a meal. They pray for them. Sometimes, they participate in ministry activities to support the church plant. A few times, God has led them to meet specific needs in the planting family’s life or in the life of their church.

For example, a church planter told the family last October that he’d like to be able to pass out full-sized candy bars with information about the church to trick-or-treaters in the neighborhood. The Kilgores created an Amazon wish list of candy bars, shared it through social media, and they met the need. The family did something similar last summer to help a church plant with a backpack outreach prior to the start of the school year.

“Encouragement for us looks different in each situation,” Casey said. “I think the bottom line is just spending the time with the planter and his family, getting to know them. Then out of that, we get all kinds of different opportunities for connection.”

The family also visits a church plant each Sunday. Sometimes, they take the pastor out for lunch afterward. The experience has opened their eyes to the many unique expressions of church among Southern Baptist church plants.

“It has been very interesting to see the experiences of people in other parts of our country. The way church is done in South Georgia where I’m from is so different from the way church is done in Utah, California or New York,” said 16-year-old Chloe Kilgore. “However, there is one thing that is constant everywhere we have been; God is working.”

The Kilgores said they’ve had a number of highlights in the past 16 months. They’ve particularly enjoyed opportunities when they have been able to work together as a family to serve church planters and their communities. They specifically mentioned their older daughters babysitting for church planters in Pittsburgh so the parents could have a much-needed night out. They have also served together at a fall festival in New York City and helped paint a church and build its staircase in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans.

After spending the holidays in Georgia in 2022, the Kilgore family had the chance to travel to Alpharetta in early January 2023 and meet NAMB personnel, including president Kevin Ezell.

“I was so glad to recently hear firsthand about the Kilgore family’s travels throughout North America to visit our missionaries,” said Ezell. “Kevin and Casey are a remarkable couple, and what they are doing has meant so much to our church planters and their families. Their story reminds all of us of the sacrifices our missionaries are making and how important it is for us to remember them, pray for them and find ways to encourage them.”

Kevin Kilgore said the past 16 months have taught him much about his relationship with God, most importantly about how God provides when you step out in faith.

“Oftentimes, you don’t know where things are going long-term. You don’t know exactly where the support is going to come from,” Kevin said. “But as you take steps, and God confirms that call, God shows up. It just builds that faith more and more as you go along. That’s been a recurring theme, as we’ve been on the road and God has provided and made a way for us to do the ministry that he’s called us to do.”

To follow the ministry of the Kilgore family and to find more information about how individuals and churches can support their ministry, visit

What does your liturgy communicate?

“Liturgy” is a loaded word with lots of opinions attached to it. But liturgy is simply the way you order a church service. Understanding that definition, your church has a liturgy—and my goal is to help you think through this question: What does your liturgy communicate?

Four years ago, I had the opportunity to lead a church plant. As its first and only senior pastor, I wasn’t walking into pre-existing church customs and traditions. That meant I began with a blank slate in most areas, including liturgy. From our first service, I was committed to practicing certain biblical commands and convictions in our worship gatherings (such as the reading and preaching of God’s Word, corporate prayer, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and encouraging one another in song).

I wish I could tell you I found the perfect liturgy and it has been working for us ever since, but that’s not the case. Our liturgy has evolved as God has convicted, challenged, and prompted our pastors to lead our body faithfully and biblically. While I do not think our liturgy is perfect, I wanted to share a few examples of why we structure our churches the way we do:

  • We want to be a Bible-saturated church, so we begin and end every worship service with Bible verses calling us to worship and commissioning us on mission. In addition to our sermon text, we add a fourth passage to read from the corresponding testament.
  • As a fairly congregational church, we expect all members to come to church ready to participate, serve, and encourage one another rather than merely consume. Because of this, we look for ways to involve our members in announcements, Scripture readings, and prayer in addition to more normal avenues of service (such as A/V, band, nursery, etc.). Aside from the sermon, most of my involvement on Sundays takes place from my seat.
  • While we pray a lot during the service, we never want this to be used as a transition to get people on and off stage. This makes parts of the service a little longer and more awkward, but we want everyone to be able to pray with us with as little distraction as possible.
  • We designate time during the service to pray specifically for our church body, another church in our city, and a church/missionary outside our context.
  • We observe communion every week after the sermon. We used to take it individually while the band led us in a song. Unfortunately, the band never got to partake of the Lord’s table with the congregation (they’d do it after service), so we changed our order of worship to have everyone take communion together before the band came up to lead us in song.
  • In partaking in the Lord’s Supper, we rotate through a handful of varying responsive Scripture readings, focusing on different aspects of prayer each week (prayer and adoration, confession and renewal, thanksgiving and gratitude, affirmation and declaration, and praying the Lord’s Prayer).

