Month: April 2023

Executive board members receive encouraging church planting report on Send Network SBTC

ALLEN—In addressing a regular item of business regarding church planting, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Executive Board heard news worth celebrating during its April 25 meeting.

First, the business: the board unanimously approved setting aside $500,000 to strengthen the convention’s church planting efforts through the rest of the decade. Send Network SBTC—a church planting collaboration struck in 2021 between the SBTC and the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) Send Network—anticipates planting approximately 50 churches per year through at least 2030. The reserve funding would be used to supplement support already provided through the SBTC and NAMB.

In hearing the recommendation to reserve funding, the board received an update on the effectiveness of Send Network SBTC, which is funding 70 planters:

  • By the end of 2022, 50% more planters had been assessed than during the previous year, with a total of 35 churches planted.
  • Understanding the need to plant more Hispanic churches to minister to an ever-growing Hispanic population in Texas, Send Network SBTC has created a Spanish Assessment Center—one of only two of its kind in the country.
  • Since Send Network SBTC began, 37 couples have been assessed (including 21 English and 15 Spanish) and 14 church planting residencies have been funded. Residencies provide future planters with 12-18 months of direct ministry experience working with an SBTC multiplying church.

“Things are looking incredible,” SBTC Executive Director Nathan Lorick said to the board. “There are challenges in the future, but they’re good challenges. If I’m going to have a problem with church planting, I’d rather it be how we can create more funds to plant more churches. I’m very encouraged by that. … Pray with us and ask the Lord to send us more planters. I believe God will help us fund as many planters as He will send to us.”

Lightner approved as next associate executive director

Joe Lightner—a pastor, church planter, and former college president—was unanimously approved by the executive board to serve as the SBTC’s next associate executive director. He steps into the role vacated by Tony Wolfe, who left the SBTC earlier this year to become executive director of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.

Lightner most recently served as interim senior strategist for the SBTC’s Digital Ministries and Communications (DMC) department, a role he has held since November 2022. As associate executive director, his duties will include strategy development and implementation for the convention. He will also continue to assist DMC until its next senior strategist is hired.

“Dr. Nathan Lorick, our executive director, has built an incredible team, culture, and vision that I am excited to join,” Lightner said.

No stranger to the SBTC, Lightner has preached at convention events including its Bible conference, annual meeting, and chapel services. He has also served on the SBTC Nominating Committee.


Churchgoers are still tithing, more comfortable doing so outside of church

BRENTWOOD, Tenn.—Most churchgoers say tithing is a biblical command and give at least 10% of their income. But they have more diverse opinions on the “where” and “how” of tithing.

More than 3 in 4 American Protestant churchgoers say tithing is a biblical command that still applies today (77%), according to a Lifeway Research study. One in 10 (10%) say it is not. And 13% are uncertain about the matter. Compared to 2017, fewer churchgoers today believe tithing is a biblical command that still applies (77% vs. 83%) and more are not sure (13% vs. 10%).

“Giving 10% of your earnings to God is still a widespread standard among churchgoers,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “The small decline in considering tithing a command appears to be more from a lack of teaching on the subject than a rejection of such teaching.”

The youngest adult churchgoers, those 18-34, are the least likely to agree tithing is a biblical command that still applies today (66%). Denominationally, Lutherans are the least likely to agree (59%).

Those with evangelical beliefs are more likely than those without evangelical beliefs to say tithing is biblical and currently applicable (85% vs. 71%). And those who attend a worship service at least four times a month are more likely than those who attend one to three times a month (80% vs. 72%) to agree.

How much do churchgoers give?

By definition, a tithe is one-tenth. And while more than 3 in 4 churchgoers believe giving a tithe is biblical, only half (51%) give 10% or more of their income to the church they attend. Three in 10 (31%) say they give a tithe, and 19% give more. More than 1 in 5 (22%) say they try to give but aren’t always consistent. And 16% say they regularly give less than a tithe. Another 9% say their finances make it difficult to give, and 2% say they do not give.

Although fewer give 10% of their income to the church today compared to 2017 (31% vs. 37%), the percentage of churchgoers who give 10% or more has remained relatively steady (51% vs. 54%). Today, fewer churchgoers regularly give less than a tithe (16% vs. 20%). And more try to give but are not consistent (22% vs. 17%).

“Believing God wants you to tithe and doing it are two different things,” McConnell said. “Some who do not tithe are consistent with their giving at a lower threshold, and others give when they feel they are able. Like many exhortations in Scripture, giving your finances to God is not necessarily easy in practice.”

Several church-related factors impact a person’s likelihood of giving to the church they attend. Baptist (40%), Presbyterian/Reformed (34%) and non-denominational (34%) churchgoers are more likely to tithe 10% of their income than Lutheran (19%), Restorationist Movement (17%) and Methodist (12%) churchgoers. Additionally, those who attend worship services at least four times a month (34%) are more likely to tithe than those who attend one to three times a month (26%). And those with evangelical beliefs are more likely than those without evangelical beliefs to tithe (39% vs. 25%).

