Month: May 2023

Mass prayer meeting, discussions on effective prayer set for SBC 2023

NEW ORLEANS (BP)—Prayer changes the world, is the most powerful tool for change, and is critical in the spiritual life of pastors, prayer event leaders said in advance of the 2023 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in New Orleans.

Kie Bowman, pastor emeritus of Hyde Park Baptist & The Quarries Church in Austin, Texas, has planned a series of prayer events at the annual meeting in his mission to assist the SBC Executive Committee develop a national prayer strategy.

“Prayer meetings change the world,” Bowman told Baptist Press. “For the last few years we have had incredible experiences of worship and prayer at the SBC prayer meetings and we are planning for the same opportunity in New Orleans. Two national leaders in prayer and revival, Robby Gallaty and Bill Elliff are leading us, along with a worship team from Long Hollow.”

Gallaty, senior pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., and Elliff, directional pastor of The Summit Church in Little Rock, Ark., will lead a prayer meeting for convention attendees and guests from 5-6 p.m. June 11 in the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center Theater on Level 2 of the complex.

For Gallaty, “the prayer life of a pastor is the tide that raises the spiritual condition of a church, a community, and a convention. As I’ve studied revival history,” Gallaty told Baptist Press, “I’ve learned that every great movement of God begins by not moving. Before the Pastors Conference, we have an opportunity to cry out to God for personal and corporate revival by declaring, ‘God, I’m not going to move until you move.’”

Prayer could be the most vital thing Southern Baptists do at the annual meeting, Elliff said.

“We are at a critical point in the life of our convention and nation, and God is moving among us,” Elliff told Baptist Press. “With all of our business at the SBC, our gathering together for united prayer could be the most vital thing we do and could set the agenda for all that follows.

“The man — or church — that prays is the most powerful person, or church — or denomination — in the world, for prayer brings God into the equation,” Elliff said. “Surely our greatest need as pastors and leaders is to unite together in extraordinary prayer.”

Bowman will moderate two panel discussions on prayer set for the Cooperative Program stage in the annual meeting exhibit hall.

June 12 from 11:10-11:40 a.m., hear Gallaty and pastors Nathan Lino and Todd Kaunitz discuss “Power in the Prayer Meeting.” Lino, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Forney, Texas, and Kaunitz, lead pastor of New Beginnings Baptist Church in Longview, Texas, point to “church prayer meetings which experienced an unusual degree of God’s favor,” Bowman said.

June 14 from 11-11:40 a.m., Elliff and Tim Beougher, the Billy Graham professor of evangelism and church growth at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, will discuss “The Role of Prayer in the Asbury Awakening.”

“For the past few years, there has been a rising tide of united prayer,” Elliff said. “This spring, we have seen unusual stirrings across our nation. God longs to bring the next great awakening to our nation. Will we cooperate with humble, repentant, extraordinary prayer?”

Throughout the annual meeting, attendees are invited to pray in the prayer room in the main foyer outside Halls D and E of the convention center. The room will be accessible June 11 from 1–9 p.m., and June 12 and 13 from 7:30 a.m.–5 p.m., and June 14 from 7:30 a.m.–5 p.m.

In the prayer room, individuals will find space for personal prayer. Small groups desiring to reserve the prayer room may contact prayer room leader Ray Swift at

“I want to encourage the family of Southern Baptists to experience the power of prayer at the 2023 SBC,” Swift said, “and participate in a time of prayer at their own convenience.”

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

Effectively preaching to all generations

Most pastors know there is not a target audience when it comes to preaching God’s Word. It is our job to preach to all our brothers and sisters in Christ. Even so, preaching in ways that feed all our sheep, regardless of age, takes intentionality and effort. So how can we, as pastors, accomplish this? Here are a handful of things to keep in mind as you plan and prepare your sermons:

God’s Word is living and active.

Preacher, we can take great comfort in the fact our message does not originate with us. We have all preached a clunker of a sermon and been beyond surprised when someone approaches us and says, “Pastor, the Lord used that in a mighty way in my life.” I am always grateful for moments like this, as they remind me God’s Word is living and active. As we craft sermons for all ages, take comfort in knowing God can use all of it. Be faithful to the text and watch what He does.

Stages and ages do not always match.

We recently baptized a 72-year-old man who came to know the Lord out of agnosticism. The man knows very little of Christianity, but he knows the Lord. In the same congregation, we have a 15-year-old student who could teach deep theological truths to some of our adult classes. What does that tell us? Many of our older members need to hear simple truth, and many of our children need theological depth.

You or we?

Seminary professor Greg Wills once told a pastor friend of mine he could tell he only thought about his own generation when he preached and that he was missing a chance to communicate to the older generation. Wills explained that older generations respond more to preaching delivered in the second person (“You need to do better” or “Jesus loves you”). Younger generations—millennials and Gen Z—are more responsive when addressed in first person (“We need to do better” or “We are loved by God”). As a result, I will alternate point of view based on which age I want to communicate to in any particular moment.

