Month: July 2023

Being ready for baptism

Mrs. Dot became a Christian very late in life. Her conversion was the result of the faithful and steady witness of her nursing home roommate, who would invite Mrs. Dot to church each Sunday. Mrs. Dot soon gave her life to Christ. Her subsequent baptism, however, put all things practical to the test.

Mrs. Dot suffered from a long list of health problems, including a recent stroke. As a result, she was unable to speak, found it difficult to breathe, and was beyond fragile. That meant the methods many churches use for baptism—baptistries, horse troughs, or nearby bodies of water—were out of the question.

But there was one other option for Mrs. Dot—a church member’s swimming pool. Several men hoisted Mrs. Dot, in her wheelchair, into the pool to be baptized. She insisted on being fully immersed, despite her obvious health concerns.

Where there is water, there is a way.

Sometimes baptisms require you to be flexible, but you always need a plan. No matter the circumstances, here are a few practical considerations for pastors and church leaders to consider when planning for a baptism:

  • Who will be doing the baptizing? Will it be the pastor, youth minister, father, or the person who led them to Jesus? For Mrs. Dot, it took more than a handful of people.
  • What will the baptism candidate wear? Some wear robes, others do not. Wherever your church culture leads in this regard, make sure baptism attire is modest—especially when it gets wet. Some people prefer to wear swimwear beneath their clothing when they are baptized. That’s always OK. Be sure your church keeps clean towels on hand and maybe even some generic shorts and T-shirts (leftover T-shirts from church events are great for this). You’d be surprised how often people forget to bring a towel and a change of clothes.
  • Ask the baptism candidate ahead of time if they are afraid of water. You’re welcome.
  • Walk them through the process when you meet to explain the meaning of baptism. Show the candidate where to place their hands as they are lowered into the water. Encourage them to invite family and friends to witness their baptism.
  • Some baptistries have a built-in stool. This makes it easier to baptize someone taller or stouter than you. Stools can also help when baptizing someone who has a hard time kneeling down or getting up. Having a good, strong deacon or helper nearby is a good idea. It might keep someone from slipping or being embarrassed if they cannot easily be raised up. Considering things like this ahead of time will help ensure the baptism will be exciting and joyful, not a time for someone to be embarrassed or get hurt.
  • Heat the water if you can. Not too cold, not too hot. Likewise, lake baptisms in January might not be as fun as they would in July.
  • Enlist the help of men and women in your church to help with all the tasks involved in carrying out a baptism. Their help in preparing the water, towels, and more will free you up to focus on the candidate.
  • Bear in mind that while you can have baptisms during any part of your worship service, you might need time to change clothes before and after.

Pragmatically speaking, it’s totally fine to think outside of the box as you approach baptisms—so long as we aren’t thinking outside of the Bible.

‘Investment in ministry is just glorious’

Fairdale Baptist Church in Hemphill is sending its dollars—and people—to assist a nearby Hispanic congregation

Years ago, leaders at Fairdale Baptist Church recognized a couple of noteworthy things related to their budget:

1. They knew they needed to formally create a reserve fund to tackle any big-expense emergencies that might arise, such as the church’s air conditioning going out (which, in Texas, definitely constitutes an emergency).

2. They recognized the church had been carrying a large sum of money totaling in the low six figures in its general reserve fund that was going unused each year. 

Fairdale addressed the first issue as many churches do—by creating a reserve fund and contributing to it. But the church chose to do something unique to address the second issue and, because of it, Fairdale is having a kingdom impact by making a gospel investment in other churches in the region.

Rather than continuing to leave the money sitting dormant in its own account, Fairdale opted to invest those funds with the Southern Baptists of Texas Foundation—a ministry partner of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention that, in turn, works with churches in areas including investments, stewardship assessments, church lending, and financial consulting. Fairdale’s decision to work with the foundation, however, came a twist: the church opted not to keep the interest earned from its investments, but instead directed the foundation to pass it along to support other Hispanic churches in the area, including a church with which it already had a relationship—Primera Iglesia Bautista Hispana in Jasper, about 40 miles southwest of Hemphill.

“The biggest thing we talked about was, as a church, we’re not in the business of being a bank. We have to be about working for the Lord, and we saw those funds just sitting there that could easily be used to help ministry efforts elsewhere.”

“The biggest thing we talked about was, as a church, we’re not in the business of being a bank. We’re not in the business of just holding funds here that wouldn’t be used,” Fairdale Pastor JR McDonald said. “We have to be about working for the Lord, and we saw those funds just sitting there that could easily be used to help ministry efforts elsewhere.”

