Month: February 2023

EMPOWER ’23: What happens at SBTC churches where prayer has taken over? ‘Everything changes’

IRVING—Hundreds gathered in groups praying for people with children who are far from the Lord. Standing-room-only breakout sessions about the inseparable link between prayer and evangelism. Report after report of physical, emotional, and spiritual healing at churches where desperate cries to God have been sent up in increasing numbers.

Though only a small sample, this year’s Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Empower Conference—which annually champions evangelism—seemed to indicate a growing hunger among Texas churches for experiencing God’s presence and power through prayer.

“Father, it’s good to see one another, good to spend time with one another,” SBTC Executive Director Nathan Lorick prayed during the conference’s Monday evening session, “but it’s wasted time if we don’t seek your heart tonight. We seek a movement of your Holy Spirit among us … that we would be a desperate people desperately crying out to you.”

At last November’s SBTC Annual Meeting, Lorick challenged churches to begin weekly prayer gatherings. The announcement came four months after he led 50 SBTC pastors on a trip to the Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York, where they learned from Pastor Jim Cymbala about developing a culture of prayer. The 2023 annual meeting is already being promoted as an event that will celebrate “25 years of answered prayer.”

During several of Empower’s breakout sessions, attendees heard of spiritual movements happening at churches that made fresh commitments not to new programs or better strategies, but to seeking the face of the Lord at the expense of all else.

“We’re not leading our churches to pray,” said Nathan Lino, senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Forney. “We’re trying to lead our churches to seek, and to find, and to sit in the manifest presence of Jesus. … When He manifests, we’re like sponges. We soak Him up and become filled with Him. We’re surrounded by Him, overcome by Him, overwhelmed by Him. And then everything changes.”

Two more pastors, Todd Kaunitz of New Beginnings Baptist Church in Longview and Jason Paredes of Fielder Church in Arlington, used a portion of their joint breakout session Tuesday to give personal testimony about how Jesus changed everything in their contexts when they decided to focus on seeking His manifest presence.

“We’re not leading our churches to pray,” said Nathan Lino, senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Forney. “We’re trying to lead our churches to seek, and to find, and to sit in the manifest presence of Jesus." SBTC PHOTO

Kaunitz, whose church has been hosting weekly prayer services for two years, said he has seen an unprecedented movement of God at New Beginnings over the past two weeks. During a stretch of recent nightly prayer meetings, more than 40 people made professions of faith, 84 were baptized, and hundreds publicly confessed sin and saw various types of relationships restored.

All that, he noted, happened despite not preaching a single sermon during those prayer gatherings.

“You know why? Because God is speaking through my people to my people,” said Kaunitz, who also serves as SBTC president. “Here’s what I’m learning—if prayer becomes the beginning of the mobilization … the movement won’t be fostered by manipulation. It will be something that’s authentic because it’s a work God is doing in the hearts of our people. You cannot take shortcuts to creating an evangelistic culture in your church. An evangelistic culture in your church starts on your face before the Lord.”

Since beginning its prayer initiative in March 2022—an effort that has included the addition of a weekly prayer meeting—Paredes’ church has seen countless lives changed. Hundreds have been baptized and miracles have been celebrated, including two verified cases of people being healed after receiving a Stage 4 cancer diagnosis.

“We’re going to see well over two to three times more baptisms by the end of this year than we normally see over any given year, and we have done nothing different,” he said. “It’s the same preachers, the same programs, the same activities. Nothing’s changed—except we’re praying like we’ve never prayed before and we’re seeing God move like we’ve never seen Him move before.”

Showing breakout attendees a sign depicting a person bowed in prayer with the words, “Make War on the Floor” printed above, Paredes—a self-proclaimed workaholic—said the Lord impressed on him that he needed to work less and allow Him to work more.

“Prayer is the means by which we go on the offensive,” Paredes said. “Prayer is not the preparation for spiritual war. Prayer is the war.”


