Month: September 2023

Q&A: Kaunitz reflects on two-year SBTC presidency, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the primacy of prayer

‘I’ve never been more encouraged or excited’

Todd Kaunitz, lead pastor of New Beginnings Baptist Church in Longview, will conclude two terms as president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention at the convention’s Annual Meeting in November. Kaunitz recently spoke with Texan Editor Jayson Larson about how he has seen God move not only in the convention, but in himself, through a laser focus on prayer and a continued commitment to the Great Commission.

Prayer has been a focal point during your time as president. What do you know about prayer today that maybe you would say you didn’t know about it even a year ago?

TK: On a personal level, I feel like in many ways I’m learning how to pray for the first time. Even though I’m three years into this new prayer journey, I feel like the Lord is just showing me more and more about what it looks like to be a person whose posture of life is in submission to Him in prayer. From the pastoral side, I’ve learned so much. I’ve been humbled by the number of pastors I’ve been able to cross paths with, to be able to watch their prayer lives, and hear them talk about prayer. It’s been amazing to network with and learn from like-minded pastors who prioritize leading corporate prayer in their churches. I had no idea before this journey what I was missing personally and what our church was missing. I never want to go back to doing life and church without prayer being the highest priority. 

During your service as president, you, Nathan Lino (senior pastor at First Baptist Church Forney), Jason Paredes (lead pastor at Fielder Church in Arlington) and Nathan Lorick (SBTC executive director) began working together to host prayer retreats for pastors. How have you seen God use those retreats in the lives of those pastors and their churches?

TK: What we’ve seen is a hunger in the hearts of our SBTC pastors to allow prayer to be more incorporated into their daily lives and into the body life of their church. What I’ve witnessed through these prayer retreats is how God has knitted our hearts together with these pastors. 

I mean, the stories we are hearing through these retreats are so similar—stories of brokenness, of getting to the end of ourselves, of finding that what we’ve been missing all along is intimacy with Jesus and more of the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives and churches. We’re learning that what was lacking in our ministries wasn’t programs or strategies, but the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit. We have heard  story after story from pastors who have experienced personal spiritual renewal and who are implementing prayer as the ministry of first importance at their local church. They are leading their churches to become churches that are built upon prayer.

"I never want to go back to doing life and church without prayer being the highest priority."

The 2023 Annual Meeting is fast approaching. What are some of the victories we are going to be able to celebrate, and what are some of the challenges that lay ahead? 

TK: One of the things we are looking forward to at this year’s Annual Meeting is that it’s our 25th anniversary, so we get to celebrate the great work God has done. We get to honor 25 years of fruitful ministry, fruitful partnership. But what I’m most excited about is, we’re going to get a chance to dream about the future. Dr. Lorick, the SBTC staff, and a group of pastors and leaders from all over the state have been working on a fresh mission statement and strategy that we get to run toward over the next 25 years. I think it’s going to be a great balance of celebrating God’s work in the past and anticipating His work in the future. There are so many great things happening. 

As far as challenges, we’ve got to make sure we’re keeping the main thing, the main thing. We’re a big family, and just like any other family, there’s different expressions of how we walk in the shared values we have. As we gather and make business decisions and mission decisions, it’s critical that we make sure we’re holding tight to the commonalities we share as a family and not get distracted by some of the differences that are more peripheral or non-essential to the gospel movement we have been called to together. I think keeping that central is going to be key for us moving forward.

There’s been so much controversy and uncertainty at the national SBC level that has created a lot of discouragement in pastors—and I am one of those pastors. But the closer I get to our state convention, the more encouraged I am. I’ve seen key leaders in our convention who have different positions on various topics that could be divisive, but these leaders are talking through some of these tough issues with humility and grace and in a way that brings us closer together rather than driving us apart—it just encourages me so much. I’ve never been more encouraged and more excited about what’s happening at the state level. To see the partnership we share with theologically conservative churches that are passionately committed to the Great Commission, that’s a very special gift God has given us and we shouldn’t take it for granted. We should count it a privilege to be a part of such a great state convention that is so unified and so missionally focused.

“I am praying we will see a movement of the gospel that advances the Great Commission across our state and around the world and that we would see the greatest gospel movement in the history of the church.”

What will your prayers for the SBTC look like over the next 25 years?

