Month: April 2023

25 years of answered prayer with Bob Pearle

In November, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention will mark 25 years of answered prayer at its annual meeting at Cross City Church in Euless. Each month until then, the Texan will feature a brief conversation with past SBTC presidents about how they have seen God answer their prayers for the convention over the past quarter century and how they are praying God will bless the convention moving forward. This month, we feature past SBTC President Bob Pearle (2007-2009).

What were some of your earliest prayers for the SBTC?

My earliest prayers for the SBTC were for it to survive and thrive. We needed wisdom and good leadership because we were being greatly attacked. It was important that people would see that we were not radical. It was essential that the SBTC got a hearing from churches who wondered what we were about. 

How have you seen God answer some of your prayers regarding the convention?

God answered those prayers in the early years by sending us Jim Richards (the convention’s first executive director and current executive director emeritus) and Joe Davis (SBTC chief financial officer and senior strategist). They guided the SBTC wisely and well. Jim Richards was a wise leader—the man for the job. He was a strong conservative but not a radical. God gave us a leader who was able to listen to others without compromise. He was controlled by the Spirit. 

“My prayer today is very similar to what I prayed at the beginning. We need to hold to biblical principles and follow strong leadership.”

During your service as president, how were you praying for our convention?

I served as president of the SBTC in her 10th and 11th years. We had a great 10-year celebration in Houston. Those are fond memories and those present rejoiced in the goodness of God. God answered the prayers for the SBTC because we grew faster and were stronger than our critics predicted. We grew rapidly during the first 10 years because people saw that we were grassroots Southern Baptists. God gave us favor with some of the larger churches, and that gave us credibility with some other churches.

What is your prayer for the next 25 years of the SBTC?

My prayer for the next 25 years of the SBTC is to retain our founding vision and principles. Historically, as conventions get older, they have a tendency to stray from those principles. Thankfully, we have Nathan Lorick leading us to stay on course. My prayer today is very similar to what I prayed at the beginning. We need to hold to biblical principles and follow strong leadership. The younger generation doesn’t see the denomination in the same way as the founders. Nathan has the ability to relate to them and fill in those things that they might not understand. He’s an ambassador for the convention. He’s got common sense and is fluent in different ways of reaching people that are not as familiar to previous generations. That’s what is needed.

Thanking God for 25 years of answered prayer

Silhouette of man praying at sunset

I was a senior in high school in November 1998. I was engaged in the life of my church and on fire for the Lord. I was enjoying the end of my senior football season and had already been offered the opportunity to play college football. I felt the world was in front of me and believed that, through my faith in Christ, I was going to change the world. 

At that point, I had no idea what the Southern Baptist Convention was all about. I didn’t grow up in an SBC church. I didn’t know that during November of my senior year, a group of churches was gathering, praying, and organizing to see a movement of God across Texas. Today, I am thankful to God for that group of churches that had a bold vision to reach Texas and impact the world together. 

I could not in my wildest dreams imagine God allowing me to eventually serve the movement that came to be known as the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. As I look back over the last 25 years of the ministries of the SBTC, I am in awe of how God has blessed us and continued to answer prayers. Here are three prayers He has answered throughout our history as a network of churches. 

"God was so gracious to send us leaders from among the 120 churches who stepped up and led in the formation of the SBTC."

1. Godly leadership

God was so gracious to send us leaders from among the 120 churches who stepped up and led in the formation of the SBTC. So many people played a large role in laying the foundation of where we are today, including men like Stan Coffey, Miles Seaborn, Casey Perry, Gerald Smith, and Ronnie Yarber. God also gave the SBTC an incredible gift by sending Jim Richards to serve as the SBTC’s first executive director. His leadership allowed the SBTC to grow from 120 churches to more than 2,700 affiliated churches today. I thank God for sending us the right leaders at the right time.

2. Generous provision

God continually brings into our family churches that are generous partners. The Cooperative Program has always fueled our ministry engine, and I am humbled by how SBTC churches have faithfully given to mission causes. I know there are many ups and downs—even in our denomination—but SBTC churches have always been able to stay focused on the mission God has called us to do together.

3. Great Commission churches

SBTC churches hold to the inerrancy of Scripture and agree to work within the parameters of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000. We have been incredibly unified in doctrine and mission and care deeply about the Great Commission. I believe God has blessed us throughout our history because we keep the mission at the forefront of our minds and hearts.

I am so grateful for all the prayers God has answered over the past 25 years. Looking back at our history excites me about the future, and I pray the next 25 years are the best days for our family of churches. I believe God wants to continue to use the SBTC in ways we can’t imagine. 

I hope you are making plans to celebrate our 25 years together at our annual meeting in November. I am honored to serve you! 

Tate Springs’ Wellman to be nominated to lead SBC Executive Committee

NASHVILLE (BP)—The SBC Executive Committee (EC) has a candidate to consider for the entity’s leader. Jared Wellman will be nominated to serve as EC president/CEO in a special called meeting in Dallas on May 1 at noon.

Wellman, 39, is the pastor of Tate Springs Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. He served as a member of the EC from 2015-2023, serving as chairman from June 2022. He stepped down from the EC in a confidential letter to EC officers on April 17, according to newly named chairman David Sons. The full body was made aware in a confidential communication on April 19, Sons told Baptist Press.

It was also in that email that the full body was made aware of Wellman’s selection as the presidential candidate. Sons said it was kept confidential among EC trustees “to give Jared the opportunity to inform his church of his candidacy when he could do so in person.”

Wellman informed the church of his candidacy today (Apr. 30), according to Sons.