Primera’s pastor, Enrique Perez, said his congregation is relatively small, full of people who work hard and want to reach people for Christ in their community. Like so many other congregations, COVID significantly impacted the church. Perez said he tries to stay connected to those who were attending regularly before the pandemic but have not quite made it back yet. At the same time, he and the church strive to connect to new people in the community.

“We want Christ to be known in our community,” Perez said. “The only way to do that is to reach people where they are.”

That’s why Fairdale’s gospel partnership with Primera has meant so much. Perez said Fairdale has supported Primera’s work since his arrival there in 2005. That partnership is measured not merely in dollars, but in human capital. Each year, Fairdale sends a group of its members to Primera to help put on vacation Bible school. 

"You talk about returns in the stock market, but when it comes to kingdom work, investment in ministry is just glorious. That really excites us."

Meanwhile, interest funds from Fairdale’s investment with the foundation are added to a fund that Primera will use to construct a new building to replace its aging facility. Even as it saves for the future, Primera continues to pour into other gospel work. Perez said his church sent 250 Bibles to two churches in Mexico earlier this year and a few months later provided funds to a gospel partner to provide sandals and Spanish Bible tracts to the mountainous region in Oaxaca.

“I cannot put into words what [Fairdale’s partnership] has meant,” Perez said. “It’s just amazing. Fairdale is the most mission-minded church in our area. If there’s another church that has a bigger heart, I’m not aware of it.”

Milton Hamilton, a Fairdale deacon, is among those who have helped with Bible schools and other outreaches at Primera. He and his wife, Rosemary, have become so invested in Primera’s mission, they recently decided to answer a call from the Lord to leave Fairdale—where they have been members since the mid-2000s—to join the Hispanic congregation. They are learning how to speak Spanish and plan on making the transition this summer. 

“They’re a small congregation … but they’re just sweet, loving Christian people,” Hamilton said. “I told JR, ‘God is calling Rosemary and me to a foreign mission field, but it’s only 40 miles away.’”

That’s a different kind of investment, but a kingdom investment nonetheless. The significance of the financial and human investment in congregations other than its own has energized Fairdale, McDonald said.

“We’re actually investing in ministry,” he said. “That to me sounds like a winning scenario for investment. You talk about returns in the stock market, but when it comes to kingdom work, investment in ministry is just glorious. That really excites us.”

Setbacks? Call them setups for a comeback

After seasons of adversity, FBC Vidor cuts ribbon on recovery center for women


he story of the Women’s Care Center, a ministry of First Baptist Church of Vidor and its non-profit partner, Main Street Ministries, is one of perseverance and faithful pursuit.

When the ceremonial ribbon was cut in front of the center on June 4, it marked the latest point on a timeline that stretches back more than a decade. That chronology includes two historic storms, a global pandemic, and more God moments than one can count.

But first, the specifics: the center will provide a safe, sober-living environment that can house up to 10 to 12 women at a time. Those women will spend their days working through a 12-step recovery program to help with substance abuse issues, receiving support, guidance, and Biblical counseling, and—most importantly—hearing the saving message of Jesus Christ.

During a ceremony at the church prior to the ribbon cutting, FBC Vidor Pastor Terry Wright challenged his congregation to commit to loving and serving the women God will bring to the center. “Lord,” he prayed, “we commit to having the compassion you have, the love you have, and the desire you have to see lives changed.”

About 13 years ago, Wright was invited by Nathan Lorick, SBTC’s evangelism director at the time who now serves as its executive director, to join a group of pastors on a vision trip to Florida. The group visited First Baptist Church of Leesburg and its pastor, Charles Roesel, who led the church to start a number of ministries aimed at meeting practical needs that would open doors to sharing the gospel in the community. Among those ministries was a women’s shelter funded partially by a thrift store.

FBC Vidor Director of Women’s Ministry Cara Freeman, WCC Program Director Gena Rogers, and FBC Vidor member Danny Peno, are seen near a picture given as a gift for the center.

Upon returning home from the trip, Wright challenged leaders in his church and at Main Street Ministries to pray about starting a similar ministry to serve not only Vidor, but Southeast Texas and beyond. The church already owned a 12,000-square-foot building donated by James Moore, a deacon from nearby First Baptist Church of Groves, who gave an additional $65,000 to help renovate the building for ministry purposes. Soon after, God began to provide leadership to start a center for women, and a thrift store was opened to help provide funding.

