Month: March 2023

Delayed until eternity

delayed until eternity

I’ve recently taken several personality profiles for a work-related endeavor. Typically, these profiles include an assessment where the participant is required to answer a series of questions, often choosing between or ranking a list of options, until an algorithm can create a profile of your strengths, weaknesses, giftings, and preferences. These findings are then expressed in single words or phrases such as “motivator” or “hospitable” or “works better alone.”

No shade here—I’m finding these latest assessments (I’ve taken many of them) to be insightful. Even so, I recently stumbled upon another series of words and phrases you likely won’t find on the most popular personality profiles available in the marketplace today. They’re found in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, as historically recorded in Matthew 5-7. 

In Chapter 5, Jesus offers the profile—we might even say DNA—of someone who is a faithful and devoted follower.  That devotee is poor in spirit (v.3), one who mourns (v.4), and one who is humble (v.5). The faithful disciple is one who will withhold punishment and extend grace even when it is not deserved (v.7) and make peace, even though the human heart often looks for a good ol’ knock-down, drag-out fight (v.9). 

"Satan likes to set a trap for us, somehow convincing our hearts that we must go all-in—no matter what it takes—to achieve our best lives now."

I can just see the results from that personality assessment: “Jayson is destined to embrace a life of mourning and humility ….” Held up to societal standards, such an assessment would be disappointing, to say the least. But juxtaposed with the biblical standard, you’d be hard-pressed to find a follower of Jesus who wouldn’t want that as their epitaph.

The question is, how do we bring our hearts to a place where we see words such as “humble” and “mourning” not as flimsy or discouraging, but empowering? Jesus tells us a few verses later: “Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven.”

His words ought to be a convicting reminder that this world is not our home. We all want great things for our lives, for our kids, and (hopefully) for everyone we know. But herein lies a landscape where Satan likes to set a trap for us, somehow convincing our hearts that we must go all-in—no matter what it takes—to achieve our best lives now. I personally believe Jesus would tell us instead that our best life is coming, when we exist in a perfect place with a perfect God as has always been intended. 

Delayed gratification is the idea that we give up what may be rewarding now for a greater reward later. Christians—no, I—need to learn how to delay gratification, giving up the battles regarding all the things for which I might contend—money, power, significance, status—in exchange for the unfathomable glory that is to come for we who have put our trust in Jesus. 

Where is the strain in your soul? What situations in life are causing you the most discomfort? What is stealing your Jesus-promised peace today? With deeper examination, you may find that the source of that which is troubling you is rooted in a desire to take hold of a reward now that may not be experienced until heaven.

Disaster relief has carried South Texas couple across many, many miles to serve people in crisis

Bringing their best in the worst of times

When the first quick response feeding unit (QRU) was acquired by Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief five years ago, Director Scottie Stice knew it was something special. All he needed was a pair of volunteers to pioneer the effort. 

He found that team in Ronnie and Connie Roark, and the couple has since been joined by others as the SBTC DR QRU fleet has grown to four units.

The QRU—whether in trailer or vehicle form—is a small, highly mobile food truck that can be rapidly deployed in emergency situations. Mass feeding units require considerable setup and staff, but the QRU can be in place preparing meals within hours with only two volunteers.

“The key to the QRU’s success is flexibility,” Stice said.

SBTC DR QRUs deployed more times in 2022 than similar units from all state Baptist DR teams combined, Stice noted, adding, “We look for opportunities to serve [using the QRUs] and ask, ‘Why not?’” 

The QRU can be a rapid response godsend. It has been called on to prepare 50 meals per day for first responders battling wildfires in West Texas one moment, and the next, to churn out its maximum of 700 meals per day for hurricane survivors in Southeast Texas.

“We knew we wanted to do something to help but did not know how we could. We visited with our preacher, Brother Bret Edwards, and he told us about SBTC DR.”

Called to feed others

The Roarks, who live southeast of San Antonio and attend Salem Sayers Baptist Church, became involved with SBTC DR in 2017 during Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts.

“We knew we wanted to do something to help but did not know how we could. We visited with our preacher, Brother Bret Edwards, and he told us about SBTC DR,” Ronnie recalled. The Roarks attended an SBTC DR mass feeding training session the following week in San Antonio and signed on.

“The following Monday we were at Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston, cooking for our support volunteers, and we’ve been cooking since,” Connie said.

The couple, who met and married in Abilene in 1974, moved to the San Antonio area in 2015 to be near family, joining Salem Sayers the following year. Ronnie had retired from a 34-year career with an electrical power company and Connie—who formerly worked in banking—had operated a home-based business until 2006.

As they attended training in the wake of Harvey, they felt called to the feeding ministry.

While deployed at Champion Forest, they met Stice. Ronnie suggested adding a small supply trailer to alleviate the need for daily restocking trips for the large mass-feeding kitchen.

“Scottie told us about a new ministry he had been thinking of starting with a small team running a cooking trailer,” Connie recalled. “His problem was that he did not have a team to run the new QRU.”

“You do now,” the Roarks exclaimed.

And the rest is history. 

In addition to the unit maintained by Salem Sayers Baptist, SBTC DR has two other food trailer QRUs: one in Pampa, maintained by the Top O’ Texas Baptist Association, and the newest addition at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jasper. Lake Athens Baptist Church operates a food truck donated by Houston’s First Baptist. This regional system makes quick deployment possible, more so than if the equipment was stored in a central warehouse. 

