Month: June 2023

Miracles among the Masai


s I write this article, I am flying back from a mission trip in the Masai Mara, Kenya. Thirty-two of us spent a week evangelizing, equipping church leaders, hosting medical clinics, constructing a new church building, and planting new churches. 

It was a powerful week of advancing God’s mission. We witnessed more than 400 people make professions of faith and laid the groundwork for two church plants in villages with no gospel presence. The most overwhelming part of the trip was the power of God that we saw on display in this largely unreached area. 

This region is hugely influenced by pagan practices and witchcraft that have been present here for thousands of years. Our team encountered very real demonic activity and undeniable spiritual encounters that I have never seen in more than 25 years of ministry.

One of the pastors we work with here is named Jonathan Narasha. He was saved a little more than 25 years ago when a missionary came through preaching. Jonathan had never heard the gospel before that day, but it transformed his life. He immediately began to preach the gospel and start churches in a region where there were almost no Christians. Since Jonathan’s conversion, there are now thousands of believers and he has personally planted more than 35 churches. Many of those who have accepted Christ have themselves planted dozens more churches.

"I am convinced the power of the Holy Spirit that is working among the Masai is the same power that wants to work among us! Let’s be people of prayer, people of evangelism, and people who ask for and expect miracles!"

Jonathan shared with our group the secret to his ministry success. It’s no secret at all, but simply practicing what we find in the New Testament:

“I am a man of deep prayer.” 

He told us prayer is the key to everything he does. He shared with us that after his conversion, he had no one to disciple or train him—not even a church to attend. All he knew to do was pray. He spends hours in prayer, dependent upon the Holy Spirit to guide him and give him supernatural power to proclaim Jesus. He also leads his church to pray. While preaching at his church, I was humbled by the fact that nearly an hour of their more than two-hour Sunday service was spent in fervent prayer. 

“We believe in going out to evangelize.” 

He said the gospel must be proclaimed to everyone and that it is our responsibility to go and share everywhere we go. He spends the majority of his week going from village to village and house to house sharing the gospel. The reason there are so many people coming to faith in this region is not because of the ministry programs his church offers, but because they mobilize the good news of Jesus.

“I expect God to perform miracles and ask Him for them.” 

Jonathan said he believes God is still able to perform signs and wonders to display the power of the gospel. They have seen people healed, demons cast out, and spiritual strongholds in villages broken. He said the reason we do not see the supernatural more than we do is because we do not ask God for it, nor do we expect it.

I am overwhelmed by this experience. My desire is to see God do this in the state of Texas. I am convinced the power of the Holy Spirit that is working among the Masai is the same power that wants to work among us! Let’s be people of prayer, people of evangelism, and people who ask for and expect miracles! 

What’s your story? Not defective, but effective!

I have been the bivocational pastor of First Baptist Church of Christine (about an hour outside San Antonio) for almost seven years now. This is my first church to pastor, and it was unexpected. I never expected to pastor. I just wanted to tell people about the Lord. When they lost their pastor, First Baptist said, “Can you come and just fill in for a few weeks?” I said, “I can fill in. That’s no problem.” Well, one of the deacons came up to me and said, “You know what? You are staying here until I say you can leave.” Next thing you know, I’m voted in and ordained, and I’m still there. Some church members say they can hardly tell I’m blind.  

When I was a young man, I felt a calling on my life. I stood up in the third grade on career day and told everyone I was going to be a preacher. One young man in the back said, “How can you be a preacher? They can’t understand you.” I had a speech impediment because of hearing loss. But I never let that discourage me because I knew who my Lord and Savior was, and my outlet was going to church. We went four times a week back in the ’70s, and I just loved the Lord.

In May of 1984, I made a sincere dedication to serve the Lord. I said, “Lord, I’m not going to fail you. I’m going to serve you 110%.” Not long after that, they told me that I could go blind. The diagnosis was retinitis pigmentosa. I’d never heard of that before, but I had made my commitment and said, “Well, Lord, I’m going to walk with you. I’m going to serve you all of my days.” God told me when I was 16 that He wanted me to preach, so I preached my first sermon at church at 16 years old.