What does your order of service communicate? Let me encourage you to intentionally think through everything you do, because it communicates what you value. Be flexible with everything except your commitment to God’s Word. Let His Word guide how you lead how your church worships Him. Matt McCullough uses a helpful analogy: “Liturgies are the pipes, but the Word is the water. … Good liturgy is merely the delivery system for this miraculous power to save. It’s the piping that carries the life-giving water.”

Liturgies, like well-structured sermons, should intentionally lead churches to respond in repentance, faith, and worship of God.




Southern Baptists provide food, shelter, generators as Ukraine enters winter during war

LVIV, Ukraine—Russia’s repeated attacks on Ukraine’s energy grid have plunged roughly 10 million Ukrainians into darkness and cold as the winter months have closed in. Donations through Send Relief, the Southern Baptist compassion ministry, are providing churches across Ukraine and Eastern Europe with food, generators and resources to house refugees during this critical season of ministry.

“This winter is going to be life-threatening. It’s a matter of survival for the Ukrainian people,” said Jason Cox, Send Relief Vice President of International Ministry. Some of the most urgent physical needs Send Relief is meeting are food, warm clothes, assistance in winterizing damaged homes, heating supplies and generators.

Because of the generosity of Southern Baptists, Send Relief partners have already been providing churches in Ukraine with generators so that they can offer heat and housing for internally displaced persons, of which there are 6.54 million in the country. Gifts to Send Relief are also funding power supplies for countries across Eastern Europe, like Moldova, where more than 60 Baptist churches are preparing for an influx of 250,000 refugees during the winter months.

Through partnerships with churches and Baptist Unions all over Europe, Send Relief continues to meet dire hunger needs for displaced Ukrainians. One such initiative is feeding 3,300 Ukrainians every week for the next six months through food packages sent by Polish national partners and distributed by Ukrainian churches to their local communities.

Southern Baptist donors are also helping Send Relief’s partners from the Czech Republic to work with Ukrainian churches near the front lines to distribute food where civilians have nothing to eat, making way for opportunities to share the Gospel and connect people with a local church.

Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion, Nauris and Sanita Graudiņš, a church-planting couple in Latvia, have been hosting Ukrainian refugees from Mariupol at their hotel. Gifts to Send Relief are allowing them to continue their ministry as they help Ukrainians find medical care, jobs, childcare and schooling. They also hold worship services every Sunday and are available to listen and provide spiritual support to the refugees.

“We could not be responding with the pace and the scale that we are if it weren’t for the generosity of Southern Baptists,” said Cox.

To date, gifts to Send Relief have sponsored nearly 100 projects to help Ukrainian families across Europe, more than half of which have taken place inside Ukraine. Send Relief expects to serve more than 1.6 million Ukrainian refugees through its ongoing projects as the work continues into 2023.

Reports from just one third of the projects have recorded that 48,000 Ukrainians have heard the Gospel and 16,000 have accepted Christ because of Southern Baptists’ gifts to Send Relief. Additionally, 466 European national churches have been involved in Send Relief’s response, showing the organization’s commitment to working through the local church.

Send Relief President Bryant Wright emphasized the importance of continued Southern Baptist support to meet the needs of Ukrainians: “Now winter has set in. The needs are overwhelming and a large portion of the gifts for Ukraine have already been distributed. May SBC Christians consider giving through Send Relief this winter to meet some of these overwhelming needs.”

Send Relief leaders shared that Southern Baptists can support these efforts by praying, raising awareness about the ongoing needs in their church communities and donating to Send Relief’s Ukraine crisis fund. Specific prayer requests and other details about Send Relief’s ongoing efforts can be found on that page.