A mobile refrigerated/freezer unit was also added in 2022 and has the capacity to carry food and supplies to prepare 3,000 meals, Ronnie said, adding, “This unit was used in our recent deployment to Fort Myers, Fla., and proved its value.” In Florida, the QRU—manned by the Roarks and other volunteers who relieved them—cranked out an average of 120 meals per day for 46 days to serve volunteers, first responders, and survivors of Hurricane Ian last October.

A view from inside the QRU shows Ronnie Roark handing out breakfast burritos to flood survivors in Raymondville.

No town ‘forgotten’

As for the Roarks’ most memorable deployments, the couple recalls being sent to the Rio Grande Valley in June 2019 to respond to flooding. As the pair were en route, the national relief agency that had contacted SBTC DR offices for assistance canceled the request.

“You’re on the road. Keep going. We’ll figure out where you will set up and what our mission will be while you’re driving,” Stice told the Roarks.

With a team also consisting of Pastor Edwards and his daughter, the Roarks drove to Raymondville and parked in a grocery store parking lot at the floodwater’s edge. As they waited, two women approached to inquire about the unit.

“It’s just what we need,” one of the women said. With permission, the team proceeded to First Methodist Raymondville, where the church operated a clinic, and within three hours were serving 300 hamburgers. 

“We remained onsite for around five days,” Ronnie said. “When we left, our recovery teams set up at the church. Lesson learned? You may not know the plan, but God always does.”

City and county officials are almost always grateful for the work of the QRU and other DR units. The Roarks recalled deploying to the Lake Charles, La., area—specifically the hamlet of Lake Arthur—following Hurricane Delta in 2020. There they worked in support of the Texas Salvation Army.

“[Quick Response Units] have been very active since their beginning in 2018. We have responded to hurricanes, structural fires, forest fires, tornadoes, floods, and mass shootings.”

The Lake Arthur mayor, police chief, fire chief, and city manager assisted in the distribution of food. The mayor told the Roarks Lake Arthur was often the “forgotten town” when storms hit and that they appreciated the assistance. When the Roarks passed on the sentiments to Salvation Army coordinator Kathy Clark, relief crews worked with determination to ensure that the town was by no means forgotten.

“God’s message of hope was shared in this community,” Ronnie said. “Many felt the touch of God that week.”

Like the song made famous by Johnny Cash, the Roarks have “been everywhere.” 

“QRUs have been very active since their beginning in 2018. We have responded to hurricanes, structural fires, forest fires, tornadoes, floods, and mass shootings. Along with providing support during disasters, we also helped in feeding the homeless in Austin and later fed the volunteers supporting the Houston Food Bank while distributing supplies during COVID. Not only have we served across Texas, but also in New Mexico, Louisiana, Florida, and Nebraska,” Ronnie said.

“Round wheels are on our QRUs so they can roll to wherever they’re needed to provide a hot meal and the hope of Jesus,” Stice said, adding, “Our volunteers energize the system. We go where the Lord directs.”

Interested in SBTC’s Disaster Relief ministry?

What’s your story? I let God use my life to introduce others to Him

I’ve served Era Baptist Church [near Gainesville] for 50 years. I’m not a teacher. I can show you how to do something, but I’m not the guy to teach a class. I joke sometimes that I’m a flunky, the guy you call when you need something done behind the scenes. 

I started as a contract worker for the Era school district after my employer of 20 years, National Supply—they made oil field equipment—closed down. The job at National Supply covered a lot of different kinds of work, but I liked the assembly line best. I also did a lot of different things for the school district. I drove a school bus for 12 years, cleaned bathrooms and other kinds of custodial work, and eventually supervised the custodial workers. 

Patsy, my wife, has been gone for six years. We were together for 62 years and raised four children. She was from Gainesville, so it was natural for us to move back to the area after I ended my eight-year service in the U.S. Air Force. I joined in 1953 and was trained as an aircraft mechanic. As I traveled from one base to another, I spent some time in Wichita Falls. That’s where Patsy and I married and started our family. 

I loved flying as a flight engineer, but that became impossible because of a collapsed lung. Also, our eldest son, Ronnie, had muscular dystrophy and some of the duty stations weren’t compatible with his care. Although having a child with special needs wasn’t easy, someone told me once that God gave Ronnie to a family who would love him and take care of him. It’s always seemed like a special job that God gave Patsy and me. 

The people in Era made us feel at home. Ronnie, who was an eighth-grader in a wheelchair by now, had some classes that were upstairs in the school building. We didn’t have an elevator in those days, but the agriculture teacher said that he and some of the boys at school would build ramps for Ronnie if I’d provide the wood. That solved a big problem for our family. 

Don Mode, pictured with SBTC associate Alex Gonzales. SUBMITTED PHOTO

After we moved back, a pastor from Gainesville, along with my father in-law, led me to Christ shortly after I left the Air Force. I was baptized here, back in 1962. Some of the lessons my aunt, who was my teacher at church when I was a child, taught me about God and serving Him stuck with me, even if I had not yet believed. 