Wellman also served on the presidential search team as an ex-officio member until he recused himself on Jan. 26, Sons said.

Adron Robinson, search committee chairman, said the group was impressed by Wellman’s leadership of the EC since being voted chairman last June.

“Jared’s demeanor and experience fit with both the candidate profile of the search team and with much of what we had heard from those we surveyed,” he said.

Sons, who also served on the search team, said he believes Wellman can lead the EC forward. “The Executive Committee is not in need of a new vision or fresh direction, but instead a renewed commitment to the responsibilities it has already been given by our convention of churches,” he told Baptist Press.

Robinson said the group was “compelled by both his (Wellman’s) ideas for the present and future of the Executive Committee,” adding: “His humility, administrative skill, and pastoral sensibilities made him a strong candidate for the search team.”

In a statement to BP on Saturday (Apr. 29), Wellman said, “I don’t look at the Executive Committee opportunity as a job, but as a calling. I think that’s crucial. I’ve sensed a strong call that has been confirmed through prayer, fasting, the Scriptures and wise counsel. It’s the only reason I’ve kept my ‘yes’ on the table. I’m willing to follow through with this, regardless of the outcome, because I fear the Lord more than anything else.”

He has served in several denominational roles, including as a member of the SBC Committee on Resolutions in 2019, 2021 and 2022, an executive board member for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention from 2009-2013 and again from 2013-2017, a trustee at Criswell College from 2020-2021 and as a Land Center fellow at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS).

In addition to serving Tate Springs Baptist, Wellman has pastored Mission Dorado Church in Odessa, Texas, Carpenter’s Cross Church in Flint, Texas, and Powell Baptist in Powell, Texas.

Wellman has led Tate Springs to increase its Cooperative Program giving from 3.67 percent in 2017 to 6.7 percent ($102,000) in 2022, according to church data provided to Baptist Press. Wellman began serving at the church in 2017.

He was licensed in 2002 and ordained in 2005 at First Baptist Church Gun Barrel City in Gun Barrel City, Texas.

Wellman holds a Ph.D. from the South Africa Seminary, is a Ph.D. candidate at SWBTS, and holds master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Criswell College.

He is an adjunct professor at SWBTS, Criswell College and Grand Canyon University.

Wellman and his wife Amanda have been married since 2006. They have four children.

The position became vacant following the resignation of Ronnie Floyd in October 2021 when EC members waived attorney-client privilege at the direction of messengers to the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting.

Messengers voted at that meeting to form a task force to investigate the EC’s alleged mishandling of sexual abuse claims. Newly elected SBC President Ed Litton named the Sexual Abuse Task Force, which was led by North Carolina pastor Bruce Frank.

Wellman was the first EC member to make a motion for the group to waive attorney-client privilege. His motion was defeated but members voted to waive privilege weeks later.

Floyd resigned 11 days after that vote, citing his fiduciary responsibilities as president and CEO. In a statement he said, “Due to my personal integrity and the leadership responsibility entrusted to me, I will not and cannot any longer fulfill the duties placed upon me as the leader of the executive, fiscal, and fiduciary entity of the SBC.”

Willie McLaurin was named the interim president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee on Feb. 1, 2022. McLaurin joined the EC as vice president for Great Commission relations and mobilization in 2020.

The Presidential Search Team was formed by the EC during its February 2022 meeting in Nashville. Members include Mollie Duddleston (Springdale, Ark.), Mike Keahbone (Lawton, Okla.), Jeremy Morton (Woodstock, Ga.), Philip Robertson (Pineville, La.), Adron Robinson (Country Club Hills, Ill.) and David Sons (Lexington, S.C.).

The May 1 special called meeting of the EC was announced on April 4.

In that announcement, Robinson said, “Over the last 14 months, the search team has diligently prayed, discussed, and worked to identify the person to best lead the SBC Executive Committee through its present challenges and into a brighter future for our Committee and Convention.

“As a search team, we are confident the candidate we are presenting represents the humility, wisdom, administrative skill and Christlikeness necessary to fulfill the responsibilities of president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee.”

The meeting will take place under executive session at the Grand Hyatt DFW.

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

SBC leaders, former presidents react to death of Charles Stanley

Following the April 18 death of Charles Stanley, former Southern Baptist Convention president and one of the nation’s foremost television and radio preachers, at age 90, several Southern Baptist leaders shared their memories and thoughts on his passing.

The loss of Stanley, who presided over the two largest annual meetings in SBC history — 45,531 messengers in 1985 in Dallas and 40,987 in 1986 in Atlanta — is being mourned by friends, family and viewers around the world. Many Southern Baptist leaders, both past and present, shared their thoughts and memories of Stanley with Baptist Press:

“Charles Stanley made an impact on my life from the time I was a child. My mother would watch him every Sunday morning as we got ready for church. Later God raised him up at a critical time in the life of our Convention and the Conservative Resurgence. We are debtors to this servant of Christ.”—Danny Akin, president, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

“With Dr. Charles Stanley’s passing Southern Baptists have lost one our leading figures of the past half century. Dr. Stanley stepped forward as a candidate for the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention at a most pivotal time in the life and history of our denomination. His election to that post in 1984 was a decisive turning point, moving the SBC further down the road of theological recovery. More broadly, he continued to serve Southern Baptists from the pulpit of First Baptist Church of Atlanta and through his In Touch ministries, whose viewership spanned the globe. For these reasons and more, multitudes of Southern Baptists mourn Dr. Stanley’s passing.”—Jason K. Allen, president, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