Where can you tithe?

Most churchgoers who say tithing is an applicable biblical command say tithe money can be given to their church (90%). Most also say tithes can be given to a Christian ministry (55%). Fewer say tithes can be given to an individual in need (42%) or to another church they don’t regularly attend (34%). One in 4 believe tithes can be given to a secular charity (25%). And 1% are not sure.

Today, fewer churchgoers than in 2017 say tithe money can be given to their church (90% vs. 98%). And more said tithes can be given to Christian ministries (55% vs. 48%), an individual in need (42% vs. 34%) or a secular charity (25% vs. 18%).

Denominationally, Lutheran (98%), Presbyterian/Reformed (96%), Baptist (93%) and non-denominational (92%) churchgoers are among the most likely to say tithe money can be given to their churches. Lutheran and Presbyterian/Reformed churchgoers are also among the most likely to say tithes can be given to another church they don’t regularly attend (58% and 53%, respectively) or a Christian ministry (72% and 68%). Lutherans are also among the most likely to say tithes can be given to a secular charity (45%), and Presbyterian/Reformed churchgoers are among the most likely to say they can be given to an individual in need (51%).

Conversely, Baptists are among the least likely to say tithes can be given to a Christian ministry (51%), individuals in need (37%), another church they don’t regularly attend (34%) or a secular charity (19%).

Those with evangelical beliefs are more likely than those without evangelical beliefs to say tithe money can be given to their churches (95% vs. 85%), while those without evangelical beliefs are more likely than those with such beliefs to say tithes can be given to a secular charity (29% vs. 20%).

Does method matter?

Although the past five years have seen a noticeable increase in online giving, most churchgoers still give cash at church (53%). Fewer give a check at church (30%) or mail one to the church (9%). Others give electronically on the church website (23%), through their bank (14%), through an app the church provided (7%) or via text (2%). And 8% of churchgoers have automated payments set up for their tithes.

Nearly half as many churchgoers today compared to 2017 give a check at church (30% v. 59%). But more churchgoers mail checks to the church today (9% v. 3%). And more are giving electronically through all formats—church website (23% v. 11%), banks (14% v. 5%), automated payments (8% v. 3%) or church app (7% v. 3%).

Those 18-34 are among the most likely to give cash at church (75%), on the church website (28%), through an app the church provided (10%) or via text (7%). Churchgoers 65 or older are the most likely to give a check (47%).

“While electronic giving has grown significantly in the last five years, 6 in 10 (62%) churchgoers who give do not yet utilize electronic giving methods to give to their church,” McConnell said. “Churches would likely be better served by emphasizing the motivation to give than the mode.”


Stone to be nominated in New Orleans for SBC president

BLACKSHEAR, Ga. (BP)—Mike Stone, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, announced in a video posted on Wednesday, April 26, that he has “prayerfully agreed to accept a nomination for the presidency of the SBC.”

Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention will gather in New Orleans June 11-14. The only other announced candidate is current president Bart Barber, who will be nominated by Steven James, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Lake Charles, La.

Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas, was first elected to the presidency last year at the annual meeting held in Anaheim, Calif.

In the video released by Alabama pastor Mac Brunson on Twitter, Stone pointed to two issues in the SBC he will address more in the coming weeks: sexual abuse and evangelism.

“In this critical hour, we need leaders who will guide us to care well for victims while at the same time embracing scriptural principals of due process in the handling and publishing of accusations [of sexual abuse],” he said.

In the video, Stone alluded to the fact that an investigation completed by Guidepost Solutions into the SBC Executive Committee’s handling of sexual abuse and resulting litigation caused SBC EC auditors to deem the EC to be on an “unsustainable financial trajectory.” Stone added: “[P]eople are infinitely more valuable than financial resources, but we can address this issue wisely in a way that doesn’t lead us to financial ruin.”

Stone also said Southern Baptist leaders should “honor biblical ecclesiology,” and when outside help is necessary to address sexual abuse, they should “only use those [organizations] driven by fact and informed by the truth.”

In Guidepost’s May 2022 report following its yearlong investigation, Stone was accused by former Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore of having “stonewalled” attempts at reform regarding sexual abuse.

Moore’s criticism of Stone was also part of a letter leaked just prior to the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting. Stone, who also ran for SBC president in 2021, called Moore’s allegations “ungodly” and “slanderous.” Stone filed suit against Moore in October 2021, saying Moore’s actions were an attempt to “discredit his campaign for the presidency of the SBC.” He withdrew the suit two months later.

He went on to add that the issues of addressing sexual abuse and evangelism “are not in conflict with one another. We can deal rightly with the abuse issue while staying on mission for Christ.”