We moved to Era Baptist Church in 1973, and I’m 89 years old now. There are some things I can’t do anymore. But the church asked me to be a deacon some years back. I’m still a deacon. One of the ways I serve our church is by being an example. When I was approached to serve as a deacon, the pastor remarked that people watched me, that they saw my example and learned from it. Part of that may be that I know so many of the younger people because they saw me at school. 

My pastor remarked about how so many adults called me “Mr. Mode.” When he asked one of them if he knew my first name, the man grinned and said, “Mister.” They used to call my wife “Ma Mode” because she also worked in various jobs at the school district and was known by the kids. I received a note from a young lady in our church saying she was about to be married. She is the daughter of one of the students who knew me at the school district. I think her mother used to ride my bus. It’s a good feeling to have the respect of people so young. 

"God is my boss, and I serve him in any way I’m able. As I get older, I’m blessed to have God’s people serve me as well."

Although I’m not a Bible teacher, I tell the younger people, “Just watch me,” and hope that the way I live is a lesson about how to follow God—what I do, what I don’t do. On Sundays when I can make it, I stand in the lobby of the church. Everyone who comes in gets a smile, a hug, and a handshake. I want to make them feel welcome so they can hear about the Lord. 

I’ve also come to the point that I depend on my neighbors, friends, and church members to help me. Before Patsy died, she wrote a note to one of our friends and asked her to help me with the household business. Our friend came after Patsy died and collected all the financial records and bills and told me not to worry about them. In fact, she helps me with doctor appointments and other sorts of things. Some of the families from the church intentionally make “too much” dinner so they can bring me leftovers. Others will have me over for lunch or dinner. I’ve been very blessed to have the friends and neighbors I have.  

So, what’s my story? God is my boss, and I serve him in any way I’m able. As I get older, I’m blessed to have God’s people serve me as well. 

What's your story?

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

Share your story here

The urgency of the gospel

Imust admit, I am writing this article with deep sadness in my heart. A gentleman I know and have dealt with in various capacities passed away suddenly this week. He was quite unassuming and really did not have much of a family. He was a man of few words, a very private individual who lived alone all his life. Yet, he was a good man who poured his heart into the things he loved the most. 

A while back, I was on a road trip and he decided to jump in and ride with me. As we drove, I had the opportunity to share the gospel with him. He was somewhat receptive and asked good questions, but he did not embrace Christ that day. I believe he felt like he had plenty of time in the future to make a decision for Christ. Honestly, I do not know if he ever put his faith in Jesus, but the reality that he is now gone burdens my heart deeply. 

Upon receiving the news of his death, I immediately began to recall our conversation and my heart began to feel deep sorrow. Yes, I am sad he is no longer here. However, the deeper sorrow lies in my uncertainty of his eternity. I know he heard the gospel. I know he heard how to be saved and spend eternity with Jesus. I am just not sure he ever embraced Jesus. 

"Take time today and think through how you can engage others with the gospel."

This sorrow drives me to feel the urgency of the gospel once again. We constantly interact with people who are on their way to a Christless eternity in hell. We must feel the deep obligation and duty to share the gospel of Christ. These days, many leaders want to categorize ministry into boxes to justify the spiritual duties in which we may not be the strongest. We say things like, “Evangelism is not my spiritual gift” or “I am more into discipleship than evangelism.” The truth is, evangelism and discipleship are not mutually exclusive. They go hand in hand. If we are truly making disciples, we are training them to share the gospel. This must be driven by a burden to see the lost come to Christ. 

Since hearing about the death of my friend, I have once again committed to be intentional with evangelism. I want to seek out those who are lost and without hope and tell them about the saving power of Jesus. I want my life to always be used as a mouthpiece for the gospel. My friend wasn’t concerned about the latest denominational controversy. He wasn’t in tune with the latest church trends. He didn’t spend time looking through people’s theological debates on Twitter. Nope, none of these. He was just living and trying to fill the void in his life. 

I want to encourage you today to take time and pray for someone you know who is lost. Take time today and think through how you can engage others with the gospel. I encourage you to pray for a renewed sense of urgency to share the gospel every chance you get. I am grateful for my friend’s life. Oh, how I hope he placed his faith in Jesus at some point. Although I will not know where he spends his eternity until I stand before the Lord, I know his death has stirred passion in me to be a witness for Jesus every day of my life. 

I love you and am honored to serve you! Let’s share Jesus!

Affirming women called to vocational ministry

Decades ago, grandfather clocks were common fixtures in homes. I haven’t seen one in years, but I remember my grandparents’ clock loudly announcing its presence each hour. Between those disruptive chimes, one could faintly hear its pendulum swinging. A pendulum is designed to bypass the midpoint as it swings to extreme positions.

Certain issues within the church can cause such pendulum swing reactions in an effort to correct or compensate for the past. The roles of women in vocational ministry, for example, can easily garner such extreme reactions. One extreme keeps women from any leadership role, while another eliminates role distinctions altogether.

As Christ-followers, we are all called to ministry and given gifts to edify the church. God’s Word gives us guidelines for clarity and health. It is always our responsibility as church leaders to look first to Scripture, allowing it to steer our decisions and correct our biases. With a Christ-centered focus, we can affirm and honor our sisters in Christ and their calling to vocational ministry.