Hide a few ‘Easter eggs’ in your sermon.

I have four kids under age 10. We also have 1.2 million kids at our church each week (or so it seems). It is not only hard for parents to keep their elementary kids quiet (I thank the Lord for these kids every time I hear them, by the way), but to keep them engaged. So I started hiding word Easter eggs in the sermon and telling kids about it. I will tell the kids something like, “Hey I am going to say ‘booger’ in the sermon today. See if you can find it.” This has worked really well. Kids victoriously come up to me all the time to tell me they heard my word, and when I ask them what part of the sermon it was in, they can usually tell me.

Provide varied application for the same point.

Demonstrate how truth affects different generations. For example, when talking about trying to find hope in the wrong things, you might say, “Teens, we may think that sitting at that other lunch table will fix us. Parents, we may think that if we just had a little more cushion in the savings account, that will fix things. Older brothers and sisters, you may think, ‘Things will be better if all my grandkids come home for Christmas.’ But Christians know the hope and fulfillment we are all seeking can only be found in Jesus.” Changing perspectives like this does two things. First, it provides specific application for each generation. Secondly—and this is powerful—it allows each generation to realize it must depend on Jesus Christ at every stage of life and reminds each generation about what the other generations might be thinking. Parents and grandparents are reminded how hard it is to be a teen. Kids hear that parents struggle as well. Our older generation is reminded how stressful it is to be a parent.

As ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are called to serve and preach to all people. As we craft our sermons, we should consider how the text can best be heard and applied by all generations in our church.

Great Hills’ Forshee to be nominated for SBTC president

Gregg Matte, senior pastor of Houston’s First Baptist Church, has announced his intention to nominate Danny Forshee, lead pastor of Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin, as president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention at its 25th annual meeting in November.

Forshee has served as lead pastor at Great Hills for more than 13 years and as president of the Danny Forshee Evangelistic Association for nearly 20 years. From 2018-2020, he served as chairman of the SBTC’s Executive Committee.

Forshee said he would be honored to serve as SBTC president “if God so wills. … I believe in the SBTC and the tremendous good we are able to accomplish as we work together. I am grateful to God for the impact our convention makes for the glory of God and the expansion of the gospel.”

Matte describes Forshee as “a visionary leader with tremendous energy,” adding that his hard work and commitment to his family and church exemplify qualities the convention needs in a president.

“I’m excited to nominate Dr. Danny Forshee as the next SBTC president because Dr. Forshee has a passion for the Lord and for the work of the church,” Matte said. “He has served faithfully in our state convention and his church for years. He has the grit and grace to lead us well. As an author, former professor, amazing pastor, and gifted leader, along with SBTC experience and a generous heart, Danny is the right man for this role in this time.”

Great Hills gave $233,730.08 through the Cooperative Program in 2022 and $244,799.41 in 2021.

If elected, Forshee said he would look forward to the opportunity to serve with SBTC Executive Director Nathan Lorick and his staff. Forshee added that he loves the convention’s emphasis on evangelism, church planting, leadership training, and pastoral health.

“I also want to help our convention continue to be a truth and grace convention,” he said. “I would love to see us expand and bring in more churches that will help us speak the truth in love and assist us in being known more for what we stand for rather than what we stand against. I believe God has great plans for our convention. These are challenging and also very exciting days in which to be a Southern Baptist.”

Forshee holds a doctoral degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, where he has served as a professor. He also served as a professor of evangelism at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.

He has written four books: For the One, Modern Family Vintage Values, Jesus and the Church, and Winning the Battle in Your Mind. He writes a daily devotional and records a weekly podcast called REvangelical: Rethinking Christian Living.

Forshee and his wife, Ashley, have three grown children and four granddaughters.

The SBTC annual meeting will be held Nov. 13-14 at Cross City Church in Euless.


Know their names

As a freshman member of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Corps of Cadets, I had the same rank designation as every one of my peers, a fish with only a last name. As “Fish Philley,” one of my many daily responsibilities included greeting upperclassmen as our paths crossed on campus.

The acceptable greeting was to quickly stand at attention and sound off with a traditional Aggie “Howdy!” followed by the upperclassman’s title and last name. In order to successfully address higher-ranking cadets, knowing the actual names of each upperclassman was imperative.

By the end of fish year, I knew nearly a thousand names. That same concept continues to benefit my ministry today.

While describing Himself as the Good Shepherd, Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27). Even though Jesus didn’t have a 100% retention rate, a strong connection exists between the sheep who are known by their Shepherd and the ones who follow Him. Jesus’ sheep were not just a number. They were fully known.