New Mexico church majors on prayer, evangelism

AZTEC, N.M. (BP)—“It is so simple,” says Pastor Mike Napier. “It’s prayer and evangelism. That’s all that it is. Everything that is happening is the power of God’s Spirit moving in our midst.”

As of mid-December, First Baptist Aztec, where about 200 people gather for Sunday morning worship, has baptized 244 people since Napier was called as pastor in late 2018.

“This is a prayer movement. A movement of the Holy Spirit,” the pastor said.

First Aztec has at least one prayer group that gathers to pray each day, Sunday through Thursday. Every other month First Aztec also has a “Tuesday Time of Prayer.” The church opens its doors on those Tuesdays between 5:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. specifically for prayer. Sometimes those who come are asked to pray for specific items in the life of the church. Other times people read Scripture out loud and pray.

“It is significant that we have groups of people at the church praying Sunday through Thursday,” the pastor said. “This is the reason we are seeing souls saved and lives changed. Prayer is the foundation for what is happening in our church and in this region. It’s all the power of God.”

First Aztec also utilizes “Worship Center Intercessors,” (WCI) developed by Napier. Each WCI has a section in the 250-seat worship center. At some point during the week WCIs come individually to the church and pray over their section. They pray over their section again before the worship service starts Sunday morning and after it, engage with people they do not yet know who sit in their section.

The WCIs are trained to approach people they do not know and engage them with three questions: “I’m still getting to know everyone here; is this your first time?” Second: “What brought you here today?” And the third question: “How can I pray for you right now?”

“And then they pray right then with the person,” Napier said. “God continues to use this in fantastic ways.”

Psalm 107:1-3 is the foundation of the Worship Center Intercessors’ ministry.

“This passage tells us we have been set free from the power of the enemy and we need to tell our story,” the pastor said. “Yet we also have the responsibility to pray for others to be set free and drawn to the Father. We must pray for people to be drawn from the North, South, East and the West. This is a large part of what we pray over the seats in the worship center.

“It’s all unleashed through prayer,” Napier continued. “We are asking our Father for souls to be saved and for lives to be changed. We are praying for people whom we have never seen before to fill these chairs. We already know we are praying His will. This is why Jesus came: ‘to seek and to save the lost.’”

Sunday School is the hub of life at First Aztec, the pastor said.

“That’s where relationships are formed and where ministry happens. People are ministered to and have the opportunity to minister to others. Sunday School is a great place for discipleship to happen as we do life together. Sunday School is also where people discover a place to serve in the life of the church and its five functions: discipleship, ministry, evangelism, fellowship and worship.”

First Baptist Aztec has grown from four adult Sunday School classes to 11 since 2018, and provides two morning worship services to allow for growth.

“We have discipleship classes on Sunday and Wednesday nights. We offer a variety of classes so people can grow alongside others in their relationship with God,” the pastor said. “It’s so cool to see that ‘Aha!’ moment. I’ve had people say, ‘In this top part of the Bible it says Matt. 2:7. What does that mean?’ They know nothing. These are adults who have never been taught the basics. They just don’t know. It’s so exciting to see adults get it.”

The church has a guest reception area overseen by deacons and their wives. WCIs direct first-time guests there to pick up their “favorite Coke and candy bar.” They also receive a mug with the church’s logo on it, and Napier engages in conversation and prayer with each guest. During this time an appointment is arranged. The pastor meets with the guest at their home or the church office, and shares the Gospel with them.

Among First Baptist Aztec’s local ministries are a funeral ministry and a ministry to the public school. The church conducts funerals and provides a meal for the family after the funeral/memorial service at no cost.

“This is such a great ministry to unchurched and unreached people,” Napier said. “We have seen people become followers of Christ through this ministry. It brings such hope at a very hard time.”

Napier, who has 15 years of law enforcement experience, serves as a chaplain for the San Juan County Sheriff’s office. Two deputies, members of First Aztec, have surrendered to the gospel ministry, are attending college on-line and being discipled by Napier.