Differing viewpoints exist within a complementarian framework, and each church and its leaders will guide specifics appropriate to their setting. Defining that framework is far beyond the scope of this article. Instead, my hope is to encourage those in any framework to embrace biblical role distinctions and honor the women who lead in those roles while elevating Jesus alone.

How can we do this?  There are a few intentional ways to establish a nurturing church culture affirming women called to vocational ministry:

1. Develop

We can move toward excellence in developing women in vocational ministry by creating a culture valuing growth and increased opportunity. Creating this kind of environment requires time and intentionality. In our church’s context, we have protective guidelines necessary for the integrity of our staff. At the same time, lead pastors have a responsibility to ensure the development of both men and women on their teams. Here are a few practical suggestions:

  • Create a monthly rhythm to invest in the women on your team in an appropriate manner.
  • Include your wife in meetings and development.
  • Use tools such as regular ministry supervision conversations and long-term vocational-goal conversations.
  • Connect women on your team with a mentor who is further down a similar ministry path.
  • Encourage conferences and cohorts for continued learning and relationship building.

2. Celebrate

Each person has leadership gifts and abilities. Intentionally celebrate women on your team for leadership accomplishments and in using their gifts for kingdom impact. In this, we nurture both the individual and demonstrate the value of women in vocational ministry for our churches. A few other ideas include:

  • Using Sunday morning as an opportunity to honor and celebrate women on your team.
  • Celebrating major accomplishments when ministry staff and church leadership are gathered.
  • Writing cards of encouragement after ministry wins.
  • Providing a bonus or gift of gratitude after leading through a challenging season.

3. Ask

While the lead pastor is ultimately responsible, it is wise and helpful to gather perspectives from various individuals when making major decisions—including decisions that involve directional changes. It is easy to fail to intentionally make room for women on ministry teams to speak into decisions. This requires slowing down enough to create room at the table. Their perspectives can greatly benefit and protect the team in helping make wise decisions.

4. Support

One of our staff values is: “We love our families more than ministry, and they know it.” Women in vocational ministry who are moms need added flexibility as they embrace their primary role in their family. Recognizing and honoring this need in our church culture reinforces the family as the primary place of ministry. Thankfully, in our post-COVID, remote-work world, this option of flexibility can often be more easily applied.

The church has an important privilege to create an environment that honors and celebrates women, especially those called to vocational ministry. While the specifics for each church will be different, the need to affirm the leadership and service our sisters bring to the body is worth the time and energy. Let us be leaders who build a healthy culture in our churches.

I am grateful for the women I serve alongside for the sake of the gospel. I am grateful for the leadership abilities of my wife and the investment she makes daily in the ministries of our church. I am also grateful for my daughters’ investment in ministry and the women who continue to invest in them. By God’s grace, they will carry that forward and entrust to others what they have received.

Let me encourage you to pause a moment and think through how you can practically affirm women called to vocational ministry in your context. Let’s choose to correct any unbiblical pendulum reaction in our hearts and lay a healthy foundation for the next generation of men and women looking to serve the bride of Christ.

Lone Star Scoop • March 2023

M3 WKND includes decisions for Christ, prayer for friends

EULESS This year’s M3 WKND, held Jan. 13-14 at Cross City Church in Euless, provided many great visuals to remind students and their leaders that they are not alone—maybe none more poignant than a moment during the conference when 350 students got on their hands and knees to pray for lost friends and family members. 

By the end of the event, 13 who attended made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ; another 22 answered a call to ministry.

“[Gen Z teenagers and the upcoming Gen Alpha teenagers] aren’t drawn to big events based on a personality anymore,” said Brandon Bales, student ministry associate for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. “Instead, they are drawn to the hope of deeper and wider relationships. At M3 WKND, we want to connect students to each other and remind them they aren’t alone in sharing the gospel deep and wide in this world.”

Bales said M3 WKND is a microcosm of M3 Camps, which are held in multiple locations in Texas and New Mexico during the summer.  

—Texan Staff

God’s Not Done With You scheduled for April 1 release

EULESS  God’s Not Done With You, a book authored by Cross City Church Senior Pastor John Meador, will be released April 1 through The Good Book Company.

The book will offer “nine amazing stories of faith that give us hope for our own challenging setbacks,” including biblical accounts of the lives of Joseph, Esther, and David. Through their stories, Meador writes about the “extraordinary changes of heart” experienced by those historical figures and “how God works in all things for the good of those who love Him,” according to a preview listed on Amazon, where the book is available for pre-order. 

Meador has served as a lead pastor for four decades and has served as senior pastor at Cross City Church in Euless since 2006. His own story is one that is borne out of adversity, as he suffered a severe illness as a child that left him with irreversible hearing loss. 

—Texan Staff

SBTC DR teams deploy to Central Texas after ice storm

AUSTIN  The winter storm that pummeled a wide swath of the Lone Star State during the final days of January and the beginning of February prompted Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief to quickly deploy recovery teams to affected regions.

In the Austin area, First Baptist Church of Pflugerville suffered minor damage from falling tree limbs weighed down by ice. Church members began clearing debris by Feb. 2, said SBTC DR task force member Mike Northen, a retired FBC Pflugerville pastor. 