Progress, however, was halted in 2017 with the arrival of Hurricane Harvey, which put more than half of the city of Vidor under water. In 2019, work was slowed by Tropical Storm Imelda, and the following year brought the COVID-19 pandemic that once again hindered efforts to open the center. A rare freeze in 2021 caused pipes to burst in the building that would house the center, leading to yet another remodeling project. 

A room at the Women’s Care Center which will provide a safe, sober-living environment that can house up to 10 to 12 women at a time.

“It just seemed like there were so many catastrophes, but God is so good in His timing. He always sees the big picture, and His timing is perfect.”

“It just seemed like there were so many catastrophes,” said Cara Freeman, FBC Vidor’s director of women’s ministry, “but God is so good in His timing. He always sees the big picture, and His timing is perfect.”

What felt like discouraging delays at the time opened other doors of opportunity, including allowing time for the hiring of Women’s Care Center Program Director Gena Rogers. Rogers’ personal testimony includes watching family members struggle with substance abuse. She will be joined at the center by a couple of other employees, as well as volunteers from the church who will be called upon to minister to the women who come to the center.

“We pray that God uses the Women’s Care Center to change the lives of women and their families,” Rogers said. “We want them to have a personal relationship with God and give Him all the glory.”

Panhandle church turns a corner after congregation rallies around pastor following tragedy

At New Home,
there’s new hope

New Home Baptist Church gave Pastor LJ Wright a chance in 2019. Since then, the congregation’s faith has produced fruit—despite the pandemic and the pastor’s own tragic personal loss.

Wright’s journey to New Home Baptist, located in the small Texas Panhandle town of the same name, population 350, just south of Lubbock, followed an atypical track.

“I wasn’t raised in a Christian home,” Wright said. At age 10, he was removed from his biological parents and raised in the foster system, living “all over the place.” He spent his early childhood in Oregon, then New Mexico, and finally graduated from high school in West Virginia.

Although Wright captained the varsity baseball and basketball teams in high school, college provided too many opportunities for alcohol and substance abuse.

“I made a shipwreck of my life in college,” Wright admitted. “The Lord found me in a really dark place and saved me.”

That dark place turned out to be a county jail, where Wright was detained on substance abuse-related charges. In total, Wright estimates he spent more than three years incarcerated as a young man. 

Yet at age 25, he met Jesus in a county jail.

“I was in trouble,” he recalled. “Every time someone tried to share the gospel with me, I rejected it.” One day he felt convicted to attend a church service in jail. As the speaker preached, it was as if the “blinders were ripped off,” Wright said. “I recognized my sin. … I was terrified that I had rebelled … but not only had He preserved me, Christ died for me.”

It was as if he had become a “new creature on the spot.” Years of anger at the foster care system, his parents, and the world dissolved.

“What had the church done? I got called into ministry at this church with no education, no experience in the pastorate, and as a convicted felon. I had no idea how it would work. The church was committed. They saw something.”

Connecting through tragedy

Following his salvation, Wright began studying the Bible; telling people about Jesus became his passion. He served at a church as part of its Spanish ministry and began doing pulpit supply for the Lubbock Baptist Association. He was soon invited to preach at New Home, then without a pastor.

“I wasn’t looking to be a pastor,” Wright said. Even so, New Home kept approaching him. The vote to call him to the position in 2019 was unanimous.

“What had the church done?” Wright wondered. “I got called into ministry at this church with no education, no experience in the pastorate, and as a convicted felon. I had no idea how it would work. The church was committed. They saw something.”

Wright and his wife, Tiffani, expecting their first child, moved into the pastorate. Two months after they came to New Home, tragedy overwhelmed the young couple, then 29 and 23 years old. As the baby’s due date neared, a routine visit to the obstetrician proved devastating when the physician could not detect a heartbeat. Wrenley Wright was buried on what had been her original due date: Nov. 23, 2019.

The church rallied around the couple.

“God used that situation with Wrenley to bring our church family together. We have a bond now that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. I was green in the pastorate. They were so patient with Tiffani and me,” Wright said. “It was so hard.”

Wright calls the tragedy a major turning point for the church, a loss that cemented relationships within the congregation: “We are family here.”

“I may lose my friends. I may lose money. I may lose my reputation but I know Jesus is worth it.”