The pastor’s role as under-shepherd within the local church should reflect the same. As the Good Shepherd, Jesus knows His sheep by name. As an under-shepherd, I should know my sheep by name as well. I strive to know the names of every single church member because I believe it’s indicative of how well I truly know them. I also believe it’s an indicator of how well they may follow me in carrying out the Great Commission.

Knowing the names of our sheep is part of our calling as pastors. It’s a required discipline. It took a disciplined effort for me to know the names of nearly a thousand upperclassmen, and the same is true in ministry. This has nothing to do with a gift of memorization, but everything to do with praying for the souls I am called to care for and watch over (Acts 20:28, Hebrews 13:17).

Praying for my families cultivates a heart connection that rote memorization can never achieve. I can’t remember a season of ministry that has not included membership list printouts postered on a wall in my office. These lists help me put names with faces while also serving as a guide for intentionally praying through our member families. They include pictures with names of every adult member and have ranged from dozens to hundreds.

I then systematically pray for each member after sending a weekly email to a set number of households asking if there is anything I may pray for them about. This is a way for me to get to know my sheep while also being welcomed into their lives in a unique way. If you have 52 families, that’s only one per week. Even if you have 624 households, that’s only 12 per week. You can realistically know their names and pray for your entire congregation every calendar year.

If you’re new to an area of ministry, this can be overwhelming. So set clear expectations at the outset. Share with your people that you are going to do everything you can to get to know them, but let them know it will take time and that you will be depending on their gracious patience. Remind them you will probably need them to reintroduce themselves at every interaction until you learn their names. There’s a sweet spirit of unity that results from this type of mutual humility.

What if you’ve been at your church awhile and still don’t know the names of some of your people? Initiate a conversation and ask for a gracious reset. Commit it to the Lord in prayer, then sincerely share with your people that you’ve loved serving them, but you’ve been convicted that you don’t know them as a shepherd should. This type of vulnerability will be refreshing and it should encourage them to lean in closer as you get to know them.

I want to encourage you to know their names. The better you know your sheep, the better shepherd you can be.


Hawkins challenges SWBTS graduates to ‘fear the Lord’

FORT WORTH—“Fear the Lord,” O.S. Hawkins, newly elected chancellor of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Texas Baptist College, challenged the 346 doctoral, master, undergraduate and certificate graduates during the Fort Worth institution’s May 5 spring commencement exercises.

New SWBTS and TBC President David Dockery urged graduates as they leave to “serve well and to serve faithfully—to use these years of preparation in order that you might present the Gospel over and over year after year and that you might finish well.”

He encouraged them to “represent the commitments of this Great Commandment and Great Commission institution, carrying forth the Southwestern heart and soul, the core values of this place as you serve in Texas, across the country, and around the world. We are so happy for each one of you.”

The spring 2023 graduating class of Southwestern Seminary and TBC, which represented 31 states and U.S. territories and 24 countries, included the first student, James “Luke” Waters from Kannapolis, N.C., to graduate with a Master of Divinity in worship leadership from the School of Church Music and Worship, as well as 50 students from Japan who received their certificates in biblical counseling and the first group of female students to earn the certificado in estudio ministeriales from the Hispanic Programs in the Roy J. Fish School of Evangelism and Missions.

Dean Sieberhagen, associate professor of Islamic studies, Vernon D. and Jeannette Davidson Chair of Missions, and director of the Islamic Studies Program in the Fish School, was the 2023 recipient of the David S. and Lanese Dockery Award for Teaching Excellence.
In his commencement address, Hawkins, a two-time graduate of Southwestern Seminary, recalled his days as a Master of Divinity student in the 1970s. He said while many of the professors who taught him are now with the Lord, the lessons they imparted have “lived on in my heart every day of the ministry that I’ve received from the Lord.”
Hawkins likened the graduates to the children of Israel in the Old Testament, explaining that this “defining moment” and “milestone” in their lives was similar to that of the Israelites “after their education and their schooling in the wilderness” before they crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land. Referencing Moses’ words to the Israelites before they moved into the land God had promised, Hawkins reminded the graduates of the Israelite leader’s question to the people as recorded in Deuteronomy 10:12, “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you except to fear the Lord your God by walking in all his ways, to love him, and to worship the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul?”
Hawkins reminded the graduates the children of Israel were “about to launch out into their calling” and Moses’ charge to “fear God” is one that they should heed today. Hawkins recounted the lives of men and women throughout the Bible who feared the Lord, noting the theme is “laced all through the Scripture.”

“If there was a common thread that’s woven through the lives of every man and woman in the Bible that was used of God, that had the power of God, the anointing of God, whatever terminology you want to use, it was the fact that in one way or another it was said of all of them that they were walking in the fear of God,” Hawkins observed from the lives of men and women from the Old and New Testaments. “They realized that’s what the Lord required of them.”