Unity in the SBC can be found in a common passion for evangelism, he said. As such, his second focus as president would be a nationwide evangelism emphasis called Crossover America.

If Stone is nominated in New Orleans, it will be the first time since 2011 that a sitting SBC president has been challenged. That year, California pastor Wiley Drake nominated himself against president Bryant Wright.

Stone was one of four candidates seeking the SBC presidency in 2021, finishing second to Alabama pastor Ed Litton. Stone also served two terms on the SBC Executive Committee, including two years as chair.

According to Annual Church Profile information, Emmanuel Baptist Church reported 24 baptisms in 2022, averaged 975 in weekly worship and collected $2,433,397 in total undesignated receipts.

BP confirmed with David Melber, chief financial officer of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, that Emmanuel did not give through the Cooperative Program in 2022 but did give $36,000 directly to the International Mission Board.

The 5: Journaling as a spiritual discipline to strengthen your walk with the Lord

You may not think of journaling as a discipline, but I’m convinced we need to be regularly writing about what God is doing in our lives. There are some simple ways anyone can get started with this discipline—including ways that may not feel like journaling at first:


Each day, write a brief summary of what the Lord shows you during your quiet time.  

The entry doesn’t need to be long. In fact, it can be one or two sentences. Here are two examples from my own quiet time recently:

• I’m reminded today in Exodus 32 about the silliness of following idols that are lifeless. I confess my idols to the Lord today.

• 1 Thessalonians 5:17 challenges me to be more thankful today, no matter what I face.


Each day, write the most important prayer request you have. 

We can tell a lot about the state of our heart by our prayers, and it’s good for us to put those prayers in writing. Not only does writing the prayer request help us to stay focused as we pray, but it also has a way of lessening the burden of that prayer. Be sure to record when God answers your prayer—and thank Him! 


Send a weekly email or text about what the Lord is doing in your life. 

All of us can journal about God’s goodness to us, even if what we say is simply, “I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous abandoned or His children begging for bread” (Psalm 37:25). Send that email to a family member, a friend, a co-worker, a neighbor—or even a non-believer you think would be receptive to it. Be a witness through your journaling.  


Write a letter, note, or email to your children or grandchildren—even those who are adults—explaining how you became a believer. 

I’m amazed how many family members have never heard the testimonies of their believing parents and grandparents. They don’t know how we became believers, where we were baptized, or what joy that conversion brought. Writing that letter, note, or email now will allow you to journal about God’s goodness, and it will leave your family members with a written memory. 


Journal in the margins of your Bible as you read. 

This year, I’m doing just that, and my plan is to give that marked-up, journaled Bible as a Christmas gift later in the year. The margins of that Bible include exclamations (“God, You’re so good!), questions (“Why am I prone to wandering, Lord?”), and insights (“The disciples were so fickle, yet the Lord used them anyway—just the way He uses me even though I don’t always trust Him”).

You may choose other topics to journal about, but whatever you do, start somewhere. Journaling is an incredible tool that God can use to help you remember His goodness and testify to others how He can be at work in their lives, as well. 

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

Creative, fun & gospel-focused

East Texas church’s children’s ministry is not only impacting kids, but entire families

Andrea Anders remembers the moment well.

On Easter in 2022, she and her husband, Isaac—volunteers in the kids ministry at New Beginnings Baptist Church—sat in on the lesson being presented to one of the age groups. As they listened, they began to quietly weep together. 

“Both of us were just sobbing,” she recalled, “because they were teaching those children the gospel. It was being taught in a way the kids could understand, but it was not watered down. It was the gospel.”

The moment was particularly meaningful for Andrea. The Peruvian native, who met her husband on a mission trip and eventually moved to Texas, made the decision to trust Christ many years ago. But in the years that followed, she said she was not exposed to solid biblical teaching and, as a result, struggled to grow in her faith. The mother of three boys remembers telling her husband, “I don’t want my boys to be 30 years old like I am right now and saying they don’t really know God.” 

Those concerns have been greatly alleviated due in large part to how the Lord is working through the kids ministry at New Beginnings. The ministry, which welcomes more than 400 children (babies through fifth grade) each week on its Longview campus, takes a creative approach to teaching but keeps the gospel at the center of all that it does. 

Nikki Young, New Beginnings’ minister of kids, said their approach includes creating themes, similar to what pastors do as they preach through a sermon series, to teach biblical truths. These themes often last four to six weeks, are rooted in historical events or people in the Bible, and include the construction of creative sets and decorations that help set the tone. Those decorations are even interactive at times. New Beginnings also has a campus in nearby Gilmer, and their kids ministry staff is able to create fitting designs for their smaller-sized campus, as well.

“We can do all this, but if we’re not teaching the gospel through it, we’re missing [the point]. As our kids ministry team plans out and then executes things, the gospel is still at the forefront.”