A few years later, I was thinking, “Who’d want to marry a blind man?” and the Lord sent me
a wonderful lady from Mexico who came back with
a missionary we had sent there. I still had my eyesight, and I was looking at the church and said, “Wow, who is that?” A beautiful Latin American woman. I introduced myself and it wasn’t nine months later Yazmina and I married; we’ve been together now for 31 years. Later, God gave us a precious daughter, Priscilla, who is now 20. 

"I had begun to teach and lead in my church when my vision started to deteriorate. I couldn’t drive anymore. Things were just different in my life. And I thought, 'Man, Lord, what am I going to do?'"

I had begun to teach and lead in my church when my vision started to deteriorate. I couldn’t drive anymore. Things were just different in my life. And I thought, “Man, Lord, what am I going to do?” Couldn’t read the Bible like I once could, and I had to change my whole life around. I had to let go of the job that I worked very hard to get—I was an accountant, the controller for a law firm. That was a big step in our life. We moved to Colorado for a year and my wife worked up there … then the Lord brought us from Colorado to Texas and I finished up my book, On Top of My Mountain, just to tell people my testimony.

My vision has gone from blurry to shadows, and now all I see is light. Thank God for the light! Sometimes I hear the enemy saying, “You’re defective. You can’t see. You can’t hear. Now you have high blood pressure.” And the words out of my mouth are, “No, I’m not defective, but effective for the kingdom.”

That response has become my motto in my life. This is how I encourage people. Don’t let the enemy tell you anything, because Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I took that and began to share that message. Even today when I go to men’s events or people invite me to speak, I say, “I’m not defective, but effective. You’re not defective, but effective. God has a plan for your life.”

People are just amazed at what God can do with someone who has a disability like mine. You see, God doesn’t see disability. He sees ability. God sees me—not blind, but able to see. That’s the way the people are seeing me at my church. Sometimes they’ll forget that I’ll need a hand to get from the sanctuary to the fellowship hall, and then somebody will walk back and say, “Oh, pastor, we forgot you couldn’t see.” God has been so good to me, and the people are just receptive to what God has to say through me. And He does it. He really does it.

I’ve looked at the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and I tell people there’s no quit in the Bible. So don’t quit. You have to keep moving forward like Paul says: “… one thing that I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:13-14). A lot of times, we can get discouraged. I get discouraged, and the first thing we want to do when we get discouraged—we want to quit. In Galatians 6:9, it says don’t grow weary in well doing. Don’t grow weary, don’t get tired, don’t get frustrated. You’re doing well.

What’s my story? I’m a blind pastor who’s partially deaf, but not defective—I’m effective for my Lord! 

What's your story?

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

Share your story here

Leading a resilient life and ministry

My primary vision for the first 20 years of pastoring was to build a Great Commission church. That vision fueled two decades of uninterrupted church growth at three churches that prioritized baptisms, buildings, and budgets. 

Fifteen years ago, I came to realize I was not growing internally at the same rate as my ministry was growing externally. I continued to preach sermons, lead staff, and build buildings while simultaneously burning out and burning bridges. Although I did not have any moral meltdowns in that dark season, a doctor and therapist helped me understand I was pastoring in a fog of depression and needed help. 

That began a grace-filled journey back to personal and pastoral health—which led to my most fulfilling years of pastoring. In the five years that followed my diagnosis, our church finished a historic relocation to a 50-acre campus while simultaneously launching a regional ministry center. 

Is it realistic to expect an unhealthy pastor to lead a healthy church? 

The apostle Paul says this in 1 Timothy 4:16: “Pay close attention to your life and your teaching; persevere in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.”  

"I believe every Great Commandment Christian will be a Great Commission Christian because our love for God fuels our love for our neighbors, as well as ourselves."

When pastors win, our families and ministries win. When we lose, the collateral damage is exponential. I wrote a book called Start to Finish to help pastors, missionaries, and deacons win by leading their lives, families, and ministries well (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1). It is my prayer this book will help them start well, serve well, and finish well. 