Drawing from Hebrew and Greek meanings of the word fear, Hawkins noted “fear of the Lord” is “reverential awe” that a person has “before the Lord Jesus Christ” and standing “before Him in reverential awe—so much so that it becomes the controlling motivation of your life.”

Hawkins, a Fort Worth native who grew up at Sagamore Hill Baptist Church where Fred Swank pastored, recalled the admonishment of the late pastor after Hawkins came to faith in Christ.

Swank “taught me that the fear of God was not the fear that God was going to put His hand of retribution on me,” Hawkins said. “But it was the fear that God might take His hand of blessing or anointing off of me.”

Hawkins encouraged the graduates to live their lives in “such a fashion and in such an environment of the fear of the Lord that you don’t want God to remove His hand of blessing, His hand of anointing from your life.” Hawkins, who pastored churches in Oklahoma, Florida, Texas, and retired as the president and CEO of Guidestone Financial Resources in March 2022 after leading the organization for 25 years, told the graduates they would be “faced with all kinds of temptations” in ministry. However, he added, “When you walk in the fear of the Lord, God will give you a supernatural ability to overcome your sinful desires.”

“It was the hand of God that brought you to Southwestern,” Hawkins reminded the students in his concluding remarks. “It’s the hand of God that’s seen you through these years of toil and struggle and study. And it’s the hand of God that will go with you when you leave this platform to your place of service, wherever it may be, all over the earth.”

The ceremony also included the awarding of the David S. and Lanese Dockery Award for Teaching Excellence to Sieberhagen. Inaugurated in spring 2022 and named after Southwestern Seminary’s president and his wife, Lanese, the award honors the professor nominated by faculty colleagues who displays faithful and effective teaching of students and personal care and concern for the spiritual development of students inside and outside the classroom, said Matt Queen, interim provost and vice president for academic administration, before presenting the award to Sieberhagen.

Alongside his wife, Sandra, Sieberhagen, who has taught at Southwestern since 2013, has invested academically in students in the classroom, and jointly the couple has opened their home to students for meals, holidays, prayer, discipling, and fellowship opportunities. Prior to serving at Southwestern, the Sieberhagens served for more than a decade as missionaries with the International Mission Board (IMB). Queen noted the same lessons the Siberhagens learned on the field are being invested in Southwestern Seminary students today.

The spring 2023 graduating class joins the 41,000 living Southwestern Seminary and TBC alumni who serve in every inhabited time zone around the world.

SBTC en Español organiza por primera vez retiros para adultos mayores y la esposa del pastor

CEDAR HILL—El departamento en español de la Convención de los Bautistas del Sur de Texas (SBTC, por sus siglas en inglés) marcó algunas primicias en abril cuando organizó retiros separados para adultos mayores y para la esposa del pastor. Los retiros tenían como objetivo proporcionar recursos y ministrar a la salud física y espiritual de los asistentes.

“Tenemos la visión de apoyar el desarrollo de las iglesias hispanas en Texas de una manera sana y eficaz, por lo que estamos constantemente buscando maneras de impactar los diferentes segmentos de liderazgo en estas iglesias,” dijo Chuy Ávila, asociado principal de la SBTC en Español. “Decidimos hacer estos eventos porque [los adultos mayores y la esposa del pastor] son dos de los grupos más descuidados, sin embargo, son valiosos para el cuerpo de Cristo.”

Ambos eventos se llevaron a cabo en el Centro de Retiro Bautista Mt. Lebanon, comenzando con el Retiro para Adultos Mayores realizado el 17 y 18 de abril. El objetivo del retiro era animar a los adultos mayores a servir en sus iglesias compartiendo sus vidas y discipulando a las generaciones más jóvenes.

Los asistentes al retiro fueron animados por Jorge E. Díaz, quien pastorea Semilla de Mostaza Centro Familiar Internacional en El Paso y es también un autor y conferencista que sirvió en la Casa Bautista de Publicaciones durante 35 años. Díaz invitó a sus oyentes a aceptar el reto de elegir ser felices a través de la renovación por medio del Espíritu Santo. También dirigió la sesión final del evento, desafiando a los adultos mayores a hacer discípulos al invertir en la vida de otros.

Fernando de Luna, pastor de la Primera Iglesia Bautista Mexicana de Odessa, dirigió las alabanzas, y Teodoro Pérez, pastor y humorista, dirigió una velada de humor y actividades dinámicas para los asistentes.

El retiro de adultos mayores también incluyó a:

— David Galván, quien se retiró luego de 40 años como pastor principal de la Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida en Dallas y fue el primer hispano en servir como vicepresidente de la Convención Bautista del Sur. Galván enseñó el taller “Manejando tu vida espiritual” (Proverbios 4:23), que incluyó temas como la seguridad de la salvación, aprender doctrina cristiana, vivir una vida ejemplar y establecer un tiempo sistemático para la Palabra de Dios, la oración y el evangelismo.