For example, one of the themes aimed to teach children about the major prophets in the Bible, such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. To create excitement and engagement among the kids, leaders and volunteers decided to incorporate a baseball theme (since professional baseball is also known as the major leagues). The children’s area of the church was transformed to look like a baseball stadium, and dugout seating was created where kids and their families could sit and take pictures. During one day of the series, children were encouraged to come dressed in the jersey of one of their favorite athletes. 

Another recent theme was “Jesus the Teacher.” Part of that transformation included creating a school classroom setting with fun, oversized school supplies to help children learn about the various teachings of Jesus. While theming allows the kids ministry to engage children in a way that often excites them, Young said leaders are trying to help them understand that the Bible isn’t just a collection of unrelated stories, but an interrelated series of historical events that ultimately tell God’s story.

“It still all comes back down to the fact that, we can do all this, but if we’re not teaching the gospel through it, we’re missing [the point],” Young said. “As our kids ministry team plans out and then executes things, the gospel is still at the forefront.”

Young admits it takes a lot of work to plan and execute teaching through themes, but the entire kids ministry staff pitches in. The curriculum, which is written in-house weekly, aims to take children entirely through the Bible over a span of years. While that is labor-intensive now, Young said they are saving the curriculum so they can use it again (with tweaks here and there, as they find necessary) once they’ve completed one cycle through the Bible. The New Beginnings crew also works hard to connect themes to their social media accounts and email newsletters to keep parents updated on what their children are learning.

“These are definitely tools that help us connect a little deeper with our families,” Young said. “I think it builds an added level of appreciation from them. They appreciate the extra effort. As parents ourselves, when we see people take extra steps for our own children, it just makes us appreciate and love them more.”

“When God shows up, He just shows up, and that was confirmation that we were in the right place.”

Mr. and Mrs. Anders are among the New Beginnings parents who are grateful. Andrea said the themes, combined with gospel-centered biblical teaching, make coming to church fun and meaningful for her sons. She said her oldest son, who is now 7, came out of the shower one evening last year with news that caught her off guard.

“Mommy, I said the prayer,” he said.

“What prayer?” she asked.

“The prayer of salvation,” he responded.

“And I was like, ‘Wait a minute, how do you know about this?’” Andrea said, recalling the conversation. A few days later, she asked Young if she would speak with him to make sure he understood what it means to trust Jesus for his salvation. 

As it turns out, he did.

“He knew because these truths had been implanted in him at our church,” Andrea said. “This church has been planting those seeds little by little. Now that he’s saved and been baptized, we’ve just seen him flourish. He thinks about things [in the Bible] and we talk and he asks all these questions and wants to know more. … When God shows up, He just shows up, and that was confirmation that we were in the right place.”

Para iglesia fronteriza, las dificultades causadas por la pandemia crearon un hambre creciente de la Palabra de Dios


No tan sólo sobreviviendo, también creciendo

Para Juan Camilo Del Valle, pastor de la Iglesia Bautista Getsemaní en esta lejana ciudad del sur de Texas, a pocos kilómetros de la frontera entre Estados Unidos y México, la pandemia fue un tiempo de sufrimiento. Sin embargo, también vio cómo Dios utilizó ese tiempo de incomodidad para impactar positivamente su vida familiar, su ministerio y su iglesia. 

“No todo lo que trajo la pandemia fue negativo,” dijo Del Valle. “Para mí, fue un tiempo productivo.”

Getsemaní es una iglesia hispana de 40 años que llevaba cuatro años sin pastor cuando Del Valle llegó como estudiante del seminario teológico para hacer ministerio práctico. Nunca imaginó que tiempo después le recomendarían postularse para la vacante pastoral y que, con un voto afirmativo, sería instalado como pastor de la iglesia en mayo de 2017. 

Toda una vida al servicio del Señor

Criado en Medellín, Colombia, Del Valle recibió a Cristo a los 7 años y comenzó a enseñar clases bíblicas para niños a los 12 años, después de ser bautizado y haber recibido algunos adiestramientos. A partir de ahí, su pasión por enseñar la Biblia creció y Dios continuó abriéndole puertas para ministrar a preadolescentes y adolescentes en la ciudad. 

Cuando se acercaba a los 30 años, Del Valle se trasladó a la ciudad de Bucaramanga, en el norte de Colombia, para servir en una iglesia llamada Iglesia Cuadrangular Cabecera, donde conoció a Laura, su esposa desde hace 17 años. Mientras estuvo en la iglesia, trabajó como pastor de jóvenes a tiempo completo y estudió en el seminario bíblico de la ciudad, donde se graduó en teología y estudios bíblicos. Más tarde, en julio de 2011, su suegro comenzó a plantar una iglesia, Iglesia Cristiana Vida por Vida, y se fue con su esposa para apoyar ese trabajo. Del Valle también fue ordenado allí y sirvió como co-pastor hasta diciembre de 2015. 