TK: There are three key things I’m praying for our state convention. Number one is that we would become a praying convention. I know that historically, God has had given us leadership that believes in prayer and that believes prayer should be primary for us. I pray that in the future, we will see a prayer movement that would usher in revival and spiritual awakening and that the power of God would be unleashed. Number two, I pray the Holy Spirit would unify us, that we would stand together in our core doctrines and in the missional calling we have—that we would do that without wavering regardless of what culture says or does.

Thirdly, as we pray together and stand unified, I am praying we will see a movement of the gospel that advances the Great Commission across our state and around the world and that we would see the greatest gospel movement in the history of the church. That’s what I’ve been praying for these past two years, and that’s what I’ll continue to pray for in the days ahead.

Gift cards are great, but these things will really bless your pastor

It’s October, a month when many churches observe Pastor Appreciation Month. That means there will soon be hundreds of gift cards and thank you notes stuffed into envelopes faster than you can say “Pumpkin Spice Latte.” There’s nothing at all wrong with this. I can think of far worse things that could happen to a pastor than having a three-month supply of Whataburger gift cards in his desk drawer.

But there are other ways you can show the pastor or pastors in your life appreciation. Consider blessing your pastor in these ways:

Take ownership

When I think about our Southern Baptists of Texas Convention pastors—most of whom lead small, rural churches—I think about men who are overloaded and, frankly, more prone to do things themselves than ask for help. That’s why it blessed my heart so much when, as a pastor, I’d hear stories of church members caring for and meeting one another’s needs. It made me feel like all the weight of caring for people wasn’t just on my shoulders.

Want to show your pastor appreciation? Ask him if you can make a follow-up call to one or two of the people who visited your church this past Sunday. Go see someone in the hospital who needs a visit. Help him carry the burden of caring not only for your members, but the people who wander into your church every week looking for answers and help. You can’t imagine what a gift this will be to your pastor.

Protect his boundaries

As a first-time lead pastor, I thought it would be noble to let our members and guests know I would always—always—be available to them. What I meant was, “Hey, if you find yourself in crisis at 2 a.m., call me and I’ll be there as soon as I can.” What a small fraction of them heard was, “Hey, when you’re driving your semi and bored at 4 a.m., give me a call and we can talk college football!” It didn’t take long for me to realize I needed to adjust the expectations I had set for myself.

Want to show your pastor appreciation? Beat him to the punch when it comes to respecting his boundaries. Remember that he’s got a wife and kids who have schedules of their own and a dog and bills and all the things you’ve got—in addition to caring for people in the church. Be patient and understanding when he doesn’t immediately answer your emails and texts. Keep in mind he may struggle to get two consecutive days off in the same week, and if he does, he’s likely going to try to take those days on a Friday, Saturday, or Monday.

Honor his family

God doesn’t call individuals into ministry. He calls entire families, and each member of a called family experiences the pressures of ministry. So whenever and however you honor your pastor—be it gift cards or words of gratitude—remember to honor his family as well. Even a simple acknowledgement of the entire family’s service to the church will go a long way toward warming your pastor’s heart and making him feel appreciated not just this month, but all year long.

Allowing God to preach to us so we can preach to others

Paul’s exhortation in 2 Timothy 4:2—“Preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season”—is an urgent call for pastoral readiness. We are called to be ready to preach God’s Word regardless of circumstantial convenience. Having walked with chronic daily migraines the past two years, my recent sermon in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 provided me an opportunity to live out this truth and boast in my weakness in the midst of difficult circumstances.

Preaching is cathartic for me. I can meditate on a passage, memorize it, and apply it to the biggest struggles of my life, but when I am forced to process and share those reflections with our local church, the Scriptures pierces the depths of my heart in a different way. My recent sermon taught me three valuable lessons:

1. Preaching is open heart surgery.

The preaching event is a unique act of worship in which we depend on God’s Spirit to empower us as we proclaim His Word. Preaching takes the goal of teaching a step further, from informing minds to transforming hearts. We must not neglect faithful exegesis and understandable explanation, but we should pray and work to the end of our sermon for heart transformation. God is the divine physician who uses His Word to pierce our hearts and remove the cancerous sin within (Psalm 147:3; Matthew 9:12; Hebrews 4:12). Although a scalpel may cut painfully deep, in the hands of a skillful surgeon it can save our lives. But before we prayerfully seek to preach to the hearts of others, our hearts must be worked on first.