Growing through challenges

It wasn’t long before COVID-19 struck. After an initial pause, the church resumed in-person worship quickly. Folks returned, but provisions were also made for online worship. Attendance fluctuated during COVID, then picked up. Weekly attendance now ranges from 100-150, but Easter 2023 saw attendance soar to 250 with two services.

Included among Wright’s attendees are his biological mother and stepfather, who are members at New Home—where she sings in the choir and he serves on committees. Wright reconnected with his mother before his salvation, learning that she was a believer and happily remarried.

“My mother was serving the Lord,” Wright said. “We have been serving Him together ever since.”

Baptisms and memberships have exploded since 2020, with more than 60 joining and 30-plus baptisms—one of which was preceded by Wright counseling a 10-year-old boy on the cost of following Christ.

“I may lose my friends. I may lose money. I may lose my reputation,” the boy told Wright, “but I know Jesus is worth it.”

The church’s active Wednesday night children’s programs—including Royal Ambassadors, Girls in Action, and Mission Friends—draw 100 kids from the town and surrounding areas. Many unchurched children attend. In anticipation of future growth, New Home recently paid cash for a 10-acre lot and plans are in the works for a new facility. 

Wright calls himself the “most blessed man on earth to be able to serve this community,” praising his youth pastor, staff, and volunteers. “We have great people in all positions. These people love the Lord, love to serve, love the church, love the community,” he said. Ultimately, it has “all been God’s work. He is sovereign. We are just trusting Him.”

What Ravenhill taught me about life and ministry


he privilege of knowing Leonard Ravenhill when I was a teenager was nothing less than a sovereign surprise. Ravenhill was a British evangelist and writer whose statements on prayer and revival frequently pop up in sermons and on social media. God crossed our paths during the most impressionable years of my life. 

Here are six lessons I learned from this wonderful man of God:

1. Invest in young people.

I was 16 years old in 1981 when I met Leonard, who was 74. The occasion was a prayer meeting he led on Friday nights in the house of the Brown family, just outside of my hometown of Tyler. Ravenhill knew as much about me as I did about him—nada. Yet because of this gritty English evangelist, a bunch of shaggy teenagers were praying while our peers were partying. 

2. Pray with conviction. 

I had only recently accepted God’s call into ministry when I started attending the prayer meeting with a few friends. Private and public prayer were still awkward for me at that time. God used Ravenhill’s prayers to loosen, then lighten, me up. He prayed with so much intensity that I expected the carpet under his knees to catch on fire. His fire for public prayer was stoked by the many hours of private prayer he had invested between those meetings.

3. Pray in unity.

I was a Southern Baptist kid who at first was intimidated by these often raucous prayer meetings, but I eventually got used to people praying out loud and at the same time. One night the prayer time devolved into noisy chaos and Ravenhill put a hard stop to it. It took several attempts for him to get everyone’s attention before he said firmly, “God does not cause the spirit of confusion. We have come to pray together in unity!” I remember wanting to give him a high-five, but had just enough restraint to stand down. 

“He never stopped praying for the church to experience the next Great Awakening.”

4. Great worship trumps great music.

I really enjoyed hearing Ravenhill pray and teach, but he was less than awesome at singing. Keith Green sometimes led worship from his piano, but mostly it was Ravenhill who led us a cappella—at least when I was present. Ravenhill’s favorite song was “Holy, Holy, Holy,” which he led at every single meeting. I loved it more each time we sang it.

5. Anger is not always a sin.

Most of Ravenhill’s books and sermons are prophetic in tone. I suspect he was not so much angry with the culture as he was the church. He never stopped praying for the church to experience the next Great Awakening. There is a righteous anger that leads to more righteousness, as well as an unrighteous anger which can lead to sin (Ephesians 4:26). Ravenhill was both good and angry, which ultimately meant he cared about the things God cared about.

6. Prayer is more caught than taught.

My Fridays with Ravenhill ended when I went off to college five hours away. Our last visit was in the Tyler hospital after a stroke left him temporarily speechless. After we prayed together one last time, his nod and smile were a sufficient graduation diploma from what I consider to be my school of prayer. As he is so often quoted as saying, “No man is greater than his prayer life.”

Oral Bible stories reach ‘everyday’ people

Riding home on the subway, Patrick Stein casually looked around at fellow passengers. Two things stood out: 1) As a 50-something, he was probably one of the oldest commuters. The median age in this North African city was 26. 2) Everyone had earbuds and stared at their phones, each person in their own private world.