EMPOWER ’23: Pastor shares story of son’s death in poignant Q&A

Doug Walker, pastor of Fellowship of the Parks in Fort Worth, shared the story of his son’s tragic death from a drug overdose during a question-and-answer session on Monday night at the Empower Conference. He was interviewed onstage by Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Executive Director Nathan Lorick. The following is an excerpt of that interview:

NL: Pastor, you went through a very difficult season and, in some ways, surely still are. Would you take a moment and share what you’ve gone through?
DW: My middle son, John, passed away from an overdose. He was 23 years old. When he was 13, he was exposed to some things that we weren’t aware of. It’s not that we weren’t around, but we didn’t realize what was going on and how deep it got. He struggled with addiction. That led him to some legal issues. We had him in India for six weeks working in a children’s home when he was 14. We had him in a residential treatment program for a year. He eventually ended up in prison. He got out on probation. He was sober. Yet he bought a drug he thought was Percocet. It took his life. John made a commitment to Christ—I believe that with all my heart. He tried and he struggled. The struggle was real. We just came to the one-year anniversary of his passing. My wife and our boys and I had to deal with all that. It’s been very, very difficult. But by the grace of God, we’re here.

NL: How did you get up every day and try to lead and serve others?
DW: The truth is, I didn’t get out of bed every day. There were days I couldn’t. When you look at Scripture, at King David … I lean on the psalms of lament, like Psalm 13, where there is this incredible transparency with God. It’s like, “Oh God, this is what it feels like. This is where I hurt.” You’ve got to be transparent with God, but you’ve also got to be transparent with the people you lead. There is a fine line, a discernment that you’ve got to trust God will give you.

I have the privilege of being the founding pastor of a church. I have an executive staff that has come from within and they are my friends … and we have established a culture of transparency in our church. They know I’m not [just] their pastor—I’m a regular guy. My wife and I, we hurt. I have cried with them. I’ve gone through [questioning] what I could have done? The woulda-shoulda-coulda game is a game for losers. You always lose when you play that. Trust in God, be honest with your staff. I didn’t abdicate leadership. I empowered those who were around me that I trusted to step in and to lead on my behalf on the days when I couldn’t. I’m just grateful to God that He continues to work through Fellowship of the Parks and the people He’s put around me. … We’ve learned some things through this about how to continue to lead through grief.

NL: There’s no pain like the pain of losing a child. What wisdom would you offer those who are walking through similar situations?
DW: Don’t lose hope. Know that you’re not alone. The more you can talk about it, the more you are going to help people. We had people come out of the woodwork that we had no idea about the struggles they faced. They felt empowered to share.

Another thing is for you and your spouse to be on the same page. … We’ve been married 33 years, but we had to get some help to get us on the same page about how to step through it, what the boundaries were. … As a pastor, God has called you. The enemy wants to do everything he can to stop you and disable you and disarm you from ministry and effectiveness. He often targets us from the inside, where you least expect it.

The greatest challenge I’ve had in life is parenting. I’m going to be 55 this year. When we first began and had children, we thought we were going to do everything right. … I would just encourage you to hang on, be honest about your hurt, and find trusting people who can help you.

NL: People have told me what an incredible job you did preaching your son’s service.
Walker: John expressed himself in art. He depicted the struggle of doing what’s right. [In one picture] he shows the struggle between a good dog and a bad dog that are always fighting each other. The one that wins is the one you feed. You are not always responsible for what your kids choose, but this [is an important] conversation. Fentanyl is killing our children. But God is good.

EMPOWER ’23: Spanish session sets sights on reaching the next generation

ARLINGTON—With a focus on equipping churches to reach future generations, the Empower 2023 Spanish session—called Apoderados—set attendance records this year. Approximately 360 pastors and church leaders attended the two-day event held at Lamar Baptist Church.

Lucas Leys, founder of e625—a ministry that provides resources and training for those involved in next-generation discipleship—was the keynote speaker. With a great sense of humor and charisma, Leys spoke of the importance of renewing a mission-driven vision for reaching younger generations for Christ. “Churches are suffering because, as they age, they have not made a plan for the next generation,” he said.