— Roland Johnson, pastor principal de la Primera Iglesia Bautista de Keller, habló sobre la enfermedad de Alzheimer y animó a los asistentes a hacer cambios, tomar precauciones y llevar una vida más sana mediante el ejercicio y la nutrición.

— Hervin Antonio, que lleva 50 años en el ministerio y es pastor de la Iglesia Bautista Maranata de Arlington. Habló de cómo los adultos mayores pueden hacer frente a la pérdida de un cónyuge apoyándose en las promesas del Señor. Les instó a continuar en la obra del Señor y a rodearse de familiares, amigos y hermanos.

Asistentes al retiro de adultos mayores de SBTC en Español en un tiempo en adoración. FOTO COMPARTIDA

Retiro para la esposa del pastor “Ven y reposa”

El retiro para la esposa del pastor principal se celebró durante tres días, del 30 de marzo al 1 de abril. El objetivo era ofrecer a las mujeres un tiempo de descanso, compañerismo y formación.

“Las esposas de los pastores son… las más incomprendidas debido a la gran carga que se ha puesto sobre sus espaldas y que no están obligadas a llevar. … Hay muy pocos miembros de la iglesia que realmente entienden y comprenden su rol en el ministerio,” dijo Ávila. “Como resultado, [muchas] se aíslan y se encierran en sí mismas a causa de sus frustraciones y decepciones.”

El retiro comenzó con un concierto de oración dirigido por Irma Ramos, que ha servido junto a su esposo, Marcos, pastor de la PIB de Galena Park, durante más de 40 años. La Sra. Ramos dirigió a las mujeres en un tiempo de adoración, oración y confesión basado en Nehemías 9:3, que muestra que adorar a un Dios santo va de la mano con confesar el pecado.

La Sra. Ramos también estuvo a cargo de la fogata del viernes, donde presentó un estudio sobre “El Llamado de Una” basado en Nehemías y centrado en cómo Dios nos llama individualmente.

“Fue un privilegio y una bendición para mí compartir estos días con mis hermanas,” dijo Ramos. “Fue bueno ver a algunas que ya conocía y me alegró mucho ver a tantas jóvenes esposas de pastores.”

Clara Molina, profesora retirada, conferenciante y autora de varios libros, entre ellos “¡Oh, no! mi esposo es el pastor,” compartió varios versículos de las Escrituras para recordar a la esposa del pastor la importancia del descanso. También ofreció herramientas para que las mujeres compartan el Evangelio.

Otras oradoras fueron:

— Zoricelis Dávila, psicoterapeuta y autora de varios libros, entre ellos “No sé qué me pasa.” Dirigió una sesión dinámica sobre “El reflejo de tu interior”, cuyo objetivo era ayudar a las esposas de los pastores a analizar sus emociones con el fin de crear equilibrio y establecer límites.

— Natalie Arzate, esposa del pastor José Arzate de la Iglesia Bridge en Richardson. Además de dirigir las alabanzas, impartió un taller sobre cómo utilizar la tecnología en el ministerio.

— Diana Puente, profesora adjunta de la Universidad Bautista de Luisiana y esposa del pastor Juan Puente, que sirve como plantador de Send Network en la Iglesia Lakes de Florida. Ella presentó a las mujeres varios recursos de la Convención Bautista del Sur disponibles para la iglesia. También enseñó la última sesión, “Vive el llamado,” donde habló sobre el llamado de la esposa del pastor.

— Carla Arriola, esposa del director de Send Network SBTC, Julio Arriola, dirigió un conversatorio sobre la siguiente generación y tener amistades sanas.

El retiro concluyó con un panel de discusión compuesto por Ramos, Arzate y Puente quienes compartieron su experiencia como esposa de pastor y respondieron a las preguntas de las asistentes.


Southern Baptists grow in attendance and baptisms, decline in membership

BRENTWOOD, Tenn.—For the second straight year, baptisms and giving increased among Southern Baptist congregations. In-person worship service and small group attendance also rebounded, but total membership and the number of congregations slid.

The Annual Church Profile (ACP) compiled by Lifeway Christian Resources in cooperation with Baptist state conventions paints a complicated picture for the Southern Baptist Convention but contains some positive news. In 2022, baptisms increased by more than 16%, in-person worship attendance climbed by more than 5%, small group attendance grew by 4% and giving to Southern Baptist congregations ticked up by almost 2%.

The total membership of the Southern Baptist Convention, however, continued its downward trajectory. The current total membership of Southern Baptist congregations is 13,223,122, down from 13,680,493 in 2021. The 457,371 members lost is the largest single year numerical drop in more than 100 years. In total, Southern Baptist churches have suffered membership declines of about 3% annually the past three years.

“Much of the downward movement we are seeing in membership reflects people who stopped participating in an individual congregation years ago and the record keeping is finally catching up,” said Scott McConnell, executive director Lifeway Research.