Fue durante su servicio en la Iglesia Cristiana Vida por Vida que el suegro de Del Valle le recomendó que mudara a su familia a Texas para estudiar y seguir preparándose para su llamado al ministerio. Después de mucha oración, Dios hizo posible ese viaje, aunque el plan de Del Valle siempre fue venir a Texas, capacitarse y luego regresar a Colombia para continuar el ministerio allí. Ese plan cambió cuando el Señor envió a Del Valle a Getsemaní para servir a la iglesia como estudiante practicante y, finalmente, como su pastor. 

Pastor Del Valle junto al comité organizador de la Conferencia Apoderados. FOTO COMPARTIDA

“Ha sido una gran bendición ver a los miembros de la iglesia empezar a descubrir cosas en la Biblia que nunca habían leído, ver lo entusiasmados que están y ver la forma especial y profunda en que están llegando a conocer a Dios.”

Un tiempo difícil, pero un tiempo bueno

La transición a liderar Getsemaní, dijo Del Valle, fue un reto debido a su edad y a su adaptación a liderar el ministerio pastoral, pero el Señor le dio gracia y comenzó todo a acomodarse. Más o menos en ese momento, llegó COVID-19 y cambió no sólo la dinámica de su iglesia, sino del mundo. Aunque la pandemia trajo pérdidas y dolor, Del Valle dijo que también vio crecimiento en la iglesia, un resurgimiento de más familias involucrándose y una congregación deseosa de profundizar en su relación con Dios. 

“Fue una sacudida que la iglesia necesitaba,” dijo Del Valle. “He visto los frutos en mi vida personal y en la congregación” después de COVID.

Personalmente, Del Valle consideró una bendición que la pandemia le diera más tiempo para estar con sus dos hijos pequeños. Para su congregación, que atravesó una época en la que mucha gente estaba encerrada y aislada, el pastor vio la oportunidad de iniciar ministerios que sobrevivieran a la pandemia. 

“En cuanto nos vimos obligados a cerrar la iglesia, empecé a buscar una forma de mantenerme en contacto [con nuestra gente],” dijo Del Valle. “Así que empecé a enviarles unos cortos devocionales a través de WhatsApp.” 

Para muchos, estos devocionales se convirtieron en parte de su rutina diaria. Cuando terminó la pandemia, y aunque la iglesia había vuelto a las reuniones en persona, los miembros y otros participantes preguntaron a Del Valle si seguiría enviando los devocionales diarios.

Poco después, lanzó un reto a la congregación de leer toda la Biblia en un año utilizando los devocionales. Para ayudar en ese esfuerzo, añadió un canal de YouTube de la iglesia que incluía un vídeo diario de él mismo leyendo y hablando sobre los pasajes diarios asignados y concluyendo con un momento de oración. Tras completar el plan de lectura de la Biblia a finales del 2022, los miembros de la iglesia volvieron a pedirle que continuara con el esfuerzo, por lo que iniciaron un nuevo plan de lectura. Actualmente, el canal de YouTube de la iglesia cuenta con 454 suscriptores.

“Hay miembros de la iglesia que comparten estos [devocionales] con familiares y amigos que no son creyentes,” dijo Del Valle. “Uno de estos familiares ya ha aceptado a Cristo y viajó desde su ciudad hasta nuestra iglesia, fue bautizada y pudo dar testimonio de cómo conoció a Cristo a través de la lectura de la Biblia.”

Este año, Del Valle, quien también ha servido como líder tallerista y panelista para el ministerio en Español de la Convención de los Bautistas del Sur de Texas y ha sido parte del comité de planificación para la sesión en español de la Conferencia Empower durante dos años, decidió iniciar un canal de YouTube por separado llamado Enseñanza Bíblica Creativa para ampliar el alcance de la Palabra de Dios más allá de su iglesia. Ese canal tiene actualmente 168 suscriptores y más de 1,000 visitas en algunos de sus videos.

“Ha sido una gran bendición ver a los miembros de la iglesia empezar a descubrir cosas en la Biblia que nunca habían leído, ver lo entusiasmados que están y ver la forma especial y profunda en que están llegando a conocer a Dios”, dijo Del Valle. “Personas que llevan años en la iglesia han sido transformadas y su perspectiva de Dios ha cambiado”.

For border church, pandemic-induced difficulties created growing hunger for God’s Word


Not just surviving, but thriving

For Juan Camilo Del Valle, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Gestsemaní in this South Texas city just a few miles from the U.S./Mexico border, the pandemic was a time of suffering. Yet he also saw how God used that time of discomfort to positively impact his family life, his ministry, and his church. 

“Not everything the pandemic brought was negative,” Del Valle said. “For me, it was a productive time.”

Gestsemaní is a 40-year-old Hispanic church that had been without a pastor for four years when Del Valle arrived as an intern from a theological seminary to offer help. He never imagined he would be recommended to apply for the pastoral vacancy sometime later and be installed as the church’s pastor in May 2017. 