Leys said churches will struggle to grow—and in some cases, survive—if pastors do not develop strategies to reach future generations. One of the pitfalls can happen when churches measure success by attendance numbers only, he said, noting that a deeper examination is needed to build healthy congregations.

“Are families improving? Are marriages being restored?” he asked. “How many people are being transformed? That’s what measures success.”

Leys said discipleship should be central to any church’s strategy for growth. “If the church and parents are not discipling [the next] generation, that doesn’t mean they’re not being discipled,” he said. “It means they’re being discipled by the world.”

Apoderados featured a variety of workshops led by Hispanic leaders and pastors, with topics ranging from evangelism to casting vision. Among those leaders was Luis González, pastor of Lamar Baptist Church en Español, who encouraged attendees to understand that evangelism is a daily task that involves everyone in the church. Evangelism, he said, should not feel like a heavy burden: “We can rest and enjoy evangelism when we understand that it is the Lord’s [job] to change hearts,” González said.

Ramón Vélez, pastor of Una Nueva Familia, taught about intergenerational evangelism, challenging his listeners to be creative and “break the mold” when it comes to evangelism. Vélez said gospel-sharers should consider the age and context of the audience being evangelized.

“The devil is an expert at selling sin,” Vélez said. “We need to be better at sharing the gospel.”

Daniel Sanchez speaks about how Hispanics can evangelize their Catholic friends during a breakout session at Apoderados. SBTC PHOTO

Daniel Sanchez, distinguished professor emeritus of missions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), shared strategies for evangelizing Catholics. Armando Hernández, director of admissions at SWBTS and a college student leader at Tate Springs Baptist Church in Arlington, shared how to identify and confront secularism in our culture and why it should matter to the church.

The conference also featured a panel discussion led by Bruno Molina, language and interfaith evangelism associate for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. The panel discussed challenges facing Hispanic churches in the U.S. seeking to reach and minister to second- and third-generation Hispanic children.

“Churches [in America] start as one ethnicity, become bicultural, and then multicultural,” Molina said. With this in mind, panelists answered questions such as, “Why do most students stop walking with God and leave the church after high school?” and “How can first-generation Hispanic pastors encourage their churches to better minister to bilingual youth?”

Hernández, who said he represents the second and third generation, urged Hispanic churches to find people in their congregations who can build a bridge between the older and younger generations. Those people can help churches mentor younger generations to seek out healthy churches where they can identify culturally.

Lisie Colón, events and communications coordinator of church resources at Lifeway, said there is a need to give younger generations an opportunity to feel accepted by finding a place where they can best identify. González emphasized the importance of knowing where children and youth stand spiritually and modeling for them a practical Christian life inside and outside the church. Cristina Ochoa, the wife of Pastor Over Ochoa of Vida Victoriosa Church, added that the church has a responsibility to ensure children know how to have a personal relationship with God from an early age.

“We must plan and invest in these lives to reach them, no matter the cost,” said Vélez, “because the price the Son of God paid was high.”

SBTC’s Wolfe named as candidate for South Carolina exec position

COLUMBIA, S.C. (BP)—Ian Geimer, pastor of Kingstree First Baptist Church and the chairman of the South Carolina Baptist Convention executive director-treasurer search team, announced Monday (Feb. 20) that Tony Wolfe, associate executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, has been selected as the candidate to become the next executive director-treasurer of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.

A special meeting of the convention to consider the recommendation of Wolfe has been called for Monday, March 20, at 1:30 p.m. at Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia, S.C. If elected, Wolfe will succeed Gary Hollingsworth who is scheduled to retire at the end of April.

Wolfe currently serves as the Associate Executive Director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. In his 23 years of ministry experience, he has served Southern Baptist churches in Texas and Louisiana as a denominational leader, interim pastor, pastor, worship leader, Christian educator and pastoral counselor.

Wolfe and Geimer will tour the state for meet-and-greet opportunities with South Carolina Baptists prior to the called meeting. Meeting times are as follows:

March 15, 2023, at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Florence at 9 a.m.

March 15, 2023, at Summerville Baptist Church in Summerville at 3 p.m.