First Aztec has had a part in starting four churches: two in Aztec, one on the Navajo reservation, and one in Phoenix. The church gives more than 20 percent of its offerings to missions, including 8 percent through the Cooperative Program and 2 percent to San Juan Baptist Association.

“I have been a pastor and served on convention staff,” Napier said. “I have seen how our Cooperative Program dollars are utilized. I have attended Southwestern Baptist and Golden Gate [now Gateway] seminaries. I have served alongside IMB missionaries on several international mission trips. I love the Cooperative Program.

“I’ve seen what the Cooperative Program does. I’ve seen the impact it has on lostness.”

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

Four life-changing resolutions for 2023

Some pastors are resolution rebels who discourage others from making resolutions because of the predictably high rate of failure. Many resolutions fail because they are unrealistic or just flat uninspiring.

What if you made four life-changing Great Commandment resolutions for 2023 instead of a bunch of lame ones that you will eventually blow off? 

A scribe asked Jesus, “Which command is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:28-30; Deuteronomy 6:5-6). Like you, this scribe already knew the answer to this question. He had been quoting that passage twice a day his entire life, as had his relatives back to the day Moses originally penned the Shema about 1,500 years earlier. 

Healthy churches are led by healthy pastors who love Jesus with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength. I want to challenge you to write out a simple, practical plan based on the Great Commandment.

1. “With all my heart”

My secret to staying spiritually healthy is really no secret at all. I start every day in prayer and Bible study. I use a chapter-a-day reading plan which walks me through the Bible in three years. 

The most important commandment in the Bible reminds me of my most important relationship in life. I aspire to put Jesus first by devoting myself to prayer and ministry of the Word before I allow myself to connect with others on social media, phone, email, etc. Everyone else can and should wait in line behind my first love. 

"2023 can be a breakthrough year for you or it can also be another year to do absolutely nothing but drift. Without a biblical, practical plan, you are simply walking into another year with a wish list. "

2. “With all my soul”

My soul (life) is the internal part of my life which is constantly in need of being restored, renewed, and refreshed. 

Whether you prefer the term soul-care or self-care, does your interior life need a little rearranging or refreshing this year?

King David allowed God to restore his soul in green pastures and beside still waters (Psalm 23:2). Where are the “green pastures” where your soul is best restored? My soul soars on hiking trips with my wife, Janet, and on bowhunting trips with friends. Ministry is very fulfilling, but we all need a life outside of it. Is there something you love doing that you have been putting off? 

3. “With all my mind”

My 2023 plan to stay mentally healthy includes reading one book a month on whatever format is most convenient to me. My mental health plan also includes a filtering system to keep tempting media out of reach, and brainless media to a minimum.

Some of you need to consider talking to a mental health professional this year. I have no regrets about doing that a dozen years ago. Would it surprise you to hear that Guidestone’s mental health claims are up 40% from just three years ago?

4. “With all my strength”

It is hard to love Jesus with all of my strength if I have depleted it all. Janet and I often jog or walk together and are equally committed to eating healthy at home and on the road. We set and share fitness goals which are specific and realistic to our stage of life.

Ocean rip currents are responsible for countless drownings and lifeguard rescues every year. They are dangerous to swimmers because even though they are as strong as river currents, they do not pull you under the water or give you any resistance at all. All you must do to drift into danger is—nothing. 

2023 can be a breakthrough year for you or it can also be another year to do absolutely nothing but drift. Without a biblical, practical plan, you are simply walking into another year with a wish list. 

88th Texas Legislative Session: Stay informed and get involved

Today, Jan. 10, 2023, the 88th Session of the Texas Legislature begins in Austin. Legislative deliberation is one outstanding feature of a thriving democratic society, as those elected from the people debate and legislate on behalf of the people. U.S. President Calvin Coolidge once wrote, “The power to compel due consideration is the distinguishing mark of a deliberative body.” I expect compelling arguments will flow from many sides of each issue this session.

But for those Texans whose citizenship is in heaven, we are ultimately governed by and allegiant to the laws of Christ’s eternal kingdom. Our desire is that God’s will might be done on earth as it is in heaven, so we both work and pray that the righteousness of heaven might be reflected in the laws of men, if only in the Lone Star State. While many of us will not watch the legislative debates religiously as they progress on the floor this session, most of us will at least want to know that just laws were considered dutifully, debated fairly, and upheld rightly in Austin this year.