A lifetime of service to the Lord

Raised in Medellín, Colombia, Del Valle trusted Christ at age 7 and began teaching children’s Bible classes after being baptized and trained at age 12. From there, his passion for teaching the Bible grew and God continued to open doors for him to minister to preteens and teens in the city. 

As he approached his 30th birthday, Del Valle moved to the city of Bucaramanga in northern Colombia and connected with a church where he met his wife of 17 years, Laura. While at the church, he served as a full-time youth pastor and studied at the city’s Bible seminary, graduating with a degree in theology and biblical studies. Later, in July 2011, his father-in-law started a church plant and he left with his wife to support that work. Del Valle was also ordained there and served as co-pastor until December 2015. 

It was during his service to the church plant that Del Valle’s father-in-law recommended he move his family to Texas to study and further prepare for his call to ministry. After much prayer, God made a way for that journey to happen—though Del Valle’s plan was always to come to Texas, be trained, and then return to Colombia to continue ministry there. That plan changed when the Lord sent Del Valle to Gestsemaní to serve the church as an intern and, ultimately, as its pastor. 

Pastor Juan Camilo Del Valle (far right) intended to come to the U.S. to receive ministry training and then head back to his native Colombia, but God had other plans. SUBMITTED PHOTO

“It has been a great blessing to see church members begin to discover things in the Bible that they had never read before, to see how excited they are, and to see the special and deep way they are getting to know God.”

A hard time, but a good time

The transition to leading Gestsemaní, Del Valle said, was challenging due to his age and adjusting to leading an entire church, but the Lord gave him grace and he began to settle in. About that time, COVID-19 arrived and changed not only the dynamics in his church, but the world. Though the pandemic brought loss and pain, Del Valle said he also saw growth in the church, a resurgence of family involvement, and a congregation eager to deepen its relationship with God. 

“It was a shake-up that the church needed,” Del Valle said. “I have seen the fruit in my personal life and in the congregation [after COVID].”

Personally, Del Valle found it a blessing that the pandemic gave him more time to spend with his two young children. For his congregation, suffering through a time when many people were shut in and isolated, the pastor saw an opportunity to begin ministries that would outlive the pandemic. 

“As soon as we were forced to close the church, I started looking for a way to stay connected [with our people],” Del Valle said. “So I started sending them little devotionals through WhatsApp.” WhatsApp is an app that allows messaging between its users. 

For many, these devotionals became part of their daily routine. When the pandemic ended, and though the church had returned to in-person meetings, members and other participants asked Del Valle if he would continue to send the daily devotionals.

Soon after, he began to challenge the congregation to read the entire Bible in one year using the devotionals. To assist with that effort, he added a YouTube channel that included a daily video of himself reading and talking about the assigned daily passages and concluding with a time of prayer. After completing the Bible reading plan at the end of 2022, church members again asked him to continue the effort, so they started a new reading plan. The church’s YouTube channel currently has 454 subscribers.

“There are church members who share these [devotionals] with family and friends who are non-believers,” Del Valle said. “One of these family members has already accepted Christ and traveled from her city to our church, was baptized, and was able to testify how she came to know Christ through reading the Bible.”

This year, Del Valle—who also serves as a workshop leader and panelist for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s en Español ministry and has been part of the planning committee for the Spanish track of the Empower Conference for two years—decided to start a separate YouTube channel called Creative Bible Teaching to broaden the reach of the Word of God beyond his church. That channel has 168 subscribers and more than 1,000 views on some of its videos.  

“It has been a great blessing to see church members begin to discover things in the Bible that they had never read before, to see how excited they are, and to see the special and deep way they are getting to know God,” Del Valle said. “People who have been in the church for years have been transformed and their perspective on God has changed.”

Lone Star Scoop • May 2023

SBTC DR ministers in wake of Arkansas tornadoes


Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief workers served survivors of the tornadoes that devastated parts of Central Arkansas on March 31, meeting needs and seeing several people come to faith in Jesus. 

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief groups, along with other first responders and aid organizations, headed to Arkansas within days of the tornadoes. SBTC DR sent 45 volunteers,  included feeding teams, shower teams, chainsaw and recovery crews, chaplains, and assessors. 

Volunteers manning an SBTC DR quick response mobile kitchen prepared meals for disaster relief workers and first responders, while a mass-feeding kitchen cranked out 2,000 meals per day distributed by the Salvation Army.

For the full report on SBTC DR’s response to Arkansas, scan the QR code. 

—Jane Rodgers

SBC President Bart BarBer visits native Arkansas to encourage volunteers after devastating tornadoes


Southern Baptist Convention President Bart Barber, a native Arkansan and pastor of First Baptist Farmersville, visited SBDR response sites in early April along with Send Relief President Bryant Wright to encourage volunteers and help minister to storm survivors.