March 16, 2023, at Taylors First Baptist Church in Taylors at 9 a.m.

March 16, 2023, at Lexington Baptist Church in Lexington at 3 p.m.

March 17, 2023, at First Baptist Church of Rock Hill at 9:30 a.m.

EMPOWER ’23: Story, St. James encourage packed women’s session crowd

IRVING—Around 200 attendees packed the junior ballroom of the Irving Convention Center during the Empower Conference’s Women’s Session on Monday, hearing from a pair of Grammy and Dove-award-winning artists—Rebecca St. James and Laura Story.

St. James briefly recapped her life. The Australian-born singer spoke of her family’s transition from Sydney to Nashville, spurred by her father’s job relocation, when she was 14. By age 16, St. James was a full-time singer and songwriter. Talent runs in the family, as her brothers, Luke and Joel, comprise the Christian pop duo For King & Country.

When their father’s new job fell through after two months, the family found itself depending on prayer. In turn, the family witnessed “miracle after miracle after miracle” of God’s provision, she testified.

St. James reminded attendees that God often works through prayer and steadfastness, quoting 1 Corinthians 15:58. She also performed a variety of songs focusing on God’s redemptive power. “Lord, we want to see revival. Start with us,” she exclaimed.

Daughters of the king

Story, a singer, author, and executive director of worship environments and resources at Atlanta’s Perimeter Church, followed St. James.

She spoke on Mark 5:25-34, the account of the woman with an “discharge of blood” who finds wholeness and healing at the feet of Jesus. At the end of the account, the Lord addresses the woman as “daughter”—replacing an anonymous designation with a personal one. The woman finds hope in Christ as she touches the hem of the His garment.

Story described the unexpected turn her family experienced 10 years into her marriage, when her husband, Martin, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Five days in the hospital lengthened to three months as Martin relearned how to perform daily tasks. He continues to experience ongoing health issues from the traumatic brain injury.

“God has not worked exactly the way I have asked Him to, but that doesn’t mean He hasn’t been at work,” Story said, adding, “We don’t get to choose what we walk through, but we can always choose how we walk through what we walk through.”

Recalling a radio appearance in which she dialogued with another woman whose husband had suffered similar brain trauma, Story said she avoids reassuring people that “things are going to get better” when they face difficult situations.

“Even if that broken thing in your life doesn’t get better, you can get better,” she said, describing the “wholeness that Jesus brings to His daughters.” We must recognize our own powerlessness and God’s all-powerfulness, she added—admitting “I can’t” and knowing “He can.”

Often we pray for Jesus to be a “circumstantial Savior,” but the Lord often works as our sustainer in addition to being our Savior, Story said.

Laura Story spoke of personal trials and God's faithfulness, saying, “God has not worked exactly the way I have asked Him to, but that doesn’t mean He hasn’t been at work." SBTC PHOTO

Why pain?

During the second segment of the women’s conference, Story reflected on Genesis 16, the account of Hagar’s fleeing from a toxic situation with Sarai before the birth of Ishmael.

“God doesn’t change [Hagar’s] circumstances. … He changes her heart,” Story said, reminding the audience that God sent the handmaid back to Abram and Sarai with promises that her unborn son would grow and that his people would multiply.

Faith is approaching God, she said, even in apparently hopeless situations. God acts only out of love toward us if we trust Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, she added.

She challenged attendees with three truths:

  1. God sees your pain.
  2. God will not waste your pain.
  3. God will bring an end to the pain.

The Bible gives two reasons why bad things happen in life, Story said, referencing Romans 5 and John 9. The first reason is sin, which entered the world with all its ugly ramifications: things such as cancer, brokenness, infertility, and war. The second reason for suffering is “that the works of God might be displayed,” Story said.

“Things like endurance and character and hope” that we long for come “only through pain,” she continued, relating the story of her then preschool daughter’s sensitivity to a struggling classmate. When asked by the teacher how her family had developed such loving concern in their young daughter, Story realized that her husband’s disability had contributed to her growth. The collective suffering of their family had encouraged kindness in their daughter.