The International Mission Board missionary silently wondered what it would take to get people as interested and engaged in Bible stories. As the train clanked along, an idea took shape. Why not create oral Bible stories to put on phones? Because people listened to their phones with headphones or earbuds, no one would know what they were listening to—creating a natural level of privacy in this Muslim-majority region.

For months Stein’s team of veteran missionaries and local believers had prayed strategically for the Holy Spirit to show them a way to reach their city in a new way and the answer came on this train ride.

“We looked at prayer as kind of a walkie talkie in the time of war. It was like we prayed, ‘Hey, we need fire power right there,’” Stein said, remembering how they pinpointed prayers to needs and watched God powerfully respond. “We prayed specifically for a way to share Bible stories in a language the everyday person could understand.”

The local Bible, Stein explained, is written in a dialect no one speaks. In this city of millions, even people who read well use an English Bible because it’s easier to understand. More than a decade of living in this culture made Stein aware that using either of these Bibles wasn’t the way to go anyway. While many in the city are literate, Stein’s team understood the natural way of learning for most is still orally. Plus, if they wanted to reach the “everyday person” selling a soft drink on the side of the road, paper wasn’t going to work.

It took two years for the team to create 50 Story Together Bible Stories in the local modern language with a story arc called, The Promised Savior. All stories point to Jesus, whether it is from the Old Testament or Revelation.

“We have a story team made up entirely of national believers who craft the stories in a simple, clear and understandable way,” Stein said. “We used professional actors to record them because we wanted it engaging and to draw people in.”

The two-minute stories—available as video or audio—are used for evangelism and discipleship and downloaded from a website. Stephens Amani, a local pastor, has used this method for sharing the gospel. As he explained the simplicity of the story arc leading to Jesus, he smiled and added it is an easy way to bring people to the King of kings.

“This is something very easy to use and people really like it,” Amani said. “People are sharing it on social media with each other.”

Moving the stories to social media was a natural extension of the project. In a region where Christians are often persecuted, it provided another layer of privacy for evangelism. A story could be posted so anyone can watch it. Then, a person can ask questions via the comments. Many have no one they can safely ask questions to about Christianity.

On the other end of the social media is a team of trained local believers. Stein said there are a lot of trolls just fishing for an argument or to find the identity of Christians. The local believers have learned how to sift through the noise and find the person who is truly seeking the Lord.

“Using social media like this to spread the gospel isn’t 100% fool proof,” Stein said, noting there’s always some risk in this region when sharing the good news. “The local believers decided spreading the gospel is worth the risk.”

A heart or sad face emoji on a post can lead to a gospel conversation that changes a life for eternity. One man saw an advertisement for the Jesus stories on social media. He began to engage with local believers online, asking them deeper questions.

“Then it came time to meet in person,” Stein said, explaining that the purpose is to take those seeking the Truth from online to a face-to-face encounter. “This man met with our national partner, heard the gospel and became a follower of Jesus. He is now being discipled using the 50 stories.

“This is just one story of how this Story Together Bible Stories project has been instrumental in being a first contact with the Word of God,” he added.

Stein invites you to be a part of this project by praying and giving:

  • Pray for safety and discernment for volunteers who answer social media requests. Ask God to show them who is really seeking Jesus.
  • New believers are to be baptized soon. They were evangelized and discipled through this project. Pray for them to tell their friends and family about their gospel transformation.
  • It’s time to create new Bible stories. Seven are already planned but need to be recorded. Consider giving so this project may continue to safely reach people through simple, everyday language.

Some names have been changed due to security.

SBC leaders discuss role of prayer in Asbury Awakening

NEW ORLEANS (BP)—A group of SBC missions and prayer leaders gathered on the CP Stage at the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting in New Orleans to discuss the Asbury Awakening that happened earlier this year and the role prayer played in the movement.

The panelists agreed that prayer is the foundation of genuine revival.

“When most of us pray for revival, we really don’t have a clue what we’re praying for,” said Timothy Beougher, associate dean and professor of evangelism and church growth for the Billy Graham School of Missions at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“We think we are praying for ecstasy, and yes, joy is a byproduct of revival, but … revival does not begin in ecstasy, it begins in agony. We’re convicted of our sin, we’re forced to confess that sin, acknowledge that sin, repent. There were a lot of tears at Asbury.”

The awakening began in early February after a call to repent and seek the Lord during a Wednesday chapel service at Asbury University in Wilmore, Ky. The service led to an outbreak of worship, prayer and repentance from students and faculty. It spread quickly, and for more than two weeks, people came from far and wide, filling the chapel 24/7.