“I know very well that you guys here are doing ‘chopping cotton’ kind of work and are really working hard,” Barber said to a group of Oklahoma SBDR volunteers at Levy Baptist Church in North Little Rock. “I just want you to know how thankful I am for that and how important it is.”

Southern Baptist volunteers from Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas have been clearing trees off homes, affixing temporary roofing to damaged roofs, and providing meals to survivors of the deadly tornadoes that touched down in Arkansas as part of a storm system that spun off tornadoes across the nation.

—North American Mission Board

National CP giving tops $97 million at 6-month mark


Southern Baptist churches have given more than $97 million through the National Cooperative Program Allocation Budget in the first six months of the fiscal year with $15.8 million given in March.

The convention-adopted budget for 2022-2023 is $192,270,000 and includes an initial $200,000 special priority allocation for the SBC Vision 2025 initiative. Cooperative Program funds are then disbursed as follows: 50.41% to international missions through the International Mission Board, 22.79% to North American missions through the North American Mission Board, 22.16% to theological education through the six SBC seminaries and the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, 2.99% to the SBC operating budget, and 1.65% to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. 

If national CP gifts exceed the budget projection at the end of the fiscal year, the balance of the overage is distributed according to the percentages approved for budgetary distribution. 

—Baptist Press

SWBTS, TBC launch new websites, add improvements

FORT WORTH An enhanced user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing website for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary launched on April 4, with an updated website for Texas Baptist College that went
live April 10.

“I’m delighted that we are able to launch new websites for Southwestern Seminary and Texas Baptist College, which will serve current and future students and communicate the mission and identity of this institution to equip students to live their callings,” said David S. Dockery, interim SWBTS president. 

Before beginning the transformation, which has been more than a year in the making, the Office of Communication commissioned an audit of the former websites, with the goal of identifying needed improvements in their design. According to Jaclyn Parrish, director of marketing, the team also reviewed feedback from students on what information they most needed from the online presence.


State Department: Refugee resettlement numbers rise

WASHINGTON Refugee resettlement in the U.S., a cause promoted by Southern Baptists and other evangelicals, doubled in March from the previous month, the Department of State said in its monthly report.

The U.S. accepted 6,122 refugees in March, double the February total of 3,069 and far surpassing previous months this fiscal year ranging from 2,152 to 2,481. Yet, if resettlement continues monthly at the March count, resettlement would still fall far below the annual national cap of 125,000, the National Immigration Forum reported.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) praised the increase but said more progress is needed.

“It is encouraging to see, at long last, the U.S. refugee resettlement program regain traction in helping the most vulnerable reach safety” ERLC Policy Manager Hannah Daniel said. “There is certainly more work to be done in rebuilding this vital program, but these recent numbers offer a first glimpse that progress is being made.

“Southern Baptists remain committed to supporting the refugee resettlement program, welcoming those who arrive in our communities and sharing the gospel with as many of them as possible.”

—Baptist Press

Who are your people?

pins connected creating a network

Several years ago, I was an associate pastor entrusted with leading a mission trip to serve a church halfway across the country. As the deadline to sign up for the trip neared, I was approached by a woman in our church who wanted to know more about the trip. While she seemed interested in going, she was also struggling with whether she could have any meaningful impact due to her age.

I encouraged her to pray about it, but told her I was sure the Lord could use her. She ultimately decided to go and, though I can’t remember all the details, I know God used her to bless the church and ministries we went to serve.

But as He often does, God was up to something else none of us could immediately see.

On our church mission trip the following year, this woman, who was in her 60s, connected with two other women, both in their 30s, from our group. After each day’s work was done, the three women began to talk and get to know one another. Shortly after we returned from the trip, the older woman began to meet with the two younger women to study the Bible and talk about life. The younger women began to grow in their faith, and some months later, another woman was invited into the group. Eventually, one of the women in her 30s began meeting with college-age women to do what had been done for her—help a younger generation learn more about God and life.

"Chances are, you’re surrounded by various groups of people all week long: at school, work, church, and so many other places. In each of those places, someone is desperate, lonely, hopeless, hungry to learn about God, or craving connection."

Put another way, God brought a couple of younger women into the life of an older woman, and she made those younger women her people. God did the same thing in the life of the woman in her 30s, bringing to her even younger women, who, in turn, made them her people. Though time has marched on and people have moved away, several of them have stayed in contact. I think most, if not all, of them would say the Lord used those groups to draw them closer together and closer to Him.

So who are your people?

In this month’s issue of the Texan, we highlight the next generation, featuring several articles focusing on the impact of children’s, student, and collegiate ministries across Texas. In each, you’ll meet someone who has seen a need in a particular group of people and declared, “God, those are my people.” 