We must “have the faith to trust Him to write the story,” Story urged. “What is in store for us is far greater, far greater” than the pain, which is “maximizing our view of God.”


EMPOWER ’23: Former SBTC president Turner receives W.A. Criswell Award

IRVING—Terry Turner, longtime pastor of Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church, is the 2023 recipient of the W.A. Criswell Award for Pastoral Evangelism. Turner accepted the award during the Monday afternoon session of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s Empower conference.

In addition to serving as Mesquite Friendship’s founding pastor for more than 30 years, Turner was elected SBTC president in 2012-2013. He has served various boards, including Criswell College and Gateway Baptist Theological Seminary. During his leadership of Mesquite Friendship, the church has grown from five families to more than 2,000 members.

Turner is the author of God’s Amazing Grace: Reconciling Four Centuries of African American Marriages and Families. The book was honored as a top non-fiction historical work by the Afro-American Historical Genealogical Society: International Book Awards Program in 2022. Turner is currently co-pastor at Friendship, alongside his son, Caleb. At the end of June, he will become pastor emeritus and Caleb will become senior pastor.

“Terry Turner has served faithfully as a pastor and has fulfilled Paul’s admonition to do the work of an evangelist,” SBTC Missional Ministries Senior Strategist Tony Mathews said. “In addition to being faithful to the Word of God and to his pastoral call, he has led many souls to Christ. I can’t think of anyone who is more deserving of this award than Dr. Turner.”

Turner expressed gratitude for the convention “mentioning my name alongside that of W.A. Criswell.” “W.A. Criswell was one of my mentors from a distance,” he said. “He is a pastor who has shaped my ministry. I still use his study Bible and pastors’ manual in my ministry.”

Turner is a graduate of Langston University in Oklahoma and earned two master’s degrees and a doctorate at Dallas Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Nancy, have been married 40 years. They have four children and 12 grandchildren.

The Criswell Award was inaugurated in 1999 at the SBTC’s first evangelism conference. First Baptist Church of Dallas Pastor W.A. Criswell hosted that conference and was the first honoree. The convention has honored a pastor, or retired pastor, during evangelism conferences each year since.

EMPOWER ’23: NAMB’s next gen evangelism leader Pruitt receives Fish Award

IRVING—Shane Pruitt, national next gen evangelism director for the North American Mission Board, received the Roy Fish Award for Vocational Evangelism during the Monday afternoon session (Feb. 27) of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s Empower conference.

Pruitt came from a pastorate in Rowlett to the SBTC, where he served as director of missions and church planting before becoming evangelism director. NAMB called him to a newly created leadership role focused on communicating the gospel with emerging generations in late 2019.

“I feel like I’ve been deeply impacted by Roy Fish because of the influence he had on so many leaders who have influenced me in the gospel, in evangelism, and in giving invitations,” Pruitt said. “I am extremely humbled to receive this award. I am very aware of standing on the shoulders of evangelists from previous generations who were faithful to proclaim the gospel with passion and equip others to evangelize. It is a true honor.”

Pruitt has earned a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies, a master’s degree in history, and a Ph.D. in clinical Christian counseling. He is the author of two books—9 Common Lies Christians Believe: Why God’s Truth is infinitely Better and Calling Out the Called: Discipling Those Called to Ministry.

SBTC Missional Ministries Senior Strategist Tony Mathews, who followed Pruitt in directing the convention’s evangelism ministry, said, “There are few people who are evangelists gifted to lead people to Christ and then motivate them to share Christ with others. Shane Pruitt has this giftedness. He has an unbelievable passion for evangelism, along with stellar communication and preaching skills. Most importantly, there are countless people who have been led to Christ under his ministry. The Roy Fish Award will be right at home with Shane Pruitt as its recipient.”

Shane and Kasi Pruitt, who have been married 18 years, still live in Texas and have six children.

First awarded in 2006, the Roy Fish Award is named in honor of one of the best-known seminary evangelism professors in Southern Baptist history. Fish served Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for nearly 50 years and taught evangelism to generations of Southern Baptist pastors and missionaries.