“As things have thawed out, the situation is getting bigger,” said Scottie Stice, SBTC DR director, noting that reports of damage had come from Dripping Springs, Austin, Georgetown, and Pflugerville. “We are starting to hear reports of needs in Tyler and Athens [in East Texas] too,” he said. “The ice has done considerable damage to power lines and trees.”

Chaplains and assessors will deploy to affected areas once teams receive addresses of homes with damage. Other ministry areas will respond as the deployment expands, Stice said.

—Jane Rodgers

Mcmeans honored for 30 years of service

Jim Richards (left), Southern Baptists of Texas Convention executive director emeritus, presents a plaque honoring Ken McMeans for his 30 years of service to College Baptist Church in Big Spring. Richards made the presentation to McMeans on Jan. 29. 


Tayne honored for 35 years of service to MacArthur Blvd.

IRVING Karen Tayne, who serves as family minister for preschoolers at MacArthur Blvd. Baptist Church, was honored in early February by the church for 35 years of faithful service to its members. 

Tayne has served in a variety of roles during her three-plus decades at the church. Those roles have included service as MacArthur’s children’s director, Mother’s Day Out director, and as generational ministry director. In her current role, her ministry focus spans from expectant parents to families with preschoolers.

Tayne has been a frequent speaker at Southern Baptists of Texas Convention events, including its annual Equip Conference, as well as being asked to make presentations at Southern Baptist Convention events that include breakout topics ranging from preschoolers to parenting. 

She and her husband, Rob, have three adult children and three grandchildren.

—Texan Staff

Messenger pre-registration for SBC Annual Meeting opens

NEW ORLEANS  Those wanting to pre-register as messengers and/or register for childcare at the upcoming SBC Annual Meeting can now do so at

Both became available on Feb. 1 in anticipation of the gathering slated for June 11-14 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. The theme is Serving the Lord, Serving Others. The annual meeting returns to New Orleans for the first time since 2012. At that gathering, Fred Luter, Jr. was elected to become the first African American president in SBC history.

As he walked through an airport, current SBC President Bart Barber—pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville—took the opportunity to urge Southern Baptists to pre-register in a video he posted to Twitter.

“Get to your computer and sign up for those childcare spaces and get your church-approved messenger credentials all lined up so we can gather in New Orleans and celebrate what God is doing in the Southern Baptist Convention,” he said.

—Baptist Press

Whitten joins NAMB, will direct leadership ministry

MIAMI  Ken Whitten, recently retired pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa, Fla., will become national director of pastoral leadership at the North American Mission Board (NAMB) beginning in March. NAMB President Kevin Ezell shared the news at NAMB’s Board of Trustees meeting in Miami on Feb. 7.

Whitten aspires to be a connector, a counselor, and a comforter for ministry leaders no matter what stage or season of ministry they find themselves in, with the goal of boosting both them and their churches toward a place of health and vitality. One way he aims to connect pastors will be through prayer, to connect them to other pastors, and introduce them to resources and ideas. 

“Ken Whitten is a lifelong friend and brother,” said Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano. “His loving devotion to Christ, impeccable character, commitment to evangelism and church health and growth, strong pastoral gifts, and relational skills will be a huge blessing to pastors and church leaders.”


Bivocational pastor finding balance between wholehearted service, empowering congregation

Equipping the saints

Talk of a men’s Bible study had been happening for months at Trinity Baptist Church, but nothing ever seemed to materialize. 

Joshua Wilken, the church’s bivocational pastor, had his hands full and knew it wouldn’t be wise to take on another responsibility. He was already teaching the adult Sunday school class, preaching the Sunday morning worship service, co-leading a couple’s Bible study with his wife, Emily, one Sunday per month, and taking his deacons through a curriculum to help them grow in their service to the church.

All of that in addition to balancing his full-time job as a business development manager who travels on a regular basis with being a husband and father of two children involved in sports.

Whew. Needless to say …

“Being bivocational, you’ve got to be pretty strategic and intentional about what you do because your time is extremely limited,” Wilken said. “You’ve got to guard your time because, if you don’t, you’ll lose all the time you have for your family.”

While any type of ministry service can be taxing, pastoring bivocationally can have its own unique stressors. Yet it also comes with benefits that can bless a pastor’s heart—such as the moment when one of Trinity’s deacons and another man in the church told Wilken they wanted to personally launch that men’s Bible study. 

“That’s been one of the biggest blessings we’ve seen at Trinity—others stepping up and growing and taking charge in areas of ministry that maybe a [full-time] pastor would normally do,” Wilken said. “It’s just cool.”

Joshua Wilken (second from left), bivocational pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Royse City, balances life in service to the church, his family and a full-time job. Photos submitted.

“Being bivocational, you’ve got to be pretty strategic and intentional about what you do because your time is extremely limited.”

‘I didn’t think I was ever going to pastor again’

It was a winding road that led Wilken and his family to Trinity. The Illinois native who said he couldn’t speak for longer than a minute in high school speech class began to sense a call to ministry during his teenage years. He preached his first sermon at age 16 but admitted he spent several years “running from the Lord” as he pursued his childhood dream of becoming a law enforcement officer. 

Wilken moved to Texas in 2005 and began pursuing that dream in 2006, shortly after marrying Emily—whom he had met when her church came to Illinois for a mission trip several years earlier. By 2007, he realized serving as a peace officer wasn’t going to satisfy the call God had put on his heart. Less than a month after leaving law enforcement, he enrolled at Criswell College and began pastoring in East Texas. 