I believe every Great Commandment Christian will be a Great Commission Christian because our love for God fuels our love for our neighbors, as well as ourselves. While many church growth books focus on the Great Commission, Start to Finish focuses on the Great Commandments which precede, supersede, and fuel the Great Commission. 

These commands remind us of God’s relational priorities for our lives: love God, love our neighbors, and love ourselves. They serve as guideposts for healthy, resilient pastors who are serious about leading their lives and ministries well. The book is divided into two sections based on each part of the Great Commandment, the second of which is a prequel to the Great Commission.

I have no secrets or shortcuts for pastors. As the Bible hangs on these two basic commands, so does this book. I wrote it to help pastors deal with the reality that our personal and professional relationships are intrinsically connected. Each day we attempt to navigate relational landmines without a clear compass, we are putting our families and ministries at risk. 

The apostle Paul modeled a strong finish for us. On his last ministry lap, he shared his intentions with Timothy and the Ephesian ministry team, saying, “My purpose is to finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:24).

I cannot promise you a strong start or finish to your life and ministry, but I can promise you the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention staff and GuideStone are committed to helping you in any way we can until your race is over. 

SBTC DR volunteers deploy quickly after devastating Northeast Texas, Panhandle tornadoes

Tornadoes ripped through opposite sides of Texas this week, sending Southern Baptists of Texas Disaster Relief teams, along with other first responders, into the field to serve.

A twister and high winds hit Cass and Miller counties on June 14, damaging homes, downing power lines, and uprooting trees. The National Weather Service confirmed a tornado rated at least EF-2 struck the area.

As temperatures and humidity rose, SBTC DR chaplains, assessors, and a chainsaw crew with a skid steer and man lift began traveling back and forth from their homes in Northeast Texas to assist survivors in the steamy region.

Chaplain Debby Nichols reported visiting with two survivors in Bloomburg, older sisters whose mobile home sustained moderate damage with trees down all around it. The two women were in the home when the tornado struck. After the storm, their nephew—a pastor from Oklahoma—said, “I need a chaplain who is not family to talk to them about Jesus.”

“I’m a chaplain,” Nichols replied. She proceeded to talk to one of the women and was able to share the gospel. The ladies’ names were then given to the local pastor for follow-up.

Paul Easter’s chainsaw crew from Mount Pleasant began work in Cass County, helping residents deal with downed trees. Nichols said the work was expected to last several days.

SBTC DR volunteer Steve Adcock, who is six feet tall, poses in front of an enormous tree downed in Cass County by the tornado. DEBBY NICHOLS PHOTO

Perryton devastated

On June 15, one day following the Cass County storms, a tornado devastated the town of Perryton in the Texas Panhandle. Three people were killed, dozens were injured, and property was significantly damaged, according to media reports. That night, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a state of emergency to deploy resources and assistance to the area.

SBTC DR volunteers deployed quickly.

“Assessors are on the ground now,” Scottie Stice, SBTC DR director, said on Friday, June 16, adding that the QRU (quick response) mobile feeding unit from the Top O’ Texas Baptist Association in Pampa was in place. Volunteers had started preparing meals for the community and first responders.

Stice said SBTC DR had also moved in generator-powered crew cooling units since electricity is out across much of the area. Such cooling units are typically used on oil fields and feature evaporated coolers and shaded seating.

“Recovery volunteers and units will go in as soon as search and rescue is completed and emergency management authorities give us the all-clear,” Stice said.

Even as Southern Baptists make their way home from the SBC Annual Meeting in New Orleans held earlier in the week, reports are filtering in of wind damage in other parts of Texas.

“We are tracking these reports and will respond appropriately,” Stice said.


SBC 2023 BRIEFS: Barber reelected, constitutional amendment moves forward, and more

NEW ORLEANS—Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church of Farmersville, was reelected to a second term as president of the Southern Baptist Convention on June 13 at the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting.