“When cable TV came to Lake City, Arkansas, Charles Stanley entered my home. When I started to collect books as a teenaged preacher, he entered my library. I saw him lead our Convention as SBC president. I heard him preach in chapel at Southwestern Seminary. Is there any part of the SBC that does not bear the mark of his influence? On behalf of Southern Baptists, I extend our gratitude to God for Charles Stanley, and I offer our condolences to his family, his friends, and the First Baptist Church of Atlanta.”—Bart Barber, SBC president

“Charles Stanley was a godly man and I loved him for his godliness and kindness. He was an anointed preacher whose love for the unsaved was unparalleled. He sought to reach the world for Christ and prayed often for a spiritual awakening to come to America. To join him in his prayer room next to his study at the First Baptist Church, Atlanta, and hear him pray and praise the Lord was a deeply spiritual experience. He will be missed, but we can all rejoice that he has gone home to be with Jesus about whom he preached ‘the Crucified and risen Christ.’ May our thoughts about him lead us to renew our faith until we, too, go to be with Jesus.”—Morris Chapman, former SBC president

“God used the ministry of Charles Stanley to call forth numerous ministers, missionaries, and resources for Kingdom advance in the United States and around the world. He was unwavering in his work to push back lostness so others could hear the gospel. We thank God for Dr. Stanley’s example as we continue this most important work, and we look forward to the day when we will join him in worshiping before the Lord’s throne.”—Paul Chitwood, president, International Mission Board

“For the past seven decades, Dr. Charles Stanley led faithfully in both his church and broadcast ministry, influencing countless lives through Scriptural exposition. His life provided an essential bridge from the generation of Dr. Criswell, inspiring other expositors to hold Scripture in the highest regard. May all those in Christian leadership emulate his model of fidelity and integrity.”—Barry Creamer, president, Criswell College

“Charles Stanley was one of the first preachers I listened to as a young Christian. Like many others, I was shaped by his love for the Bible and deep devotion to Jesus Christ. I’m thankful for his constant example of service and humility.”—Jamie K. Dew, president, New Orleans Baptist Seminary

“Charles Stanley exemplified resilience throughout his ministry, serving his people well with a deep commitment to God’s Word. I am grateful for his ministry.”—Hance Dilbeck, president, GuideStone Financial Resources

“Charles Stanley was an exemplary preacher and teacher of God’s Word. We are indeed grateful for the influence of his faithful ministry, which extended around the globe. While we mourn his loss, we celebrate the significant life and legacy of this Southwesterner, even as we give thanks for the hope of the resurrection.”—David S. Dockery, president, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

“There are few places in the world where Charles Stanley cannot be heard and seen through In Touch ministries. He was truly the world’s pastor. It was my privilege to serve with him, preach for him and walk through some crucial times with him. He was a consistent proclaimer of God’s Word and touched millions of lives.”—Jimmy Draper, former SBC president

“Much will be written and spoken about the incredible, global and timeless impact of Charles Stanley’s life and ministry. My thoughts today are filled with gratitude for the impact of Charles’ warm, personable and welcoming spirit. Thank God for unleashing His powerful truth through Charles Stanley.”—Tom Elliff, former SBC president

“I will always be grateful to him for what he did to anchor Southern Baptists solidly on the truth of God’s Word. That’s a legacy that can’t be fully measured. Dr. Stanley was a master communicator in a communications age. God gave him a gift for connecting with people—even over a television screen. And he used that gift to tell as many people as possible about how they can have a relationship with Christ.”—Kevin Ezell, president, North American Mission Board

“As a passionate prayer warrior and powerful preacher, God raised up Charles Stanley to spread the Word of God across the globe. As a mighty prayer warrior and courageous leader, God chose him to serve as the president of the Southern Baptist Convention in one of the most pivotal seasons in the Conservative Resurgence. I am so grateful for his indelible influence in my life and ministry.”—Ronnie Floyd, former SBC president

“Charles Stanley was a pioneer in Christian broadcasting. For decades his television ministry, In Touch, reached millions of people with the Gospel of Christ. He was a great man of God and he will be missed.”—Steve Gaines, former SBC president

“Charles Stanley’s legacy as a preacher of the Gospel and teacher of God’s Word will live for generations. Loved and beloved by millions he is now in the presence of Jesus and rewarded for a life and ministry done well to God’s glory.”—Jack Graham, former SBC president

“I grew up being discipled by listening to the preaching of Dr. Charles Stanley as I rode around town in the backseat of my parents’ car. Dr. Stanley set an example of preaching that was expository, faithful, evangelistic, and Spirit-filled. His effect on a whole generation of preachers and preaching is incalculable.”—J.D. Greear, former SBC president

“Dr. Stanley’s unwavering devotion to preach God’s Word without compromise had a tremendous impact on my life during my most formative years. His commitment to the inerrancy of Scripture fortified the resolve of many during one of the most pivotal seasons of the Southern Baptist Convention. Charles Stanley was truly America’s pastor for nearly five decades.”—Thomas Hammond, executive director-treasurer, Georgia Baptist Mission Board

“Charles Stanley had a remarkable ability to make the Bible accessible to everyday believers. His practice of preaching profound truths with simple clarity was a gift to the church and an example to preachers today.”—Jeff Iorg, president, Gateway Seminary

“I was saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. Charles Stanley, whose ministry in Atlanta reached millions of people across the globe—including my own family. His leadership helped usher in a new era for the Southern Baptist Convention that would prioritize commitment to Scripture and a renewed emphasis on cooperation to share the Good News with a lost world. We lift up the entire Stanley family and First Baptist Atlanta community in prayer in this moment.”—Brent Leatherwood, president, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