Many joys and full-time service to several churches followed, but a difficult ministry season ultimately led Wilken to move his family to Royse City and then step away from the pastorate altogether. “At that point in my life,” Wilken said,
“I didn’t think I was ever going to pastor again.”

With vocational ministry in his rearview, Wilken began working in operations for a faith-based company. About five years in, he shifted to the company’s business development department, focusing on existing client relationships.

Just across the tree line from the Wilkens’ home sat Trinity Baptist Church. “It’s basically out my back door,” Wilken said. “I had seen it for several years and thought, ‘Man, that church has so much potential,’ not ever dreaming or knowing that God would put us there.”

As the story goes, Wilken was asked to fill the pulpit one Sunday during the summer of 2018, when Trinity’s pastor couldn’t be there. Wilken was asked to fill the pulpit once more that fall. By the end of the year, the church’s pastor left and Wilken agreed to help deliver the weekly sermon until Trinity could call its next pastor. 

That next pastor’s name, he was sure, was not going to be Joshua Wilken. 

“I was in a position to be able to help churches [without serving on staff], and that’s what I wanted to do,” he said.

Wilken served as the church’s interim pastor from January to June of 2019—and despite his initial insistence that he had no intent on serving the church in an official capacity—something began to change within him.

He began to fall in love.

“It was the people,” he said. “They had a hunger for the Lord, a hunger for the Word of God, and they genuinely wanted to reach people for Christ. In a small church like that … you don’t always see that. Everybody was united and everybody was in agreement, and just the love that they had—that’s why we’re here.”

During the interim period, Wilken informed church leadership that he and his family were beginning to have a change of heart. Even so, he said he asked that the church continue with its pastor search process. Only this time, he was willing to add his resume to the stack. In June 2019, Trinity dropped the interim title and called Wilken to be its next pastor.

Trinity Baptist Church in Royse City is connecting with families throughout their community and are well-positioned for future growth as professionals look for ways to escape the fast-lane lifestyle of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

“Being bivocational, you’ve got to be pretty strategic and intentional about what you do because your time is extremely limited.”

A culture of growth

Trinity is well-positioned for growth. As professionals look for ways to escape the fast-lane lifestyle of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, an increasing number are calling points east along Interstate 30 home. Royse City—neighbor to another swelling I-30 community, Rockwall—has doubled in population twice in recent years and is expected to grow more than 30% before 2024, according to its community development corporation. It has more than 15,000 homes in development.

The church, likewise, is experiencing promising growth. Wilken said there were a couple dozen people attending Trinity when he answered the call to pastor there. Now, the church’s lone adult Sunday school class itself attracts about 30 people weekly.

It’s settings like that where Wilken said he thrives, spending time with and ministering to people. Even so, he said one of the biggest challenges of serving bivocationally is the limited amount of time he has to do those types of things. Because of that, he said he leans on his deacons (chairman Mario Retta, Dave Frierson, and Russ Mills) to help carry out the work of ministry, as well as relying on his ministry assistant, Lisa Retta. 

“God is raising up people from within the church,” Wilken said. “I think that’s partly because I’m bivocational, and party because we’re specifically and strategically praying for that.”

Alex Gonzales, an associate with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention who focuses on bivocational ministry, said bivocational pastors make up the majority of pastors serving in Texas. When a congregation takes ownership in the ministry of the church, he said, it has far-reaching effects.

“The demand on these pastors and their families is difficult to put into words,” Gonzales said. “When members step up to fulfill ministry tasks … not only is this biblical, but also beneficial for everyone involved.”

bivo pastors 

Bivocational pastors make up the majority of pastors across Texas and the demand on them and their families is difficult. The SBTC works to network with bivocational pastors across the state.

In a crisis, God hears us when we call out to Him

Editor’s note: This article was written prior to the most recent ice storm that impacted large portions of Texas at the end of January and beginning of February.

Texas winters are no joke, and our church found out just how challenging and demanding a Central Texas ice storm can be on Feb. 17, 2021. On that day, I entered our church on day three of a freeze that left our campus with no power to make sure our children’s education building did not have any water issues. 

As I opened the church door, I stepped into ankle-deep water. The frigid waters shocked my system into action. I began calling the staff and building a team. I sloshed through the offices into the main foyer and found what seemed like Niagara Falls. I could see water running into our sanctuary and, on the other side of the foyer, running into our adult wing, as well. 

We soon identified two more water lines that had burst. All total, we found five burst pipes, including those in our Family Life Center. Our children’s building—that I had initially ventured out in the ice and snow to check on—was not harmed at all.

When we finally got the water turned off, those in the building took a collective breath. I was stunned at the damage—and this on the heels of recently reopening our campus following the COVID shutdown. As I observed the men who responded to my call for help, I was encouraged by their general mood. There was no hand-wringing or despair in their voices. Instead, there was a calm in the midst of this storm that was still delivering its icy blast outside.

The following Sunday, we met in our Family Life Center—which, in and of itself, was a monumental project of moving sound equipment from the worship center, creating staging, and moving from recorded events to live-streaming. Once again, I was taken aback by the people surrounding me. I never heard a critical or derogatory word from anyone. It certainly was not business as usual, but it wasn’t an insurmountable obstacle, either. There was hope—hope declared through our congregation.