Your Texas Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee (TERLC) works on behalf of Southern Baptists of Texas Convention churches to educate, resource, and mobilize SBTC church leaders and church members to be actively engaged in shaping public policy in Texas. As the session progresses, the committee will provide real-time updates, helpful resources, and practical action opportunities. We find that Texas officials and legislators want to hear from Texas churches. Many of them understand that not only do SBTC churches account for a major segment of Texas citizenship, but that the biblical values they uphold are good for the economic and social well-being of Texans. They want to hear from you.

It is reported that the Legislature will enter this session with an over $27 billion-plus surplus, which State Comptroller Glenn Hegar has called a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” While this is great news for the Texas economy, it will, no doubt, spark much debate regarding how these funds should be spent and how the government might leverage the overage to secure even more in the future through certain kinds of legislation. Lobbyists for state-sanctioned predatory gambling, for example, are already full force in Austin this year in unprecedented numbers. Other proposed laws will advocate for more government spending toward progressive moral and social issues that Christians know grieve the heart of God and lead free societies to ruin.

After months of prayer and discussion, your TERLC will focus most of its engagement this session on seven priority issues: religious liberty; sanctity of life and orphan care; gender identity; the family, education of children, and parental rights; sex trafficking, pornography, and sexual abuse; gambling; and economic freedom. We base these engagement priorities on the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 and SBTC resolutions. Our public policy advisor, Cindy Asmussen, has been working diligently in Austin over the past several months in anticipation. Based on our research and activity thus far, we expect some very significant pieces of legislation to come to the floor this session regarding each of these priorities.

On this opening day of the 88th Session, allow me to encourage you to do three things:

  1. Pray. Pause for five to 10 minutes today sometime, alone or gathered with family members or Christian friends, and pray for the session. Pray that God will direct debates and the decisions toward righteousness so that Texans might thrive under His hand of blessing. Pray for your legislators by name. You can find the representatives for your specific county and district using this link.
  2. Stay informed. Click here to subscribe to the TERLC Sentinel email updates to stay informed about legislative actions and engagement opportunities that are important to Baptists in our state. Watch for informative content and urgent action items on SBTC social media accounts and in your TERLC Sentinel email updates as the session progresses. Subscribe to the TERLC’s text-alert system to get urgent prayer requests and action items on your phone in real-time. (To sign up for TERLC text alerts, text JOIN to 817-502-3958 to opt in. By opting in, you are agreeing to receive texts from the SBTC-TERLC. Standard carrier rates may apply.)
  3. Get involved. Decide now that when an opportunity comes to testify before a House or Senate committee concerning a bill that embodies one or more of these priority issues, you will make the effort to do so. Cindy Asmussen and your TERLC will help you be prepared and will walk with you every step of the way. Also, I encourage you to begin active engagement right now with one simple action: send your representatives an email to let them know you have prayed for them and are in agreement with the TERLC’s legislative priorities (attach this TERLC priorities letter to your email).

The Preamble to our Texas Constitution begins, “Humbly invoking the blessings of Almighty God…” May it be so in 2023. SBTC churches know that God blesses a people who seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him. “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people,” (Proverbs 14:34).

So, together, let’s pray that through the deliberations and actions of the 88th Texas Legislative Session, the righteousness of heaven will be reflected in the laws of men.

Young mom finds new life in Christ and a new church home

Haevanle (pronounced heavenly) Satterfield prayed for God to send her a church home in 2021. The 27-year-old single mom had gotten a New Testament from a Little Free Library box at the Cedar Hill park where she had taken her young son.

She opened the Scripture, the New Living Translation, and started reading about Jesus.

“This is nothing like the King James version,” she recalled thinking. “I could understand it.” The more she read, the more she “fell in love with Jesus.”

Baptized at age 5 in a swimming pool after a church bus ministry came to her neighborhood, Haevanle believed in God but “didn’t know the information,” although she had the desire to know more about Him. “I know what I felt,” she said. “But I didn’t know Jesus was the way, the truth, and the life.”