“I first met Dr. Stanley at the Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas. The joy of meeting him was that when as a seminary student doing mission work in Ohio, people wanted to know what church I was from. They had little knowledge of Southern Baptists, so the simplest thing to say was I was the same kind of Baptist as Charles Stanley. They knew him from his In Touch television program. It often led to a fruitful Gospel conversation. He rose to leadership in the SBC at a critical time, and I am grateful for his life and ministry. Kathy and I are praying for the Stanley family in this time of grief.”—Ed Litton, former SBC president

“Dr. Charles Stanley was a hero for so many of us in the Southern Baptist Convention. The way he represented God, the Word of God through his preaching and teaching, First Baptist Atlanta, and the SBC will never be forgotten! He was a legend for all who knew him and knew of him. His legacy will be remembered for years and years to come. I have no doubt he has already heard the voice of God saying, ‘Servant of God, well done!!!’”—Fred Luter Jr., former SBC president

“Charles Stanley was a giant in my life, showing me how to take Scripture and apply it to my everyday life. His sermons, books and Bible studies have touched countless lives, including mine. Lifeway sends our deepest sympathies to the Stanley family and the team at In Touch as they mourn the loss of Dr. Stanley.”—Ben Mandrell, president, Lifeway Christian Resources

“Dr. Stanley was the first SBC president I had the honor of working with as convention parliamentarian. Two things remain vivid memories from the annual meeting in 1986. First, it was an highly-charged atmosphere as 40,000 messengers struggled over the direction of the denomination, with many tension-filled moments. The second vivid memory was of Dr. Stanley’s calm demeanor, which I quickly learned came from an incredible prayer life. He taught me as much about prayer as I taught him about parliamentary procedure. I shall always be thankful for his friendship.”—C. Barry McCarty, former SBC chief parliamentarian

“I join with others from across the country in praying for the Stanley family as they celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Stanley. God’s faithful servant has finished his earthly task and has now transitioned from labor to reward.”—Willie D. McLaurin, interim president, SBC Executive Committee

“Dr. Stanley will always be known as a preacher of the Word of God whose major emphasis was finding and doing the will of God. His legacy is worldwide, and I am grateful for his impact for Christ.”—James Merritt, former SBC president

“History will record that the election of Charles Stanley as president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1984 constituted a major turning point in our denominational history. His re-election at the largest SBC annual meeting of all time in 1985 was the most decisive convention vote in more than a generation. He had not been particularly active in denominational affairs until that time, but his vast television platform gave him unparalleled influence with messengers. That convention was decisive for the Conservative Resurgence in the SBC. Given his life and ministry circumstances, Charles Stanley was the least conventional of the Conservative Resurgence presidents, and In Touch ministries was his main life investment, along with the First Baptist Church of Atlanta. He will be remembered as one of the most recognized Christian leaders of his age.”—R. Albert Mohler Jr., president, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Charles Stanley was a reluctant president of the SBC. He responded to the need of the hour and the requests of God’s people. Characterized by his gracious actions toward all, Dr. Stanley modeled the life of Christ. His fervency in prayer, alone with his Lord was profoundly experienced by all who knew him well. Who will take the place of my friend Charles on his prayer rug before God?”—Paige Patterson, former SBC president

“Charles Stanley was a giant among us. Faithful pastor. Courageous SBC leader. Minister to the world. Well done, good and faithful servant.”— Jerry Vines, former SBC president

“I don’t know of any Southern Baptist pastor whose sermons have helped to build up believers and reach people for Christ more than Charles Stanley.”—Bryant Wright, former SBC president

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

Dockery elected 10th president of SWBTS; Hawkins elected chancellor

FORT WORTH—Christian higher education leader David S. Dockery was elected 10th president and Southern Baptist leader O.S. Hawkins was elected to the new role of chancellor during the spring meeting of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary board of trustees on April 19.

The unanimous elections of Dockery and Hawkins to their new roles come nearly seven months after their elections as interim president and senior advisor and ambassador-at-large, respectively, in a special-called trustee meeting, September 27, 2022, following the resignation of Adam W. Greenway.

“Dr. David Dockery is God’s man for Southwestern Seminary in this hour,” Chairman Danny Roberts told trustees. “Our seminary’s at a critical juncture in [its] 115-year history, and in God’s providence, He has already provided the man to lead our seminary during this time.”

Roberts said trustees did not need to “look further for our next president” based on Dockery’s “impressive performance as interim [president] providing stability and healing, his long track record of outstanding Christian leadership in higher education, with the current needs of the institution.”

Although a presidential search committee would be typical, “Southwestern’s current challenges are best faced with clarity in the Office of the President as soon as possible and for the future,” he said, noting that it’s not the first time a president of Southwestern was elected without a search process, referring to the seminary’s second president, L.R. Scarborough.

“We have settled today who our leader is, and we may move forward as we continue to seek God’s favor on Seminary Hill as we equip men and women of the next generation of ministers to the calling that God has given them,” Roberts said.

Dockery said he was “deeply humbled and genuinely grateful for the privilege and responsibility to serve” as Southwestern’s 10th president. “I am truly thankful for the overwhelming support from the board of trustees as well as for the faithful encouragement and prayerful support from the faculty, staff, colleagues, and students. What an honor it will be to continue to serve side-by-side with O.S. Hawkins, a dear friend and person that I greatly admire and from whom I have learned much in recent months.”

He added, “We recognize that we stand on the shoulders of so many who’ve gone before us. I love this institution and the best aspects of its history. We will, with God’s help, seek to carry forward in the future the best of Southwestern’s heritage and the Southwestern spirit.”