Out of 11,014 messenger votes, Barber received 7,531 votes (68.38%), while Georgia pastor Mike Stone received 3,458 (31.40%). There were 25 ballots disallowed.

Barber was nominated by Jarrett Stephens, senior pastor of Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston. Stone was nominated by Florida pastor Willy Rice.

Barber has served as pastor of FBC Farmersville since 1999, as well as in a number of roles in the SBC and SBTC, including on its executive board from 2008 to 2014 (serving as chairman and vice chairman).

— Baptist Press, Texan staff

Constitutional amendment clarifying stance on female pastors moves forward

A motion to clarify Southern Baptists’ stance prohibiting women to serve as pastors was passed by messengers on June 14.

The motion, first brought last year by Virginia Pastor Mike Law, received the required two-thirds vote by messengers. Another two-thirds vote of approval is necessary at next year’s annual meeting to proceed with the amendment to Article III of the SBC Constitution.

The motion that passed was amended from its original version, which was referred to the SBC Executive Committee last year at the SBC Annual Meeting in Anaheim, Calif. Juan Sanchez, senior pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, offered the amendment to Law’s motion.

Article III lists five points that place churches within the definition of cooperation with the SBC. The amended motion calls for a sixth, adding churches that affirm, appoint, or employ “only men as any kind of pastor or elder as qualified by Scripture.”

— Baptist Press

Abuse reform task force renewed for another year

A task force approved by the messengers to the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting reported progress to 2023 messengers on June 14. The eight-member Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force reported its activities over the past year to messengers and closed with a recommendation that messengers approve the renewal of the task force for another year.

Messengers approved continuation of the task force by a hand vote.

Highlights of the report included the creation of a MinistryCheck resource that allows churches to vet candidates for leadership, provision of tools to help churches safeguard people in their ministries, and resourcing and cooperation with state conventions as they seek to better protect their own churches and people.

“We want to see Southern Baptist churches across the country be the safest places for your children and your family to hear the gospel of Jesus,” said ARITF Chairman Marshall Blalock, a pastor from Charleston, S.C., during his oral report.

— Gary Ledbetter

Messengers uphold removal of Saddleback, 2 others after appeals

NEW ORLEANS—Three churches that were disfellowshipped by the Executive Committee in February were denied their appeals to be reinstated to the SBC on June 13. The decision of the vote of the messengers to deem the churches not in friendly cooperation with the SBC was announced the following day.

Two of the churches—Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., and Fern Creek Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky.—were removed because of their decision to call female pastors. The third church to appeal, Freedom Church of Vero Beach, Fla., was removed for failing to resolve concerns regarding an abuse allegation against its pastor.

After hearing the appeal of each church and a response from the Executive Committee, messengers voted by ballot to reject each appeal by majorities of 88% (Saddleback), 91% (Fern Creek), and 96% (Freedom Church).

— Gary Ledbetter

SBC resolutions address AI, office of pastor, other topics

Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans approved nine resolutions on current issues, mostly without controversy. Resolutions are submitted by Southern Baptists and are also developed by committee members. The committee noted 23 submissions received by the deadline in late May.

A resolution on artificial intelligence was the first ever for the SBC. The statement emphasized the Bible’s sufficiency to answer ethical challenges presented by emerging technologies, as well as highlighting the centrality of human dignity.

The legacy and responsibility of women in fulfilling the Great Commission was the subject of another resolution. This one celebrates women who have served the convention as teachers, mentors, leaders, and missionaries. The statement also affirmed the worth and gifting of women for God’s purposes.

Although minor amendments were discussed, the resolutions engendered very little controversy among messengers and were each passed without significant dissent. Resolutions offer the messengers to a particular meeting to express their opinions on current issues. While instructive, they are not binding on the convention.

— Gary Ledbetter

SBC 2023: ‘It was pretty electric’: Farmersville’s Cheesman reflects on leading worship before thousands

NEW ORLEANS—On any given Sunday in the tiny North Texas town of Farmersville, James Cheesman leads worship at First Baptist Church in front of about 350 people—400 on a good Sunday. This past Easter, the church had about 500 people in attendance.