Childhood trauma followed her. Finally, at age 22, she felt she had “arrived,” at last able to afford her own furnished apartment. Then it all went up in smoke, literally, as kids playing with matches sparked a fire that destroyed her building, leaving her homeless.

The next several years she lived with various relatives and tried to find her moorings, co-parenting her son with his father who lives in the DFW area.

“I wasn’t living for purpose. I was living for me,” she said. But in that park, she read the Word of God and found it “beautiful.”

Life didn’t magically turn around. There were still struggles, and she started praying for a church home.

An unexpected turn

The morning of Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021, the opposition seemed particularly strong.

“The enemy was on my mind terribly,” she recalled. Despairing and crying hysterically while driving on Interstate 20 to a housekeepking job in North Richland Hills, Haevanle was following her GPS—until she felt prompted to exit the freeway. 

She resisted, stating that, “I was arguing with the Lord. I didn’t realize at the time it was the Lord.” Finally, she exited the freeway and turned into the parking lot at Tate Springs Baptist Church in Arlington. 

“I didn’t see anybody who looked like me. I am an African American woman. I have dreadlocks. I didn’t think I would be welcomed in this part of town,” she recalled thinking. “My insecurities were prevalent.”

She sat in the car about 30 minutes and just “bawled.” She made her way toward the church entrance but paused to sit on a bench outside for 45 minutes. She texted her supervisor to explain she would be late for the job, which was okayed. At last, she mustered enough courage to approach the door and push on the intercom doorbell before scurrying away.

“Hello, can I help you?” a voice came on a loudspeaker. Haevenle couldn’t answer. “It’s OK sweetheart, I’ll send someone to you,” the voice said.

Pastoral associate Thomas McCarty came out asking how he could help.

“I don’t have any idea why I am here,” Haevanle said.

“You want to come in and we can talk about it?” McCarty asked.

That conversation changed her life. The church staffer listened to Haevanle as she poured out her fears and concerns.

“Anything the enemy had told me that morning, he knocked it down Scripture by Scripture,” she recalled of that talk with McCarty, who asked if she had a church home and assured her that Tate Springs would love to have her come.

She came on Sunday.

“That first service, I just smiled the entire time. I realized why God wanted me here. I had never felt more welcome in any church. … I never felt kingdom love like that before.”

On Nov. 14, 2021, she was baptized at church by McCarty.

“He wants to do what He has done for me for everyone. He wants us all to be in a relationship with Him. It’s available to everyone, not any one race or ethnicity. We are all welcome.”

Growing and blessed

Since then, Haevanle has participated in a discipleship program and Bible study. Church friends with connections at local school districts recommended her for jobs and she recently started working as a teacher’s assistant in special education at Lamar High School, the most fulfilling job she has ever had and her first salaried position.

“I’ve worked since I was 14,” she said. “But this is where I belong. It’s so wonderful,” she said, adding that students often come to her and ask questions about Jesus and heaven.

And God continues to bless.

Money was running short before Haevanle received her first school district check. Driving from Cedar Hill to Arlington for school, church, and Bible study, and then to pick up her son from his father’s house in Waxahachie, proved to be expensive. 

Her Bible study leaders offered her money but, as she said,
“I didn’t want to take, take, take. I want to earn it.” 

She was down to five dollars when an unexpected blessing happened. A woman followed her for miles on the freeway before pulling up alongside her at a Cedar Hill gas station. 

“God told me to bless you,” the woman said after approaching Haevanle’s car and handing her a $100 bill. Not even looking at the bill’s denomination, Satterfield jumped out of her car and gave the lady a hug.

“You have no idea what you just did for me,” Haevanle exclaimed. “I had no idea how I was going to get to work tomorrow. You just touched my heart so much.” The lady reached into her purse and pressed another hundred on her.

“I haven’t done anything to deserve this,” Haevanle thought. Then she remembered: “It’s not what God is doing for me; it’s what He will do through me!”

Calling it an honor and privilege to share her story, Haevanle said of God: “When you start running for Him, He will be running to you. He wants to do what He has done for me for everyone. He wants us all to be in a relationship with Him. It’s available to everyone, not any one race or ethnicity. We are all welcome.”