Many in our churches feel they are not equipped to pour into anyone else, much less a younger generation. Some of these people feel like they’re too old. Some feel like making disciples is a task reserved for the pastor or church staff. Others feel like they don’t have enough biblical knowledge to be effective. 

On the contrary. I believe the Lord only has three requirements. You’re eligible if:

1. You are alive.

2. You have a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. 

3. You’re willing to submit yourself to His work—even if you can’t imagine how He would use you to do it.

Chances are, you’re surrounded by various groups of people all week long: at school, work, church, and so many other places. In each of those places, someone is desperate, lonely, hopeless, hungry to learn about God, or craving connection. They are looking for someone to invest love, time, experience, and patience in them. 

Could some of them be your people? Here’s an even better question: Are you willing to take a step of faith and find out?

Having a big vision for a small town

FBC Waskom pastor sees ‘plenty of people to reach’ in surrounding area

The last town in Texas heading east on Interstate 20 before the Louisiana state line, Waskom counts about 2,000 people in its population. Even so, Ivy Shelton—pastor of First Baptist Church—says “there are plenty of people to reach” as he leads the congregation to share Christ.

“Even though it’s a small town, if you do a demographics study, within a 15-mile radius around our church there are 108,000 people,” Shelton said. “There are pockets of people that are around us in the neighborhoods outside of town.”

First Baptist Waskom is the church where Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Executive Director Nathan Lorick served as student minister while attending college in nearby Marshall. Lorick said the church is where he first learned about the SBTC. 

“It was in this church that I would fall in love with this family of churches that I have the honor of serving today,” Lorick wrote in the Texan last year. 

The church was established about 120 years ago, and now 150-200 people attend each week. About a year ago, they enlisted the help of a consultant to map out a 12-month evangelism calendar including revival meetings, a marriage conference, student camp, Disciple Now, and children’s activities. 

“Once a month we have people meet at the church for GROW teams,” said Shelton, who has been pastor there since 2017. “We have certain portions of the group that will write cards and letters to people. We have a section that will make phone calls and a section that will go out and make visits.”

“Any community you go to, whether it’s white collar, blue collar, whether it’s affluent or there’s a lot of poverty, the answer is Christ in any of those situations.”

Many residents of Waskom work in Shreveport or Marshall, Shelton said, and the town “has its issues like any small town does. Drug use is probably pretty heavy. There are just people who struggle, and the answer is Christ. Any community you go to, whether it’s white collar, blue collar, whether it’s affluent or there’s a lot of poverty, the answer is Christ in any of those situations.”

To serve the community, First Baptist Waskom partners with other churches for a monthly food distribution serving 80-100 families. 

“For those who need food, they can fill out an application, and they get a monthly food box,” Shelton said. “Twice a year, around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays and around Easter, they get an extra food box. There’s also a clothing closet and some assistance for utilities and things like that.”

The church also supports, financially and with volunteers, two pregnancy resource centers, one in Shreveport and one in Marshall. 

First Baptist Waskom recently reworked its vision statement to highlight its purpose: “Glorifying God in our community and around the world.”

“I encourage people to think about our vision in their personal lives with their neighbors—not only invite their neighbors but share the gospel when the opportunity arises and to do that actively, on a one-on-one basis, families reaching families, people reaching people,” Shelton said.

A young man who grew up at First Baptist Waskom, Jason Spurlin, and his wife, Audrey, now serve with the North American Mission Board in Portland, Ore., where he pastors a church. 

“We have been on a mission trip up there, and we support Jason on a monthly basis. He comes back and gives us reports,” Shelton said.

In addition to supporting missions through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, First Baptist Waskom has connected with a couple serving in Malawi.

“They’re planting churches and doing medical care and soccer clubs,” Shelton said. “They’ve shared the gospel with thousands of people there. They’ve been to our church twice, and we support them through the monthly budget. We’re going to take our first team this summer to Malawi so we can put boots on the ground there.”

In his assessment of the kingdom work accomplished through First Baptist Waskom, Shelton said, “It’s been a church in a small place, but I think it has had a grand vision. The Lord has blessed that.” 

Through the daily highs and lows of ministry, Shelton anchors to the fact God has called him to pastor First Baptist Waskom. “When I get up every day, whether I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen that week or I’m discouraged by what I’ve seen that week, I think, ‘God has called me here,’” he said.

Shelton said the church has been greatly supported in working to achieve its mission through its affiliation with the SBTC.

“The SBTC has been a great help,” Shelton said. “Anytime I’ve called and said, ‘I need help,’ the SBTC has always been right there. I have called the SBTC for everything from revitalization to walking through our facilities. I’ve had architects sent to our church. I’ve had sound people sent to our church.

“If I can say anything to pastors who ask, ‘What is the benefit of a convention?’ we have seen it in so many ways. In a small church, we may not be able to afford to go out and get a consultant for this area or that area, but the SBTC provides so much for us, and we’re very, very thankful.”