On any given day of the 2023 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting, held June 13-14 at the prodigious Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, Cheesman found himself leading worship before roughly 15,000 messengers and guests in attendance.

In other words, he led worship before a crowd nearly four times the size of the entire population of the town where he serves.

“It was incredible,” Cheesman said a few minutes after finishing the final worship session of the meeting. “Playing with the band and leading with that team was incredible, but the most incredible thing of all was the times I was able to listen to the whole group of people singing together—just a room of people on fire for Jesus lifting up their voices together. … It was pretty electric.”

Leading worship at the Annual Meeting wasn’t on Cheesman’s radar until a couple of weeks prior to the 2022 Annual Meeting in Anaheim, where his pastor, Bart Barber, would run for SBC president. Traditionally, the SBC president is given the courtesy of selecting the next year’s worship pastor. When Barber was elected, Cheesman was invited to lead worship in New Orleans.

Leading worship at an SBC Annual Meeting is a monumental task, Cheesman said, so he began preparations shortly after the Anaheim meeting. He started with a phone call to a friend from college, Augustine Hui, who lives in New Orleans. Cheesman asked Hui if he would help him lead worship and build a team of others who could bring a diversity of worship styles to the service—including gospel, jazz, and bluegrass.

In the ensuing months, choir and orchestral performers from First Baptist Church of Covington, La., Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, and First Baptist Church of Mandeville, La., agreed to help—joining singers from First Farmersville, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and from a few other churches and organizations.

“It’s like a full-time job, honestly. It’s a lot of preparation,” Cheesman said. “When J.D. Greear was president, they had several worship pastors at all of their various campuses who could work together to accomplish it. But I’m pretty much a one-man show. So—and this is something I can give God the glory for—I just reached out to people and started making connections, and God just put together an incredible team to surround me and be a part of this.”

As he prayerfully considered songs for the worship sets, Cheesman consulted with many of the key players who would appear on stage during the meeting, including Barber, convention sermon preacher Todd Unzicker, the SBC’s Committee on the Order of Business, and officials with the International Mission Board. When IMB’s Mission Sending Celebration was held on the first day of the meeting, it featured a virtual choir consisting of more than 20 missionaries on the field singing a coordinated, pre-recorded song.

Cheesman said the Sending Celebration was one of the highlights of the meeting for him, as was Southwestern’s acapella group leading messengers in singing “Behold Our God” in nine languages at once. Cheesman also had the opportunity to lead messengers in singing a song he co-wrote with his friend Kris Redus called “Do Not Grow Weary.”

During his press conference on the final day of the convention, amidst questions from the media about the hot-button issues dealt with at the Annual Meeting, Barber briefly mentioned his worship pastor, saying, “[He’s] been doing a great job this week.”

As Barber spoke, Cheesman had already taken the stage downstairs in the convention hall to lead worship for the final time. After that? Rest—at least for a little while.

“I’m contemplating taking a nap right now,” Cheesman joked, “but I’m not going to yet.”


A Christlike approach to receiving criticism

Pastoring is an immense privilege and joy, but it does not come without criticism. Any critique—even well-intentioned and heartfelt—seems to only exacerbate the insecurity young pastors often carry.

When I am faced with criticism or simply caught off guard by something said to me during a conversation, I can sense pride and defensiveness welling up in my heart. Then the reactions begin to float through my head: “They don’t understand. I’ve thought this through much more than they have.” Even though I’ve learned to hold my tongue, my inner monologue is shouting because I want to explain myself and justify why I did what I did.

Through experience and helpful resources such as Pastors and Their Critics: A Guide to Coping with Criticism in the Ministry by Joel R. Beeke and Nick Thompson, I’ve learned how to respond more pastorally to criticism. Here are a handful of things I try to keep in mind:

Assume the best motives.

Committed members of your church may voice criticism to you because they love you and want what’s best for the church. Even if their suggestion isn’t the best solution, most critics want to see you lead the church to a place where it will thrive.

Listen for the truth.