Dockery said he trusts in the “Lord’s favor and blessings to rest on Southwestern Seminary and Texas Baptist College in the days to come. We invite Southwesterners representing various generations to join us in this shared effort to advance the Southwestern mission for the good of this institution and for the glory of our great God as we seek to prepare well the next generation of students to take the gospel to the nations.”

Roberts expressed gratitude for Hawkins’s willingness to accept the new role of chancellor in which he “will continue to offer his experience as statesman and influence in this seminary and in this community. There are really few leaders in Southern Baptist Convention life who have the impeccable leadership credentials of Dr. Hawkins has with the sterling track record of 25 years as president of GuideStone Financial Resources, among other places of service.”

Roberts said Hawkins would continue to serve as a volunteer and will report to Dockery by providing “counsel, offer support and guidance, develop contacts, raise funds, and bring his influence, credibility, good will, and gravitas to our seminary community. This change in title will greatly aid his efforts in supporting the seminary. And we are blessed that this Southwesterner is willing to serve our seminary at this strategic moment in our history.”

As a two-time graduate, Hawkins said his service to the seminary is in gratitude for what the institution has meant to him.

“I have loved Southwestern since the first day I attended classes in January 1970, and I feel a sense of indebtedness to all those who invested so much in my own journey to the M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees on this hill,” Hawkins said. “While I will be serving alongside Dr. Dockery in the new role of chancellor, I will be volunteering my time and whatever gifts and talents God has given me to prayerfully advance the school into what we hope and prayerfully expect to be a brighter tomorrow. We are calling on all Southwesterners to join us on this journey.”

Dockery, who earned a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Seminary in 1981, joined the seminary faculty in 2019 when he was named distinguished professor of theology and theologian-in-residence for the B.H. Carroll Center for Baptist Heritage and Mission. He also served as special consultant to the president. Later, he was named editor of the Southwestern Journal of Theology, the seminary’s historic academic journal. From December 2020 to February 2022, he also served as interim provost at Southwestern. Additionally, he serves as the inaugural director of the Dockery Center for Global Evangelical Theology, which was named in his honor by the board of trustees at their spring 2022 meeting.

After a lengthy career in Christian higher educational leadership at Trinity International University, Union University, and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in 2019 Dockery was invited to assist with the founding of the International Alliance for Christian Education. He has also served as president of the Evangelical Theological Society and board chair of Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, Christian College Consortium, and Consortium for Global Education.

A native of Tuscaloosa, Ala., Dockery has had a distinguished career as a theologian and educator. In addition to his degree from Southwestern Seminary, he holds degrees from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (B.S.), Grace Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Texas Christian University (M.A.), and the University of Texas at Arlington (Ph.D.). Dockery was named a distinguished alumnus by Southwestern Seminary in 2002.

In 1995, Dockery was elected president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn. Under his transformational leadership, enrollment more than doubled, net assets more than tripled, and Union sprang to a place of national leadership in Christian higher education. In September 2022, he was among the first honorees to be inducted into the university’s hall of honor.

In 2014, he was installed as Trinity’s 15th president and served in that role for five years, then transitioned to the role of chancellor. At Trinity, he brought guidance to an institution that had previously experienced more than a decade of significant enrollment decline and an array of institutional challenges. He led processes to strengthen the Trinity board and enhance denominational relationships. New academic programs were introduced, and four new academic centers were established.

Dockery is a sought-after speaker and lecturer and former consulting editor for Christianity Today, and has authored, edited, or contributed to nearly 100 books, including Renewing Minds: Serving Church and Society Through Christian Higher EducationSouthern Baptist Consensus and Renewal, and Theologians of the Baptist Tradition. As an author, he is best known for his works in the areas of Baptist studies, biblical interpretation, and Christian higher education. He served as the New Testament editor for the 40-volume New American Commentary Series, as general editor of the 15-volume Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition Series, and is co-editor of the multi-volume Theology for the People of God series. He is general editor of the forthcoming New English Translation Study Bible.

Dockery has received numerous awards, including the Herschel H. Hobbs Distinguished Service Award from Oklahoma Baptist University, M.E. Dodd Denominational Service Award from Union University, Holman Christian Standard Service Award from Lifeway Christian Resources, the Land Distinguished Service Award from the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and the John R. Dellenback Global Leadership Award from the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.

Dockery has spoken on more than 80 campuses. He served churches in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Birmingham, Ala.; and Dallas, as well as serving as interim pastor for several congregations in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Texas.

He has been married to Lanese for more than 47 years, and they have three married sons and eight grandchildren. Their travels have taken them to the various regions of the United States and Canada, as well as to Europe, Latin America, Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Middle East.

Hawkins, who retired in March 2022 as president and CEO of GuideStone after leading the Southern Baptist entity for 25 years, is a two-time alumnus of Southwestern Seminary, holding Master of Divinity (1974) and Doctor of Philosophy (2020) degrees from the institution. Additionally, the Fort Worth native holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Texas Christian University and honorary doctorates from Liberty University, Dallas Baptist University, Southwest Baptist University, and Criswell College. Hawkins received the distinguished alumni award from Southwestern Seminary in 2000.

Immediately prior to assuming the presidency at GuideStone, Hawkins was the senior pastor of the historic First Baptist Church of Dallas, leading the downtown Dallas church from 1993-1997. Hawkins also served as pastor of First Baptist Church of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (1978-1993), First Baptist Church of Ada, Okla. (1974-1978), and First Baptist Church of Hobart, Okla. (1972-1974).