The movement gained national attention, even spreading to several Baptist-affiliated schools around the country.

Bill Elliff, founding and national engage pastor at the Summit Church in North Little Rock, Ark., and author of many books on prayer, joined Beougher on the panel, which was moderated by Kie Bowman, senior pastor emeritus at Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, and prayer assignment leader at the SBC Executive Committee.

Beougher wrote his master’s thesis on a similar revival at Asbury in 1970 and how it affected Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Southern Baptists in general. Many trace the nationwide “Jesus Movement” of the 1970s to the first revival at Asbury.

Bowman began the talk by asking Beougher what such movements should be called or if that matters.

“I don’t know in the end it really matters what we call it,” Beougher said. “I like to make a distinction between revival and awakening. Revival is when God pours out His Spirit on a group of believers, whether that be a family, a church family, a college campus. Awakening is when that spills out in the broader culture.

“So we could say if a revival happens everybody in the church will know it, if an awakening happens everybody in the community will know it. So I think it is legitimate to call what took place in February of this year at Asbury a revival.”

Elliff added some thoughts on the terminology.

“I do think the distinction is really important,” Elliff said.

“To revive means to bring to life again, and that can only happen to people who are believers. And there was a lot of that at Asbury. Spiritual awakening to me is when lost people are just awakened to the Gospel by the Spirit of God and the power of God. And there was a lot of that at Asbury, and in other campuses as it spread around the nation.

“I know the leaders there (at Asbury) called it an awakening just to take the broad term, but I think it was probably more revival that led to some spiritual awakening. Which is characteristic in the spiritual awakenings that have happened across our history as a nation, that one leads to another.”

Elliff was a freshman at Ouachita Baptist University in the fall of 1970 after the similar revival happened at Asbury that spring. The movement even spilled onto his campus, and the experience “dramatically” changed his life forever.

He has since written more than 50 books about the topics of prayer and spiritual awakening. Elliff, who attended the Asbury event in February, said the experience reminded him of the earlier revival in that the movement could be characterized by “radical humility.”

“When this happened … my wife and I looked at each other and said ‘let’s go.’ When we got there we saw the same, and experienced the same environment, the same components that had happened during the Jesus Movement.”

He added that prayer is “symbiotic” with the experience of revival.

“There’s no revival without prayer. There never has been. Usually what happens is that prayer comes out of desperation. What’s fascinating right now is that God is bringing us as a nation to a level of desperation that we haven’t seen in our lifetime. There is an amazing, unprecedented movement of prayer across our nation.

“I think what it’s done is built, like never before, a faith to believe that God can do this.”

View the full panel discussion on the Cooperative Program YouTube Channel.

Developing a rhythm of rest


bout three years ago, God convicted me about my work schedule. At the time, I was working seven days a week. He revealed to me that I must obey His Word—the fourth of the 10 Commandments, to be exact: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8).

Interestingly, of all the 10 Commandments, the Lord gave more explanation regarding this one than all the others. In Exodus 20:11, God uses a personal illustration to get His point across to His people: “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”

After reading several books detailing the importance of rest, it became very clear that I needed to make a seismic change in my weekly schedule. So I decided to obey God’s Word, follow His personal example, and do what Chick-Fil-A has been doing for decades—I decided to take a day off each week. I have chosen to take Saturdays off to rest and recharge, and it has been a major blessing and game-changer for me.    

"God loves you and wants you to be strong so you can serve Him and others to the best of your ability."

What about you? How are you doing? Being maxed out will lead to burn out, and when you are burned out in ministry, you are unhealthy. Allow me to offer three practical tips to help you make some changes in your schedule so you can at least take one day off a week:

1. Obey God.

God’s Word is very clear about taking a day off and resting. I had multiple people offer books to me on the importance of resting. So I had a choice to make: Would I obey God or not? Would I listen to friends who were trying to help me or not? I am so grateful to God that He impressed upon me to make the change.  

2. Do yourself a favor.

Proverbs 11:17 says, “The merciful man does good for his own soul, but he who is cruel troubles his own flesh.” One of the best things you can do for your soul is rest. It will take some discipline to make the change. Turning off the computer, not checking emails, and unplugging from work will take effort. People may judge you and tempt you to get back in the mode of working all the time. Don’t do it! For the sake of your health and your family, keep your commitment to obey God and help yourself.