Every critique includes at least one grain of truth (and oftentimes more than just one), so find it. Even if the criticism is delivered poorly, look beyond its brashness and evaluate yourself before you evaluate your critic.

Respond with thankfulness, not defensiveness.

Assuming the critique came from a place of love, it probably took a lot for this person to bring it up to you. The fact they did shows they care for you and are comfortable enough with you to do so. Thank them for that.

Ask for time to pray and process.

After you are quick to hear, be slow to speak. Ask for time to process what’s been said to you. Unless the church is burning down, your response is probably not needed in that immediate moment.

I tend to say something along the lines of, “Thank you for being comfortable enough to share that with me. You’ve given me some helpful suggestions to consider. If it’s alright with you, I’d love to take some time to prayerfully process this and I’ll get back with you.”

Follow up.

When you revisit the conversation with the person, thank them again. Seek to affirm any changes you’ve made or errors you found due to their conversation with you. Consider inviting them into the process moving forward. Even if they didn’t change your mind or plans, express gratitude for their care and consideration.

I have found these approaches to be beneficial in many ways. They diffuse any rising tension that can happen in the heat of the conversation, curb my defensiveness, and prevent me from responding emotionally. They humbly remind me and the other person that I don’t always have—or have to have—all the answers. They communicate I am willing to listen, care enough to want to take the time to understand, and afford me time to receive godly counsel from friends, elders, and the Holy Spirit.

Pastoral patience will not only benefit responding to critics, but help you navigate difficult conversations with friends or family members. More importantly, slowing down and taking time to process criticism will sanctify you into the image of Christ. As James 1:19-20 says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”


SBC 2023: FBC Farmersville’s Barber reelected SBC president

NEW ORLEANS, La. (BP)—Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church of Farmersville, was reelected to a second term as president of the SBC on Tuesday at the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting in New Orleans.

Out of 11,014 messenger votes, Barber received 7,531 votes (68.38%) while Georgia pastor Mike Stone received 3,458 (31.40%). There were 25 ballots disallowed.

Barber was nominated by Jarrett Stephens, senior pastor of Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston. Stone was nominated by Florida pastor Willy Rice.

“I do not believe this is owed to Dr. Barber, but I do believe he has earned it,” Stephens said.

In his first term, Barber appointed the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force and represented the SBC on CBS’ 60 Minutes.

“He courageously gave straight answers to tough questions and was unapologetic in his defense of sound doctrine, pointing millions of people to the hope of Jesus. I was so proud he represented us,” Stephens said.

Barber has served as pastor of FBC Farmersville since 1999, as well as in a number of roles in the SBC. He served as chairman of the 2022 SBC Resolutions Committee and was a member of that committee in 2021.

He preached at the 2017 SBC Pastors’ Conference, served as first vice president of the SBC from 2013 to 2014, served on the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention executive board from 2008 to 2014 (including serving as chairman and vice chairman), served as a trustee for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary from 2009 to 2019 and on the SBC Committee on Committees in 2008. From 2006 to 2009, he taught as an adjunct professor at SWBTS.

An Arkansas native, Barber was saved at an early age, called to preach at 11, and preached his first sermon at 15. He has a B.A. from Baylor University, an M.Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. in church history, also from SWBTS. He and his wife, Tracy, have two children: Jim, 19, and Sarah, 15, who were adopted.

SBC 2023: SBTC preachers talk character during Pastors’ Conference

NEW ORLEANS—The voices of Southern Baptists of Texas Convention pastors were heard loud and clear at the 2023 Pastors’ Conference held Sunday and Monday (June 11-12) in advance of the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting. The conference consisted of expository sermons based on Matthew 5 and the conference theme, “Character Matters in Ministry: Beatitudes of a Pastor,” and pastoral talks that centered on aspects of the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5.

Message: Andrew Hebert, Matthew 5:5, “Meek”

Andrew Hebert, lead pastor of Mobberly Baptist Church in Longview, cautioned listeners to beware of becoming “performers” because “the pathway of Jesus is different.”