There was such camaraderie that I can only describe the response as the “Miracle for LBC.” Doom and gloom were absent, and in its place was laughter and stories filling the damaged halls, classrooms, and worship center. We had a common foe, and the Lord supplied the warriors"

Once we contacted our insurance company, we placed fans in all the rooms and hallways affected by the flood. We chose a team from our congregation to administer the clean-up and work with contractors and the insurance company. Once the water had subsided and the building was declared safe, we announced a work night to remove the drywall from the affected areas and to remove all the carpet and padding. We prayed we would have enough help. One of our staff members recalled that while he was driving to the church, he was praying that no one would be injured and that our church family would show up to help. He remembers tearing up as he turned into the property and saw 20-30 vehicles filled with equipment.

Inside the campus, the mood was electrifying. Among the mix of our members were non-members who had come from the community to help. Lake Belton High School brought sponsors and teens from its National Honor Society, cheerleaders, and members of the football team. I didn’t even know how they knew, but they responded to the call. Members we had not seen in over a year due to COVID were busy tearing out drywall, taking off faceplates, and moving pews. There was such camaraderie that I can only describe the response as the “Miracle for LBC.” Doom and gloom were absent, and in its place was laughter and stories filling the damaged halls, classrooms, and worship center. We had a common foe, and the Lord supplied the warriors.

Through all the adversity we had faced over the past several years, we did not close our doors or diminish in size. All our financial needs were met. We could have folded our tent. We could have focused on how horrible the situation was. However, out of this disaster, the Lord brought many new families. In the place of what could have been a dying church, God turned graves into gardens.

The Lord accomplished great things and saw His name glorified at Lakeview Baptist Church in the early months of 2021, and we are still feeling the effects today.

God is working in the ‘everyday moments,’ Trenton pastor says

Subtle, small, and powerful

Sometimes God moves in local churches through large numbers of baptisms or highly attended events, but He often works in steady, common ways that don’t immediately draw attention, said pastor Jason Points.

“I’m incredibly excited about what the Lord is doing here, and at this point what the Spirit is doing is predominantly unseen, but the Spirit is at work in very substantive ways,” said Points, who pastors First Baptist Church in Trenton, northeast of Dallas. 

Points has been guiding the congregation to look for the Spirit at work in the small moments, he said, such as changing hearts and moving people closer to His will one step at a time. The church, which began in 1877, has had years of faithfulness—though seldom has something happened that would garner attention. 

“The Spirit is doing incredible things in these little everyday moments, and part of what we’re trying to do now is help people see what the Spirit is doing so that they’re energized and refreshed by the work of God in their midst,” said Points, a two-time Criswell College graduate.

Trenton has been a farming community, and for many of its early years, preachers would come through and stay only a year or two, Points said. One of those who stayed a short time was James Truett, brother of former FBC Dallas pastor and SBC president George Truett, who lived in nearby Whitewright. 

Only two pastors have served 10 years or more in the church’s history, and just a handful have served more than six years, Points said. In fact, he is the 40th pastor of First Baptist Trenton, having arrived in late 2021 after serving on staff at First Baptist Church in Farmersville. 

Jason Points and his wife, Paige, are committed to a longterm ministry at First Baptist Church in Trenton, the pastor said, because local church ministry is valuable.

“In terms of faithfully serving in a small church, [local church ministry is] so important because God has given His people various gifts, and the use of those gifts is vital.”

Despite a high turnover rate, First Baptist Trenton has loved its pastors well, something Points recalls noticing when he preached there one Sunday evening in 2013. 

“They are a congregation that is sweet,” he said. “I think they’re a congregation that bears with one another. While there can be conflict, it’s not like we’re having church splits every time there’s a conflict. Over the last 12 years, they’ve been a church where expository preaching is welcomed.” 

About 20 years ago, when the Trenton economy was better, the church had about 200 in attendance, Points said. Now they have 82 active members, and the average attendance is 60 on Sundays.

Points is a full-time pastor, and he said his wife’s full-time job with the city of Frisco makes that possible. Although the church’s finances are tight, First Baptist Trenton needs a full-time pastor to lead them where they want to go.

Last fall, the church started its first growth group—basically a community group that meets on Tuesday nights in someone’s home. About 15 people have been attending.

“We have a meal together. We go deeper into sermon application,” Points said. “We use the sermon to jump into what’s going on in our lives and how God’s Word applies in these given circumstances. The point is to grow deeper relationally and spiritually.”

A weekly women’s Bible study is among the ways members of First Baptist Church in Trenton are growing in Christ.

The future is hopeful, Points said, because the church is located on a corridor between two roads leading to industrial areas. “When people want to move out of the city, this is one of the directions they’re moving.”

Even when flashy things aren’t happening and success seems elusive, Points values ministry in a local church because it’s “where God has covenanted His people together.” 

“In terms of faithfully serving in a small church, it’s so important because God has given His people various gifts, and the use of those gifts is vital,” the pastor said. “As a result of people using their gifts in the local church, the church can be refreshed and revitalized.” 

Part of getting people to see God at work in the everyday moments is tuning them in to the ways He can use the gifts He has given them, Points said. 