“Membership totals for a congregation immediately reflect additions as well as subtractions due to death or someone removing themselves from membership. But many congregations are slow to remove others who no longer are participating.”

Within the Southern Baptist Convention, multisite congregations reported 585 campuses in addition to their first location. The SBC saw 416 fewer churches and 165 fewer church-type missions associated with the convention in 2022 than in the previous year.

Rebounding attendance numbers

Emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, Southern Baptist congregations saw the return of additional in-person worshipers. More than 3.8 million individuals attended a Southern Baptist congregation on an average weekend in 2022, a 5% increase over the 3.6 million who did so in 2021.

Six states averaged more than 200,000 attendees each weekend in Southern Baptist congregations: Texas (438,865), Georgia (378,520), Florida (362,808), North Carolina (310,722), Tennessee (262,249) and Alabama (207,232).

Most states have more members of Southern Baptist congregations than people who attend on an average weekend. In the Iowa (3,464), Pennsylvania-South Jersey (2,564), New England (1,233) and Dakota (432) state conventions, however, more people are attending each week than are on the participating congregations’ membership rolls.

Small group participation also grew overall, climbing 4% (almost 100,000 people) in 2022. A total of 2.3 million individuals were part of in-person Sunday School classes or small groups at a Southern Baptist congregation on the average weekend.

Eight states had an average of 100,000 or more participants each weekend for small groups in Southern Baptist congregations: Texas (280,113), Georgia (232,016), Florida (210,306), North Carolina (189,800), Tennessee (148,214), Alabama (136,956), Mississippi (109,897) and Oklahoma (102,719).

On average, 61% of those who attend a Southern Baptist congregation on any given weekend are involved in a Sunday School class or small group. Mississippi (76%) and several state conventions outside of the traditional Southern Baptist region of the Southeast outperformed those numbers, including Oklahoma (76%), Montana (70%),Alaska (69%) and the Northwest Baptist Convention (68%).

Increase in baptisms and giving

As more people gathered in-person, they witnessed more baptisms. In 2022, Southern Baptist congregations baptized 180,177 people, a 16% increase over 2021.

“Everything we do at NAMB is focused on helping Southern Baptist churches advance the gospel,” said Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board (NAMB). “I’m encouraged by the increase in baptisms, although I know we are far from where we would like to be. In some states, 30% or more of baptisms are coming from churches started since 2010. We must remain focused on starting new, evangelistic churches and on replanting dying churches, but to really see a positive turnaround, established churches must lead the way by reaching and baptizing the lost. NAMB is here to help any church that wants to be more engaged in evangelism.”

States with the most baptisms in Southern Baptist congregations in 2022 were Florida (22,015), Texas (20,540), Tennessee (15,975), Georgia (15,021) and North Carolina (11,325).

In 2022, Southern Baptist congregations averaged one baptism for every 73 members. Several state conventions had a much lower ratio of baptisms to members, including seven who baptized at least one person for every 25 members: the Montana (1:14), Iowa (1:15), Pennsylvania-South Jersey (1:15), Dakota (1:16), New England (1:17), Michigan (1:21), New York (1:23), New Mexico (1:25) and Puerto Rico (1:25) conventions.

“Baptisms reported through the Annual Church Profile represent individuals saved, baptized, and set on the road to discipleship,” said Willie D. McLaurin, interim president and CEO, SBC Executive Committee. “I am incredibly proud of local churches that have stayed steady with advancing the Gospel in their harvest field. The increase is a significant turning point in fulfilling the Great Commission.”

Among the state conventions that collected financial information, giving increased among Southern Baptists. In 2022, undesignated receipts totaled more than $9.9 billion, an almost 2% increase over 2021. Around 7 in 10 Southern Baptist churches (69%) reported at least one item on the 2022 ACP, similar to the 70% who reported in 2021.

“The increased generosity among churches is a high point in the Annual Church Profile. In a season where pennies are having to be pinched and spending is strategic, church members are demonstrating an increased dependence upon their faith in God,” said McLaurin. “I am thankful for local Southern Baptist pastors that are equipping their members in biblical stewardship and casting a vision to reach the world for Jesus.”

Decreased online participation

As congregations drew more people in person, Southern Baptist congregations reported fewer people worshiping or attending small groups online in 2022. On average, just over 1 million people participated in an online worship service at a Southern Baptist congregation each week, down from more than 1.4 million in 2021. Online small group participation dropped by more than 58% to 82,404.

“More congregations reported declines in participation in online worship than growth,” said McConnell. “What for a season had become a necessity for continuing some semblance of corporate worship during the pandemic is now a ministry or form of outreach for many congregations.”

For more information, view the 2022 ACP statistical summary and the state convention summary and visit

Allen church hosts prayer vigil after 8 killed during outlet mall shooting

ALLEN—Mayor-elect Baine Brooks stood at the pulpit at Cottonwood Creek Church, where he is a member and sings on the worship team, and addressed the hundreds of people who gathered for a prayer vigil on Sunday evening (May 7).