Hebert said rather than being influencers, thought leaders, catalysts, or CEOs, pastors are called to be servants. “Shepherds,” he said, “not kings.” Pastors must choose “humbly to follow our Chief Shepherd” rather than pursue “platform and position and prominence.”

Admitting that humility in ministry makes for an “uncomfortable” subject, Hebert challenged pastors by saying, “We can choose to make ministry all about us or all about Jesus.”

He offered answers to the following four questions during the message:

  1. What is humility? Quoting Gavin Ortlund’s book Humility, Hebert defined humility as “self-forgetfulness leading to joy.” Pastors have a “small place in a much larger story,” he said, and must avoid becoming the story themselves. He urged pastors to shine the light “on Jesus and Jesus alone.”
  2. What produces humility? It begins with a “recognition of your own spiritual poverty,” Hebert said. “We have no resources without Christ in our spiritual bank account,” adding that humility produces authentic mourning or lamentation regarding one’s spiritual condition.
  3. What does humility produce? Jesus teaches that humility generates a “hunger and thirst for righteousness,” Hebert said. “When you come to an end of your resources, you can then get hungry for God to do in your life what only God can do.”
  4. What is the promise of humility? Jesus promises a “blessing” and an “inheritance” in Matthew 5:5 for those who are humble, Hebert said, adding, “The humble will one day be clothed with nothing short of glory itself.” Being “famous with God” eliminates the need for status, position, or pride. Hebert called pastors to remember that “being favored by God, being covered in His beauty—it’s the highest status and the highest position you can ever have.”

Pastoral Talks: Stephens, Corredera, Draper

Jarrett Stephens, pastor of Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston, presented the first pastoral talk of the conference Sunday evening, focusing on love—the first fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23. “The preacher’s character ought to resemble his Savior’s character,” Stephens urged, noting that Paul refers to “unselfish, ready to serve” agape love in the passage.

Love, like every other fruit of the Spirit, is “evidence of salvation,” Stephens said. He challenged pastors to be loving in their interactions with family, staff, congregants, and on social media.

He closed with the account of the 2013 salvation of his older brother, Eric. Although Stephens prayed for his brother’s conversion for 17 years, Eric’s eventual salvation came not because of “compelling apologetics … convincing arguments … creative sermons or clever witnessing.” Rather, “it was God’s love for him … the love of a family … the love of a local church.” And that, Stephens concluded, “is the love of God that’s going to change the world.”

Gilberto Corredera, pastor of Prestonwood en Español, ended the Monday afternoon session with a short message on faithfulness. Corredera recounted his experience growing up in Cuba as the son of an alcoholic father and communist mother. “The Lord rescued me,” he said, “gave me a new life and a new hope and a future, a new passion to tell others about His love for me and His faithfulness in my life.”

After coming to the U.S. in 2009, Corredera—who spoke no English—spent a year working as a dishwasher at Prestonwood in Plano. Eventually, he was called to pastor Prestonwood en Español, which has grown from 100 to 3,000 members on three campuses, with sermons broadcast in 59 countries.

“When your assignment looks bigger than your ability,” he said, “the only thing that God requires from you and me is faithfulness. He will cover the gap.”

Jimmy Draper, longtime SBC pastor, president emeritus of LifeWay Christian Resources, and a former SBC president, spoke of the fruit of self-control. Draper said self-control is a summary of all the virtues and is actually a mark of being controlled by the Holy Spirit.

“God never intended us to figure things out. He didn’t intend for us to figure out about the Great Commission, not even the Christian life. He put the Holy Spirit in us,” Draper said. Fulfilling the Great Commission is not “rocket science,” he said. “It is the fruit of the Spirit.”

“The fruit of the Spirit is a vivid picture of what Christian character looks like,” he added. “It is, in fact, what a Christian minister and a Christian leader and every Christian ought to be.”

Other pastors preaching sermons at the conference were David Allen, H.B. Charles, D.J. Horton, Chip Luter, Bartholomew Orr, Jim Shaddix, and Phil Waldrep. Pastoral talks were also delivered by Wayne Bray, Michael Cloer, Roc Collins, Phil Newton, Herb Reavis, and Ken Whitten.