Though First Baptist Trenton is seeking to reach people now, they’re simultaneously spending time on in-house matters as well, Points said, “so that we can be in a healthier place to invite people into something where they can be known and belong and be fed and equipped to serve.”

La sesión en español de Empower propone alcanzar a la próxima generación

ARLINGTON—Con un enfoque en equipar a las iglesias para alcanzar a las futuras generaciones, la sesión en español de Empower 2023—llamada Apoderados—marcó un récord de asistencia este año. Aproximadamente 360 pastores y líderes de iglesias asistieron al evento de dos días celebrado en Lamar Baptist Church.

Lucas Leys, fundador de e625—una organización que entrena a pastores y líderes de niños, adolescentes y jóvenes en todo Hispano América—fue el orador principal. Con un gran sentido del humor y carisma, Leys habló de la importancia de renovar una visión impulsada por la misión para alcanzar a las generaciones más jóvenes para Cristo. “Las iglesias están sufriendo porque, a medida que envejecen, no han elaborado un plan para la próxima generación,” afirmó.

Leys dijo que las iglesias tendrán dificultades para crecer—y en algunos casos, sobrevivir- si los pastores no desarrollan estrategias para alcanzar a las futuras generaciones. Uno de los escollos puede producirse cuando las iglesias miden el éxito sólo por el número de asistentes, dijo, señalando que es necesario un examen más profundo para construir congregaciones sanas.

“¿Están mejorando las familias? ¿Los matrimonios están siendo restaurados?” pregutó Leys. “¿Cuánta gente está siendo transformada? Eso es lo que mide el éxito.”

Leys dijo que el discipulado debe ser central en la estrategia de crecimiento de cualquier iglesia. “Si la iglesia y los padres no están discipulando a la próxima generación, eso no significa que no estén siendo discipulados,” dijo. “Significa que están siendo discipulados por el mundo.”

Apoderados contó con una variedad de talleres dirigidos por líderes y pastores hispanos, con temas que van desde la evangelización hasta proyectar una visión. Entre esos líderes estuvo Luis González, pastor de Lamar Baptist Church en Español, quien animó a los asistentes a entender que la evangelización es una tarea diaria que involucra a todos en la iglesia. La evangelización, dijo, no debe sentirse como una carga pesada: “Podemos descansar y disfrutar el evangelismo cuando entendemos que le toca al Señor cambiar los corazones,” dijo González.

Ramón Vélez, pastor de Una Nueva Familia, habló sobre la evangelización intergeneracional y desafió a sus oyentes a ser creativos y “romper moldes” a la hora de evangelizar. Vélez dijo que los que comparten el evangelio deben considerar la edad y el contexto de la audiencia a la que se evangeliza.

“El diablo es un experto en vender el pecado,” dijo Vélez. “Nosotros debemos ser mejores en compartir el evangelio.”

Daniel Sánchez, distinguido profesor emérito de misiones en el Seminario Teológico Bautista  Southwestern (SWBTS), compartió estrategias para evangelizar a los católicos. Armando Hernández, director de admisiones en el SWBTS y líder de los estudiantes universitarios en Tate Springs Baptist Church en Arlington, compartió sobre cómo identificar y confrontar el secularismo en nuestra cultura y porqué esto nos debe importar como iglesia.

La conferencia también contó con un panel de discusión dirigido por Bruno Molina, asociado de idiomas y evangelismo interreligioso de la Convención de los Bautistas del Sur de Texas. El panel discutió los desafíos que enfrentan las iglesias hispanas en los que buscan alcanzar y ministrar a los hijos hispanos de segunda y tercera generación.

“Las iglesias [en Estados Unidos] comienzan siendo de una sola etnia, se vuelven biculturales y luego multiculturales,” dijo Molina. Con esto en mente, los panelistas respondieron a preguntas como: “¿Por qué la mayoría de los estudiantes dejan de caminar con Dios y abandonan la iglesia después de la escuela secundaria?” y “¿Cómo pueden los pastores hispanos de primera generación animar a sus iglesias a ministrar mejor a los jóvenes bilingües?”

Hernández, quien dijo representar a esa segunda y tercera generación, instó a las iglesias hispanas a encontrar personas en sus congregaciones que puedan tender un puente entre las generaciones mayores y las más jóvenes. Esas personas pueden ayudar a las iglesias a orientar a las generaciones más jóvenes para que busquen iglesias sanas en dónde puedan identificarse culturalmente.

Lisie Colón, coordinadora de eventos y comunicaciones de los recursos de la iglesia en Lifeway, dijo que es necesario dar a las generaciones más jóvenes la oportunidad de sentirse aceptadas encontrando un lugar en donde puedan identificarse mejor. González recalcó la importancia de no dar por sentado que los niños y jóvenes en la iglesia son cristianos y de modelar para ellos una vida cristiana práctica dentro y fuera de la iglesia. Cristina Ochoa, esposa del pastor Over Ochoa, de la iglesia Vida Victoriosa, añadió que la iglesia tiene la responsabilidad de garantizar que los niños sepan cómo tener una relación personal con Dios desde una edad temprana.

“Debemos planificar e invertir en estas vidas para alcanzarlas, sin importar el costo,” dijo Vélez, “porque el precio que pagó el Hijo de Dios fue muy alto.”