SBTC’s Missional Ministries leader is longtime Texas pastor with ‘heartbeat’ for missions

GRAPEVINE—In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, leadership at the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention introduced a re-visioning of the convention. One of the prominent changes in that work was the merger of its missions and evangelism departments.

Though the work of these ministries was focused in one department at the convention’s founding, they existed in separate ministry areas for most of the past two decades. In 2021, each department was without a director after Shane Pruitt (evangelism) joined the staff of the North American Mission Board and Doug Hixson (missions) resigned to plant a church in Colorado.

The re-visioning of the convention called for a rejoining of missions and evangelism. As the outgoing executive director, Jim Richards, and his newly elected successor, Nathan Lorick, sought a leader for the new Missional Ministries department, both agreed that Tony Mathews—a 30-year pastor at North Garland Fellowship—was the man for the job. Mathews initially agreed to lead the ministry part-time, on an interim basis, starting in January 2021. He became the full-time senior strategist for Missional Ministries in March 2022.

In addition to being well-known and respected among the convention’s churches, Mathews’ heart to lead North Garland Fellowship to be a missional church made him a natural fit for the role.

“As a pastor, not only did I fall in love with missions, but I became a believer that every pastor (at some time in his ministry) should go on a mission trip,” Mathews said. “Doing so sets us on fire … to reach people in the state of Texas and globally.”

Mathews credits an SBTC trip to South Africa as being especially significant in his life. Through the trip, North Garland Fellowship adopted the “people of the thorns” people group from Madagascar. North Garland members have been extensively involved in other locations across the globe over the past decades as well.

Mathews (seen at right) takes a picture with pastors and others on a mission trip to India earlier in his career. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Mathews’ missionary heart continues to be evidenced as he leads the convention to engage in partnerships in the U.S. and internationally.

“We have recently entered into a cooperative agreement with the Nevada Baptist Convention and the Convention of Southern Baptist Churches of Puerto Rico,” he said. “Trips have been planned and SBTC pastors and leaders will be assisting the churches of these conventions as they fulfill their mission. Also, our Reach India mission is currently active, and we are exploring missional opportunities in Western Europe.”

Through his role in Missional Ministries, Mathews envisions encouraging and equipping the convention’s churches to reach the lost in Texas and around the world.

“Many of our churches are very involved in evangelism and missions,” he said. “They are doing a tremendous job. Our goal is to assist those churches that have little to no missional outreach program and to motivate the churches that are currently engaged to continue.”

Mathews’ department oversees a wide and diverse ministry area: missions mobilization, personal evangelism, interfaith evangelism, student ministry, collegiate ministry, people groups, disaster relief, Asian and Korean fellowships, and the Black Church Network. He also serves as needed as a staff liaison for the convention’s partnership with the North American Mission Board’s Send Network for the purpose of church planting in Texas.

“Our Missional Ministries support staff, ministry staff, part-time workers, and consultants are a group of amazing servants,” Mathews said. “They make leading at the SBTC fun and exciting, and without them, we could not and would not be effective. I’m grateful for each of them.”

Emphases spearheaded through Missional Ministries include a new evangelism resource, Who’s Your One? Advancing the Movement, written by Matt Queen, professor of evangelism at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The tool is meant to move individuals from praying for someone’s salvation to sharing the gospel with that person.

Queen is one of four SBTC evangelism consultants—a group that also includes Carl Bradford (Southwestern Seminary), Ryan Fontenot (RAGE Ministries), and Nathan Lino (First Baptist Church of Forney senior pastor). Mathews says those men are “uniquely gifted” as they encourage, motivate, inspire, and train leaders in evangelism.

While Mathews has decades of service as a pastor in Texas, he describes missions as an engine that drives his ministry.

“It is such an honor to work under the leadership of Dr. Nathan Lorick and to serve alongside an incredibly gifted and talented team here at the SBTC,” Mathews said. “I wake up each morning thanking God that I was given an opportunity to be a part of the restructure and to serve as senior strategist for Missional Ministries—which is my heartbeat.”