As he walked onto the stage, Brooks folded up a piece of paper on which he had prepared his remarks, put it in his breast pocket, and said, “I think I’m going to put my script up and I’m just going to speak from the heart.”

A day earlier and just a couple of miles from the church, a 33-year-old man parked his car outside the Allen Premium Outlets, at the time bustling with Saturday afternoon shoppers, and opened fire. Eight people—including children—were killed and at least seven others were wounded. The gunman was shot and killed by a police officer at the mall on an unrelated call.

“Jesus, just please take the wheel,” Brooks said. “Our community has just been hit and it hurts. … I think prayer is going to be what we’re going to need going forward.”

Among those attending were some of the victims’ families, first responders, and elected officials, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Attorney General Ken Paxton. The vigil was led by Cottonwood Creek Senior Pastor John Mark Caton and several members of his staff, who took turns leading guided prayer sessions that included words of encouragement from Scripture. Referencing Psalm 34, which teaches that the Lord is set against those who do evil and that He is near the brokenhearted, Cottonwood Creek Elementary Minister Kelly Kitch said, “I want you to know that God is near, and it’s OK to cry out to Him.”

Caton said all of humanity longs to exist in a better place, but instead lives “in the in-between”—the place between God’s good and perfect creation found in Genesis 1 and the new heaven and earth promised in Revelation 21 where there is no longer “dying, crying, or pain.” As followers of Christ wait for the fulfillment of that promise while living in a world broken by sin, he said it is good for people to remember the words of Isaiah 61, which describes Jesus as the Messiah who will bring good news to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, and comfort all who mourn.

“Let us be a people who comfort those who mourn, who pray for those who grieve, who bring the oil of joy into spaces of sadness,” Caton said.

In closing the vigil, he prayed, “God, as we leave here tonight, we leave here corporately—willing to comfort and not hate, willing to love and bring others together instead of [letting] differences tear us apart. God, we trust that you … will comfort all who mourn.”

Covering a lot of ground in H-Town

Houston’s First collegiate ministry finds vast landscape, plenty of gospel opportunities

Houston is not your typical college town. The Bayou City boasts more than 40 institutions of higher learning, from four-year universities to junior colleges to tech schools, according to the city’s website. 

College ministry opportunities are vast and far different from those in communities dominated by a single major university, as Hunter Mullennix, Houston’s First Baptist Church college ministry associate at the church’s Loop campus, has discovered.

Mullennix, 25, came to Houston’s First in June 2022 following graduation from a state university in Denton in the prior year.

He said he had asked God to provide “a route for me not to go to college,” but had surrendered to the inevitable and ended up going to school in Denton. Today, he is pursuing a master’s degree through Southwestern Seminary part-time.

During his time in college, Mullennix majored in religious studies, where he “learned a little about a lot of religions” and repeatedly heard negatives about Christianity in his classes. “It was liberal, not biblical Christianity,” he said, adding that it was certainly different from what he had learned growing up in church. He got involved in a college ministry at a nearby church after some soul-searching in which he concluded he had been living a “double life”—juggling fraternity life with occasional church attendance.

“The Lord started to draw me back to Himself.”

“The Lord started to draw me back to Himself” through collegiate ministry at that church, he said. Mullennix dropped the frat life and spent a year in volunteer leadership before he was asked to join the church staff part-time as a college ministry intern in 2020, “right in the middle of COVID.”

Mullennix married his wife, Hannah, in June 2021, following graduation. Both felt called to ministry and Mullennix began an eight-month stint in the International Mission Board’s journeyman program. After Mullennix filled in one evening preaching at his college ministry, Hannah voiced what both had been separately thinking: perhaps it wasn’t the right time to pursue IMB work, but rather, college ministry. 

After others in his church had affirmed their calling to college ministry, someone recommended they contact Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Collegiate Associate Mitch Tidwell and attend a Roundup event in May 2022. Tidwell, whose nephew had been involved in the ministry where Mullennix was serving in Denton, asked him to supply his resume. 

Shortly after, Jarret Garber, minister to college and The 5, The Loop’s 5 p.m. Sunday service, phoned and had a 90-minute conversation with Hunter and Hannah. After that conversation, the North Texas-raised couple started considering a move south.

“We discussed the state of college ministry in Houston and what they wanted to start at The Loop, expanding out of a Sunday school class,” Mullennix recalled. The chance to start a college ministry practically from scratch was appealing. Hunter and Hannah visited in early June and moved to Houston three weeks later as Mullennix accepted a part-time position as the college ministry coordinator at The Loop.