Hawkins has authored more than 40 books, including the 2021 B&H Academic release, In the Name of God, which details the relationship between George W. Truett, who pastored the First Baptist Church of Dallas (1897-1944), and J. Frank Norris, who pastored the First Baptist Church of Fort Worth (1909-1952). Hawkins is also the author of the best-selling Code Series books, with the proceeds and royalties benefitting Mission:Dignity, a ministry of GuideStone started under Hawkins’s tenure that assists retired ministers and their widows who are in need.

Hawkins has been married to his wife, Susie, since 1970. They have two married daughters and six grandchildren.

Charles Stanley, pivotal SBC president and TV preacher, dies at 90

ATLANTA—Charles Stanley, a former Southern Baptist Convention president and one of the nation’s foremost television and radio preachers, passed away peacefully at his home on Tuesday, April 18, at age 90.

Stanley presided over the two largest annual meetings in SBC history — 45,531 messengers in 1985 in Dallas and 40,987 in 1986 in Atlanta — when conservatives faced the most pronounced opposition to anchoring the convention in biblical authority.

As senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta, Stanley was elected in 1984 in the sixth year of the conservative advance toward majorities on the trustee boards of the convention’s seminaries and other entities. Conservatives rose to the challenge in 1985 and 1986, with Stanley receiving 52.18 percent of messengers’ vote in Dallas over two nominees and 55.3 percent of the tally in Atlanta over a single nominee.

Stanley transitioned to pastor emeritus in September 2020 at age 87, having led First Baptist for nearly 50 years. Anthony George, senior associate pastor since 2012, succeeded Stanley.

“My election [in 1984 in Kansas City, Mo.] infuriated the opposition,” Stanley wrote in his 2016 autobiography, “Courageous Faith,” “and ultimately revealed many of the underlying problems that had existed in the convention for a long time but had either been ignored or denied. … All the liberal and moderate political forces of the Southern Baptist Convention were against me, which included seminary presidents and state convention newspapers.”

Even so, “I knew I was in the center of His will, so I never felt anxious or angry even when the conflicts were at their very worst.”

Beyond what became known as the Conservative Resurgence in the SBC, Stanley developed an extensive television and radio audience through his In Touch Ministries and was inducted into the National Religious Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame in 1988.

Stanley’s broadcast ministry began in 1972 as “The Chapel Hour” on two Atlanta TV stations and a radio station, subsequently expanding to TBS (Turner Broadcasting System) and to CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network). He renamed the outreach In Touch Ministries in 1977, stirred by the title of a devotional book in his office, “to get as many people as possible in touch with Jesus Christ and His way of living.”

Today, Stanley’s In Touch messages are broadcast on a myriad of TV and radio stations and satellite networks as well as via shortwave in more than 100 languages across 150 countries. In 2007, the ministry also began distributing pocket-size In Touch Messenger solar-powered audio devices that contain the New Testament, Psalms, Proverbs and several dozen of Stanley’s sermons in a variety of languages. In addition to distributing hundreds of thousands of the units to U.S. soldiers and to missions efforts worldwide, the devices have been adapted for placement at refugee camps and on water towers in various parts of the world for listening by cellphone.

More than any other SBC president, Stanley’s personal life had been on public display, beginning when his wife Anna filed for divorce in 1993. After a period of reconciliation, a divorce ensued in 2000, after 44 years of marriage. Anna Stanley died in 2014 of pneumonia and other health issues at age 83.

In SBC life prior to his presidency, Charles Stanley was the 1984 president of the Pastors’ Conference that precedes the convention’s annual meeting, and he was the 1983 chairman of the Committee on Nominations (then called the Committee on Boards), which was pivotal for the Conservative Resurgence in nominating trustees for the SBC’s seminaries, mission boards, and other entities.

As SBC president, Stanley served on the 22-member Peace Committee that was established and named by a motion approved at the 1985 annual meeting. The committee was tasked with identifying “the sources of the controversies” within the SBC and making recommendations for reconciliation and cooperation in “evangelism, missions, Christian education and other causes … all to the glory of God.” In its 6,450-word report, issued in 1987 after 15 meetings, the Peace Committee stated that “the great number of Southern Baptists” believe the Bible “speaks truth in all realms of reality and to all fields of knowledge. The Bible, when properly interpreted, is authoritative to all of life.”

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

How can pastors stress the importance of church attendance?

Every church ministers in seasons: Christmas season, Easter season, VBS and church camp season, fall ministry launch season, hunting season, travel baseball season, and snowbird season, to name a few.

You might be wondering, “Is he serious? Christmas and Easter are not the same as hunting and youth sports.” If you think this, know that I wholeheartedly agree with you. But sadly, many members of our churches see this very differently. They might not ever say they believe this is true with their words, but their church attendance declares it from the rooftops: “My hobbies and kids’ activities are as important as my church!”

As pastors and leaders, this declaration—whether spoken or not—causes frustration, hurt, confusion, and even anger sometimes. We know church membership and attendance are non-negotiable. We know the body must gather on the Lord’s Day and no season is more important than God’s commands about this. When our members do not take church attendance as seriously as God’s Word instructs, there is a temptation for pastors to take it personally.

The truth is, every church deals with these kinds of issues. So how do we respond as church leaders? Should we throw up our hands, sigh loudly, and declare, “It is what it is”? I believe we should respond by showing our members why church attendance is different than anything in the world and why it is worthy of being a regular part of their week.