3. Enjoy the benefits of rest.

One of the books I read in my quest to learn more about rest is Leading on Empty. Leading from a place of strength is far preferable, and the only way to do that is to develop a rhythm of rest. On your day off, do things you enjoy. Read. Go for a walk. Hang out with family and friends. You get the idea: anything fun, but no work.

God loves you and wants you to be strong so you can serve Him and others to the best of your ability. He also desires for you to enjoy the life He has given you. So rest in Jesus, my friend. Relax. Take at least one day off. Trust me—you will love the results!

Cross City’s SALT program is creating a leadership pipeline to equip people to serve the church

‘A season of equipping’


hen John Meador arrived as senior pastor of Cross City Church (then First Baptist Euless) in 2006, he brought something extra: SALT, an intensive discipleship program that he says is “unparalleled” in its preparation of teachers.

SALT—or, Servant Approach to Leadership Training—is the brainchild of Eddie Rasnake, discipleship pastor at Meador’s previous church, Woodland Park Baptist of Chattanooga, Tenn. The SALT Institute remains a vital ministry of that church.

“When I came here, the search team asked me to bring the material,” Meador said, explaining that Rasnake and Woodland Park had developed the course even before Meador had become pastor of the Chattanooga congregation.

“There is a high level of expectation. It is a seminary-level course,” Meador said.

Church member Sharon Smith echoed her pastor’s words. Smith and her husband, Claude, have been members of Cross City for 37 years. She was a Bible study leader at the church when Meador came. As a veteran Precept group leader, Smith had significant experience with inductive Bible study methods and was pleased when Meador recruited her to participate in the pioneer SALT class at Cross City in 2007.

The 2023 SALT graduating class at Cross City reflects “the generations and the multiethnic identity of our church,” according to SALT teacher Sharon Smith. SUBMITTED PHOTO

“The purpose is to equip people who are called to be pastors, teachers, [serve] in full-time ministry, or those who have a burden to teach or serve in the local church.”

“I was blessed to be included,” Smith said. “We did SALT for two years. I loved it, absolutely loved it. It began a season of equipping for our church. After the success of the initial launch, we added a morning ladies’ class, which I led. It was a great decision which led to several graduating classes of women.” 

Although the church experimented with shorter versions of SALT over the years, the basic course continues to require a two-year commitment. With Rasnake’s permission, Cross City adapted the course somewhat, but essentially, its SALT classes follow his curriculum for four semesters, Smith said. 

“The purpose is to equip people who are called to be pastors, teachers, [serve] in full-time ministry, or those who have a burden to teach or serve in the local church,” Smith said. “Pastor John says that Jesus made it clear that leadership in the kingdom is different than leadership in the world.”

Sharon Smith (right) took the first SALT class offered at Cross City/First Euless shortly after Senior Pastor John Meador’s arrival. Smith has taught the curriculum for years and today is the SALT class coordinator. SUBMITTED PHOTO

A life-changing course

Meador taught SALT in the early years, then stepped away to spearhead the church’s Can We Talk? evangelism outreach based on materials he authored. When the pandemic changed the nature of door-to-door evangelism, and following the death of longtime Cross City SALT teacher David Crome in 2022, Meador stepped back into the SALT teaching role. He shares those duties with Smith—who acts as course coordinator and facilitates the class when Meador is absent. 

Cross City members wishing to take the course go through an application process to ensure they have a grasp of basic Christian doctrine and understand the requirements of the two-year commitment. 

“There’s homework every week. There’s Greek involved. This is not for those looking for a light Bible study,” Smith said.

Regular attendance is expected, with classes held for two hours on Wednesday evenings each semester. Anticipation rises as each two-year course draws to a close and enrollment begins for the next. Classes run around 10 students, and all must enroll at the beginning. There are no mid-program additions during the two years.

To date, 102 Cross City students have completed SALT. Most are serving as teachers and Bible study leaders at Cross City, at other churches, or in their communities. Some have gone on to seminaries or become full-time pastors or ministry leaders.

The recent 2023 graduating class reflected “the generations and the multiethnic identity of our church,” Smith said, calling the group “a beautiful picture of heaven.”

Matt Tyson, now of Shreveport, La., called the SALT experience “transforming.” Tyson, then a corporate healthcare finance executive in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, took the course a decade ago. Called to ministry, Tyson left his career to become executive director of Meador’s One Conversation evangelism ministry, then became a pastor in Louisiana, and today pastors 3:18 Church serving the homeless in the Bayou State. 