SBC 2023: SBTC pastors share prayer testimonies with national audience

NEW ORLEANS—Amidst a sea of chatter and conversations about ministry in the hours prior to the opening gavel of the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting, First Baptist Church Forney Senior Pastor Nathan Lino made it clear how churches from Texas to Taiwan will experience the movement of God they so desperately seek.

“You have to believe that leading the church to pray together is the activity of first importance,” Lino said during a panel discussion held Monday in the annual meeting’s exhibit hall. “We’re going to build our church on sound doctrine and the true gospel, but the activity of first importance has to be that we’re going to seek the presence of God. … Without the manifest presence of God, the rest we’re doing is in the flesh and is completely ineffective.”

The Power in the Prayer Meeting panel also included Todd Kaunitz, lead pastor of New Beginnings Baptist Church in Longview, and Robby Gallaty, senior pastor of Long Hollow Church in Hendersonville, Tenn. Kie Bowman, pastor emeritus of Hyde Park Baptist & The Quarries Church in Austin, moderated the panel aimed at helping pastors create a culture of prayer in their churches and design an effective prayer meeting.

Bowman—who is assisting the SBC Executive Committee in developing a national prayer strategy—explained that all three pastors have experienced “significant spiritual awakening like we only read about and dream about” in their churches. Those movements of God, he said, were precipitated by each pastor making prayer a priority in his personal life and church over the past couple of years.

Before that happened, Gallaty, Lino, and Kaunitz said they had to weather a personal season of brokenness that the Lord used to help them understand their need for Him at the center of their lives and ministries. Those seasons were marked by jealousy, arrogance, pride, joyless service, and desperation. Lino said he was so despondent at one point, “I was praying every day for God to bring me home.”

Said Gallaty: “Brokenness is the pathway to breakthrough.”

After personally turning their hearts back to the Lord in prayer and then leading their churches to do the same, the pastors testified about seeing God do things they had never seen. Gallaty said more than 1,000 people at Long Hollow were baptized within a 15-week period. Lino said since last Aug. 15, his church has seen 962 people saved. Kaunitz has previously said hundreds in his church have been saved, baptized, or experienced personal renewal and restoration.

Bowman, who moderated the prayer panel, listens during one of the responses. CODY GROCE/SBTC

So how, Bowman asked, can pastors lead their churches to begin a prayer meeting?

Lino said the weekly prayer meeting at his church includes three phases that follow the pattern of the Lord’s prayer. First, he leads those in attendance to seek the manifest presence of God (“Our Father in heaven … ”). Next, he asks the congregation to talk to God about what’s on His heart—not their own (“ … your kingdom come, your will be done …”). Only then does Lino lead his people to share with God what’s on their heart (“Give us this day, our daily bread …”).

“What we have found is that if you move through those three phases of the Lord’s prayer, something about it triggers the Holy Spirit,” Lino said.

Kaunitz recommended pastors who feel they have not been diligent in leading their churches in prayer confess that fact before their congregation. The next step, he said, would involve making prayer the primary activity of the church—even if that means other activities take a backseat. He also mentioned a pair of prayer retreats that will be held in partnership with the SBTC—one later this month at FBC Forney and another in the fall at New Beginnings—intended to help churches learn more about hosting a weekly prayer meeting.

He said the revival experienced at New Beginnings this past February started with the Holy Spirit saying to him, “I’m speaking to the people. You’ve asked me to move. Will you get out of my way?” Kaunitz said he shared that with his congregation and then walked out of the room—a moment that catalyzed a week of daily prayer meetings at the church where a “mighty move of God” happened.

“What I would say to a pastor is, be willing to trust your church to the Holy Spirit, recognizing He’s a better pastor, a better shepherd, and He can lead the church better than you can,” Kaunitz said. “When I’ve learned to relinquish control, submitting to the work of the Holy Spirit, He takes over and does things I can’t manufacture.”