Respond through thanking

Every pastor and leader is thankful when people show up on Sunday. But do you ever actually thank them for coming? This can be done individually, through writing them a note, or shooting them a quick text. I would challenge you to say it from the pulpit—often. Let people know you see their obedience to the Lord and appreciate their regular attendance.

Respond through teaching

I am a book-by-book, verse-by-verse preacher. I like long preaching runs and plugging in to a book for months and sometimes years so our people will know the depths of the riches of God’s Word. When you preach one-off sermons, that steady rhythm is interrupted. Sometimes you struggle with dealing with important issues like church attendance because it doesn’t fit your rhythms. Consider these ways to teach these important lessons in the life of the church:

  • Once a year, preach a monthlong series on a theological topic and start with ecclesiology.
  • Teach your leaders and teachers about the importance of church membership and attendance and then encourage them to pass those truths along to those in their spheres of influence.
  • This is a big one—teach these truths to kids. When children know what God expects, that information forms in them in a different way than in adults. God designed kids this way for a reason, so they can know Him and know how to follow Him well. Preach it and teach it at all levels and see how it becomes part of your church DNA.

Respond through talking

If you find that thanking and teaching aren’t enough, go to your members struggling to attend consistently and talk to them. Do it in a way that is not heavy handed, but as a shepherd or friend. Don’t use cliche’s like, “You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian, but Christians should want to go to church.” Instead, let them know you miss them and that you care for them and their family’s souls. Tell them you desire for them to be obedient to all of God’s Word and want what is best for them. This conversation might be hard, but it is worth it.

When pastors thank, teach, and talk about the importance of church attendance, we will help our people see the importance of the church body in their lives and watch them respond with obedience that will lead to fruitfulness through God’s grace.

SBTC DR crews serve tornado survivors in Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.—Easter weekend is a time for family, friends, and worship. For Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief workers, it was a time to serve survivors of the tornados that devastated parts of Central Arkansas on March 31.

Relief teams worshiped on Resurrection Day and found opportunities to pray with survivors and share the gospel—even seeing some trust Christ as Savior.

A rapid response

SBDR groups, along with other first responders and disaster relief groups, headed to Arkansas within days of the tornados. SBTC DR volunteers set up their main headquarters at Immanuel Baptist Church, just off Interstate 430 on the west side of Little Rock, while other SBDR teams deployed to two other sites across the capital city.

The Immanuel site fell under the purview of SBTC DR incident management, led initially by Debra Britt of Flint who, with her team, coordinated the movements and work of 45 SBTC DR volunteers (as of Good Friday) and numerous Arkansas Baptist DR workers, too. This included feeding teams, shower teams, chainsaw and recovery crews, chaplains, and assessors.

Volunteers stayed at Immanuel Baptist’s large City Center, a former grocery store purchased by the church and converted into a massive classroom and community space that became a distribution center for food and supplies for tornado survivors. Residents drove up for diapers, water, toiletries, non-perishable food items, and clothing. The large complex offered plenty of room for representatives from FEMA and other emergency response agencies.

Britt arrived at Immanuel on Monday, April 3, and stayed until April 10, when SBTC DR’s Mike Jansen rotated in. Jansen supervised the hand-off of the response to Arkansas DR, which will establish a headquarters at a nearby location, said Scottie Stice, SBTC DR director.

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 another aid organization to survivors in the area.

SBTC DR mass-feeding crews produced 2,000 meals per day while serving in Arkansas. SBTC DR PHOTO

Meeting spiritual needs

Recovery teams, chaplains, and assessors found numerous opportunities to pray with survivors during the one-week deployment, Britt said. Those workers often didn’t have to leave the parking lot or the City Center building to minister to those with spiritual and physical needs.

Chaplain David Mehl of Tyler said listening in such situations is key: “You have to listen to people’s stories.” On the rainy evening of April 5, when work had paused for the day, Mehl found himself with fellow SBTC DR chaplain Jim Carsten in the City Center after dinner when a church volunteer brought a woman to them to talk.

“She told us she was looking for help to remove trees from her yards,” Mehl said. Carsten helped the woman fill out the request for assistance. The men noticed she seemed tense.

“I explained that we were not only assessing her need for physical help, but assessing her emotional and spiritual needs,” Mehl said. “I told her that people with a faith story seem to do better in disasters.”

The woman explained that she had a religious background, so Carsten asked her if she would be confident of her eternal destination if she were to die.

“Yes,” she replied hesitantly, adding that she had “tried to live a good life.”

“We presented John 3:16 to her,” Mehl said. After further conversation, and at her request, the chaplains led the woman in a prayer of salvation.

“She said she felt so much better. She said she had never heard about Jesus that way, not heard a prayer like that,” Mehl said. The tension was gone. The woman wanted to see the chaplains again. They reconnected via text the following day and she said she was at work telling her friends what the chaplains had told her.

As of Good Friday, teams had seen three salvations. “We’ve seen hundreds of ministry contacts and passed out a lot of Bibles,” Britt said. “Because City Center is a distribution point, we have been able to establish chaplains at drive-thru lines. They talk and pray with people coming for food and miscellaneous things. It’s really beginning to hit home how bad things are. People are very receptive to hearing the gospel.”

Operations cease mid-deployment

SBTC DR operations halted abruptly on Monday, April 10, following two reported cases of COVID-19 among Texas volunteers, necessitating shutdown protocols.

“One case may be an anomaly, but when two or more cases pop up, we have to cease [operations],” Stice said, adding that both individuals reporting illness are experiencing mild symptoms. Teams had activated enhanced COVID safety procedures after the first reported case. The second case prompted the stoppage.