“SALT transformed my thinking, transformed how I studied the Word,” said Tyson, who since has earned a master’s degree in theological studies from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Smith and Meador say those are the kinds of ways God is using the SALT program.

“SALT transformed my thinking, transformed how I studied the Word.”

SALT by semester

The SALT curriculum, which can be purchased online, is now published in four manuals. Semester one covers a biblical philosophy of ministry, Smith said. Subjects include the ministries of the church, with ministers from the youth, children’s, preschool, and other departments presenting their philosophies of ministry. 

Semester two focuses on handling the Word accurately. This features a section of teaching in which students learn to use Greek study tools effectively. Semester three deals with how to handle difficult subjects and includes an in-depth study of the book of Acts.

Semester four features application skills, as students use what they have learned to create a biblically based message to present to the class. 

“It’s just astonishing to see what they come up with after all they have learned,” Smith said. “We celebrate big time at each graduation.”

FBC Watauga is doing kingdom work by mentoring the church leaders of tomorrow

Cross Training

First Baptist Church in Watauga was founded by four Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary students in 1939.

“They came out to Watauga, which was a small, rural community north of Fort Worth at that point, and they decided they were going to plant a church here. They laid the groundwork for it,” said Dennis Hester, pastor of FBC Watauga. 

The students had a goal of having L.R. Scarborough, the seminary’s president at the time, fill the pulpit on the first Sunday. 

“So they went into his office and told him that the Lord had told them that he was supposed to preach the first sermon at this new church plant,” Hester said. “He did.”

In the years following its founding, FBC Watauga was a small church where seminary students served as pastors. The average tenure of each pastor was two or three years, and no pastor had been there more than four years until the Hester’s predecessor, who stayed 14 years. Hester has been there 18 years. 

“The church was hurting when I came, and my heart is to love the local church,” he said. “I just loved the church and preached the gospel and we saw the church begin to take off.”

"What we see the Lord doing now is [allowing us to mentor] young men and women who are going off into the ministry in other places.”

One of the most exciting ways God has moved recently has been through giving the church a ministry of raising up the next generation of leaders. In a slight shift from its history of having seminary students as pastors, FBC Watauga now has Hester serving as a mentor to ministers. 

“We have a plethora of interns regularly, and this has really happened over the last eight or 10 years,” he said. “What we see the Lord doing now is [allowing us to mentor] young men and women who are going off into the ministry in other places.”

The church sees between 150-200 people in attendance on Sundays and has a handful of interns. One is a young woman interning as a chaplain while her husband interns as a young adult pastor. The church has a couple of worship interns as well. 

On the staff, the student pastor grew up in the church and recently finished a master’s degree, while the worship pastor is pursuing a degree at Texas Baptist College. 

“Both of those guys are young men that we’re raising up,” said Hester, who has been in ministry 30 years, pastoring in May, Texas, before Watauga. 

In recent years, Hester earned a doctorate in pastoral ministry at Southwestern. “It has given me a lot more tools in my toolkit to mentor these young men and women,” he said. 

“They need a place where they can come and be mentored and discipled because, obviously, if we’re not raising up the next generation of pastors and chaplains and worship ministers from a theologically sound and biblically firm foundation, we’re not going to have [biblically conservative] ministers,” Hester said.

First Baptist Church in Watauga was started by four Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary students in 1939. The church is still sending out ministers. FBC WATAUGA PHOTO

FBC Watauga aims to make Scripture the foundation for everything, particularly worship and preaching, the pastor said. 

“What we see is that even some of the young adults who have come through our church that went maybe to a university where the vast majority of their professors were very liberal and did not hold to the inerrancy of Scripture, they were able to stand firm,” Hester said. 

Another ministry God has blessed the church with is praying for the lost. After the pandemic, FBC Watauga wasn’t seeing many people baptized. 

“We start meeting, whether it’s half a dozen or two dozen people meeting, on Tuesday nights at 6:30. We write down the names of lost friends or family members,” Hester said. They split into groups, pray over the names, and then hand them off to the staff for prayer the following day. 

“Not long after we did that, we started seeing God move and save souls,” he said. 

A 27-year-old man who had not been in church stepped into a worship service and was saved the same day, the pastor said. A retired veteran in his 60s had been attending regularly but went forward during the invitation, broken and with tears in his eyes, to receive Christ as Savior. 

The church has built relationships with people in the community through being involved in the town’s civic organizations, through back-to-school supply efforts, and through the pastor serving as a local police chaplain. 

“They see us loving people and caring for people,” Hester said.