Mullennix baptizes a student from the Loop’s college ministry. Since summer 2022, three students have been baptized and three are awaiting baptism, Mullennix said. Submitted Photo

A college ministry with a unique paradigm

With 15 campuses within 10 minutes, Mullennix said the Loop’s goal is to have a presence on each. For now, students from four universities and several community colleges and trade schools participate in college ministry at the Loop.

“It’s different than serving students from one college,” Mullennix said. “We have an assortment of students who come to our programs.”

College ministry is part of the 5 p.m. service, with a college life Bible study from 6:15 to 8 p.m. following the multigenerational evening worship. Students and leaders walk through biblical literacy and application curriculum focusing on evangelism and discipleship—basically, how to be a Christian.

The Sunday evening Bible study is “the biggest thing we do so far,” Mullennix said, adding that it’s hard to do things on campuses since they are trying to reach multiple schools that are spread out. Meeting at the church offers a central gathering place. Small groups also meet at the Mullennixes’ apartment and in other locations on Wednesday nights, and growth groups of two to three college students led by those who have already been discipled meet weekly, too. Currently there are 11 such groups, Mullennix said.

“Hunter has been able to get students on mission pretty quickly."

“Many [who are] leading are people who came to Christ this semester or who came and found community. They are encouraged to find people to disciple,” he said. He estimates that  60 students are involved on Sunday nights, during the week, or both. A 15-person leadership team assists in the ministry.

“Hunter has been able to get students on mission pretty quickly,” Tidwell said.

Summer college ministry looks a bit different at the Loop as well. Unlike typical college students living away from home, many Houston-area students are year-round residents of the city. 

“We don’t send a lot of people back home each year,” Mullennix said. Thus, there are more hands available for summer outreach. This will enable the Loop’s college ministry to have a presence at freshman orientations on various campuses throughout the summer, inviting incoming students to Bible studies geared to prepare them to walk with the Lord while in college.

Mullennix said he hopes to have a college intern and student volunteers on as many Houston-area campuses as possible during orientations as the metro college ministry grows.

How can deacons protect their pastor?

History’s first deacon assignment was an all-out widow war that threatened the future of the Jerusalem church. Without these first seven deacons, the very first local church would have split in two and the apostles would have eventually burned themselves out. 

The Jerusalem church started growing again as the pastors re-devoted themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word. Pastors and deacons have been serving side-by-side imperfectly for two millennia for the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom ever since. 

Pastor, if you are interested in embracing your original call to partner with deacons and/or elders, I want to suggest four ways they can protect you.

1. A deacon can help protect you from your fans.

The crowds that followed Jesus often asked more from Him than was reasonable. Immediately after He fed the 5,000, that crowd tried to “take Him by force to make Him king” (John 6:15). By the end of that same chapter, Jesus’ teachings got so tough that “many of His disciples turned back and no longer accompanied Him” (John 6:66).

Fans are fickle. 

Friends are faithful.

Fans chase pastors down in stores and restaurants. They text pastors at any time and for any reason, then complain because he didn’t reply fast enough. Friends, on the other hand, will protect pastors from their fickle fans. Friends walk in and clean up the mess the fans left on their way out of the church. 

Pastors don’t need fans—they need friends. Local churches need their deacons and/or elders to become faithful friends to their pastors.

2. A deacon can help protect you from your critics.

Early in his ministry, a handful of deacons from First Baptist Orlando came to Pastor Jim Henry’s home to pray for him. They told him, “Anybody who comes after you has to come through us first.” Henry later said, “Those guys kept their word. Deacons have had my back for over 50 years.” 

Church critics see themselves as the pastor police who are protecting the church, but they are nothing less than schoolyard bullies. Is your church a safe place to pastor? If not, deputize your deacons to wage peace in the hallways of your church. 

"If you are a deacon or church leader and your pastor is drowning, don’t yell advice from the shore. Jump in and help him. If you are a pastor—let your deacons help you."

3. A deacon can help protect you from the enemy.

The devil is a terrorist who strategically targets pastors. A simple way to let your leaders protect you is to ask them to pray for you before each worship service or at whatever time is most convenient. Selectively recruit one or two intercessors, or a rotation, and ask one of them to be the time keeper so that this doesn’t devolve into a distracting chat time.

4. A deacon can help protect you from yourself.

The pastor in the mirror is much more dangerous than his fans, critics, or even the devil. We need to surround ourselves with trusted leaders who love us enough to protect us from ourselves. 

Initiating accountability is much less intrusive than waiting for it to be assigned to you. Deacons won’t hold this sacred assignment lightly, especially if you use it as a preventive measure. Make sure they understand the biblical ground rules: privately, respectfully, and in love (Matthew 18:15; Ephesians 4:15). 

If you are a deacon or church leader and your pastor is drowning, don’t yell advice from the shore. Jump in and help him. 

If you are a pastor—let your deacons help you. In doing so, you will allow them the privilege of fulfilling their biblical call to protect their pastor.