Of the unexpected shutdown, Stice said, “We had a plan in place and activated it immediately. This is the first time we have had to stop operations mid-deployment because of COVID, although other state DR teams have had to do this over the course of the pandemic.

“We shut down our feeding operations per protocol and handed off to Arkansas Baptist DR. They mobilized and set up a kitchen the same day and were cooking by April 11. There was no gap in meal service. Commonly, meals would stop for 24 hours while we made such a shift. We did a rapid shutdown. They did a rapid setup. No meals were missed.”

Some 45 SBTC DR volunteers teamed with Arkansas Baptist DR crews to serve tornado survivors in Little Rock in early April. SBTC DR PHOTO

Three things that can rob you of a joy-filled Easter

Each year, I am tempted to allow Easter to sneak past me without taking time to really enjoy it. That probably sounds strange since it seems like everyone else enjoys Easter: parents, kids, church members—even the unchurched, to a degree.

Even though Easter is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate our freedom from sin and death, for too many years I let three things rob me, and consequently others, of Easter joy.

"The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is a powerful story of redemption and grace. Be sure to practice the grace you preach about this Easter weekend."


Church leaders (and parents) can easily work themselves into exhaustion during the days and weeks leading up to Easter. If we are not careful, we will end up depleted before Easter is here. I now give myself permission to say “no” to some of the negotiable activities that could fill my calendar. This gives me some needed margin to say “yes” to the Easter-related events I consider essential.

I suggest you keep Easter weekend simple by avoiding the temptation to crowd your church or personal calendar with events. For example, if your church hosts a Good Friday event, let another church in town rock the kid’s event, or vice versa. If you plan on adding a worship service on Easter, consider taking a break from small groups that day.


Several years ago, I almost let perfectionism ruin one of the most important Easters of my life. I was serving as senior pastor at Second Baptist Church in Conway, Ark., and we were having the first public worship services on our brand-new, 50-acre campus on Easter morning. I arrived early and noticed several dead oak tree branches laying near one of the primary entrances. I allowed myself to become furious with the staff member who had agreed to take care of it. Acting like a complete idiot, I started dragging those big limbs across the campus in my Easter suit. I was literally sweating the small stuff!

If you are planning for Easter to be executed perfectly, you will end the day both exhausted and frustrated. How ironic is it to practice perfectionism on a day when grace is celebrated? While avoiding the bigger mistakes on this high-stakes holiday, be careful not to let the little mistakes sneak up on you and steal your joy.


One temptation that mature Christians may face is reading, preaching, or teaching the resurrection story too casually. This is my 36th Easter as a pastor or serving pastors—so yeah, I’ve got this story down.

Read the gospel with fresh eyes, then preach it with a fresh voice. Retrace the steps of Jesus slowly instead of waltzing casually through it. Ask God to remind you afresh of Jesus’ courageous and sacrificial love. Before you remind your family, church, or unsaved friends how Jesus defeated sin and death, take whatever time you need to remember your own former life of slavery.

The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is a powerful story of redemption and grace. Be sure to practice the grace you preach about this Easter weekend. 

Pastor, encourage a pastor

As the three-day training drew to a close, Moea, a village chief and pastor, spoke firmly and gently to a younger generation of African pastors. He reminded them that it is a great honor to call and check in on your fellow pastors. 

The words of this older, respectable leader found their mark, as his exhortation encouraged the young pastors to band together in the work of the Lord by praying for and encouraging one another.

For the African pastors in attendance, the day-to-day grind of life and ministry is void of many western amenities we take for granted. But their faithful bivocational service begs for godly edification and love from fellow servants of the Lord. Being a part of this closing moment was not only a profound reminder for these African pastors, but also a timely reminder for pastors in any context.  

Other pastors are not your competition, but fellow generals on the battlefield leading the Lord’s army. The bond pastors share is rooted in our Lord, and His call to serve the church must not to be a point of contention, but of Christ-centered friendship. Unfortunately, unity among pastors is often frayed by petty differences, tertiary squabbles, a competitive spirit, or because we simply don’t make room on our calendars to spend time with other pastors.  

To call on another pastor for prayer and wisdom requires time and yields great blessing. To text Scripture and faithfully pray for a pastor in the midst of fiery trials only takes moments, but could save him, his family, and his church years of pain and regret. When the Holy Spirit brings another pastor to mind, remember that you may be the lifeline he needs even though he may never divulge the depth of his despair. 

“When the Holy Spirit brings another pastor to mind, remember that you may be the lifeline he needs even though he may never divulge the depth of his despair.”

When you reach out to your brothers in the pastorate, you’ll be a blessing to them and receive a blessing in return. When you pray for them and their church on Sunday mornings, you’re imploring the Lord for His kingdom to come and for the gospel to advance through all of the church, not just your congregation. Don’t be afraid to discuss your sermons together, pray for one another’s families, minister to another minister, and bear one another’s burdens. In doing this, you fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2) and exhibit His love practically to other church leaders.  

Words cannot express my gratitude for fellow pastors in my life. Matt, Russ, Richard, Eric, Ted, Jeff, and many more have given encouragement, fellowship, friendship, wisdom, and have proven to be godly examples in ministry. When I think about the connections between these faithful servants in ministry, Philippians 1:3 comes to mind: “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.” Without timely encouragement to and from other pastors, you will isolate yourself from co-laborers, placing yourself on an island and potentially setting yourself up to become more easily discouraged when trials roll in. 

Instead of lamenting the lack of other pastors checking on you, take a moment to reach out to a fellow pastor, grab lunch with the new pastor in town, text Scripture to another pastor in the midst of trials, and by all means, encourage a pastor today.