Empower to feature Student Rally for first time

IRVING—For the first time in the history of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s Empower Conference, students will have their own event where they can worship, pray, and hear the gospel.

The inaugural Empower Student Rally will feature illusionist Brice Harney, praise and worship led by Jimmy McNeal, and a message from Shane Pruitt—who serves as national NextGen director for the North American Mission Board. The rally will be held Tuesday, Feb. 28, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Irving Convention Center.

SBTC Student Ministry Associate Brandon Bales and Ryan Fontenot, an SBTC evangelism consultant, said the Student Rally was birthed from a deep burden to deliver Jesus’ Great Commission to students, their leaders, and volunteers and “a simple desire to reach students with the message of Christ.”

Bales said the rally is designed to be a tool for student ministries to present the gospel to teenagers outside their normal mid-week gatherings. He added that he is praying the event will provide a springboard for gospel conversations among those who attend.

“We are praying student ministries will have a lot of stories to celebrate at their normal mid-week gathering: celebrations of students professing salvation, proclaiming baptisms, or a surrender to a life of ministry, missions, or leadership,” Bales said.

Bales and Fontenot are encouraging students to invite their lost friends to the rally, as the gospel will be shared at the event.

“We want nothing more than for students to know and go for Jesus in their lives,” Fontenot said. “The gospel will be proclaimed, students will be encouraged, and leaders will be reminded that student ministry is an amazing calling and that they are not alone.”

Bales said he is praying God will use the Student Rally to ignite a gospel movement among the next generation.

“Lord willing,” he said, “the Student Rally could be a means for God to spark revival among students in Texas in the same manner revivals are popping up on college campuses around the nation.”

Greg Laurie says ‘Jesus Revolution’ portrays a gospel awakening still felt today

NASHVILLE (BP)—Pastor Greg Laurie said the spiritual awakening portrayed in the new movie “Jesus Revolution” is still making an impact today, including his own life and ministry. The basis of the movie is the Jesus Movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Now the pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., the movie depicts a young Laurie (played by Joel Courtney), telling the story of both his conversion to Christianity and romance with his future wife Cathe (played by Anna Grace Barlow).

“I accepted Christ on my high school campus, and I went to a church called Calvary Chapel where the Jesus Movement was in full swing,” Laurie said.

“It was just such a wonderful time because there was an excitement. People were never late for church, he told Baptist Press.

Evangelism was a key component of the Jesus Movement, he says.

“It was not uncommon to see believers out on the streets talking about Jesus, sharing their faith. It was just a work of the Holy Spirit.”

He says the movie also cues up the birth of the Christian music movement that was born in those days.

Laurie admits that while there were many positive results of the movement, it was perfect as God used imperfect people to shepherd the awakening.

The relationship between a conservative pastor of Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, Calif., named Chuck Smith and a charismatic street preacher named Lonnie Frisbee is an example of the tension.

Smith is portrayed by iconic actor Kelsey Grammer (“Cheers,” “Frasier”), while Frisbee is played by Jonathan Roumie, who plays Jesus in the wildly popular streaming series “The Chosen.”

While the two had their disagreements and shortcomings, Laurie says both were used by God.

“Lonnie Frisbee was a colorful character,” Laurie said. “He did have a dramatic conversion and he was used by God as a catalyst to attract young people.”

“But Chuck Smith sort of was like the stabilizer, sort of like the kids came for Lonnie and they stayed for Chuck because Chuck was a Bible expository and he put clear parameters around things,” he said.

“God uses flawed people. God uses ordinary people. Even as you read the book of Acts, these are ordinary people who fell short, people like us. I think one of the takeaway truths of the Bible is these were not perfect people that God worked through, but they were available people.”

Laurie said the impact of the revolution was important, but what is even more import is how this generation will respond to the film.

The Jesus Revolution is set to debut in theaters on Feb. 24.

“The undeniable fact is there was a powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit that affected churches of every tribe, of every denomination,” he said. “And it was something that was felt around the nation and the world. We’re just capturing one aspect of it in this movie.”