2. Go under the knife first.

Colossians 3:16 provides the aim of each local church gathering: “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts.” As a pastor, my eyes are drawn to “teaching and admonishing one another,” but out of the four verbs in this verse, only one is an imperative—and it is stated first.

The order and emphasis of this sentence commands us to let the Word of Christ dwell in our hearts before we even think about teaching or admonishing others in it. The worst mistake a preacher can make is to approach a passage exegetically and homiletically but not devotionally and prayerfully. As John Piper writes in Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching as Worship, “[Worship] is why the universe exists, why the church exists, why corporate worship exists, and why preaching exists.”

We must approach God’s Word as worshipers primarily (and as preachers secondarily) and ask God’s Spirit to let it work on and dwell in our hearts. Only then, as a former pastor told me, after we plunge the sword of the Spirit into our own hearts and wrench it around will we then be able to pull it out and implore others to do the same.

3. Lay yourself on the operating table.

Worshipful preaching is vulnerable: in expositing God’s Word, my heart is exposed. While this is of great benefit for the preacher, it is also of great benefit for others. This is why the Bible is filled with examples of various saints’ shortcomings, from Peter’s fickleness to Paul’s weakness.

However, there is a prideful propensity to present a polished product. This is why for years I manuscripted my sermons, rehearsed them multiple times, asked pastors for feedback, and watched my own sermon videos each week. But in my experience, the sermons that connect most with people (either in a challenging or encouraging way) are not the ones where I was the most technically sound, but the ones where I was the most human.

It’s difficult to invite your church into the operating room, but when the pulpit becomes the operating table in which God’s people witness Him using His Word to work in our hearts, it compels others to bring their hearts to our great surgeon.

Pastors, lay yourself bare before God’s Word and ask Him to work in your heart for the sake of your soul (before the sake of your sermons). Then and only then will we be able to preach to the hearts of others so that they, too, might find great healing under the scalpel of our great physician. “He has torn us, that He may heal us; He has struck us down, and He will bind us up” (Hosea 6:1).

Families who planted Houston church came for NASA, stayed to spread the gospel


amilies who moved to the Clear Lake community of southeast Houston to start the U.S. space program more than five decades ago started something else that continues to impact the world: Clear Lake Baptist Church. 

They met in homes for a while and sent mailers to the community to gauge interest—and they had a great turnout, said John Aaron Matthew, pastor of Clear Lake Baptist Church. “They have continued to minister here in the community and meet needs, to be a light for all these years,” he said.

Some of the founding members are still there, having retired from NASA or related contractors IBM or Boeing, and newer generations of space program workers have come along. “It’s pretty fun to have these people as deacons and church members,” Matthew said.

“It’s cool to know that those who are working at the highest levels of science believe in God as our Creator and they are worshiping Him even from the space station and even as they’re working on these projects.”

One new member recently graduated from college and moved to Houston to work for Mission Control, and another church member has trained astronauts. The pastor is friends with the daughter of an astronaut who perished in the Challenger explosion. 

When Matthew was on a trip to Israel with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention last year, his friend Bob Hines was the pilot on a SpaceX mission to the International Space Station. 

“As I was posting pictures of what we were seeing from the ground, he sent me pictures of us from space and said, ‘Looks like you guys are having a great time,’” Matthew recounted.

Popular opinion doesn’t link science with God, but Matthew has heard countless testimonies of God’s involvement from members dating to the beginning of the space program. Hines, for instance, was praying for people on earth while he was in the space station, Matthew said. 

“It’s cool to know that those who are working at the highest levels of science believe in God as our Creator and they are worshiping Him even from the space station and even as they’re working on these projects,” Matthew said. “Person after person at high levels at NASA have faith, and they are worshiping God, and they view what they’re doing as part of using their gifts and abilities to glorify God. They see Him in creation all around.”

John Aaron Matthew, pastor of Clear Lake Baptist Church in Houston, travels to India for a missions partnership in which he teaches biblical theology to support church planting.

A New Orleans native, Matthew graduated from Southwestern Seminary before working in college ministry with the Tennessee Baptist Convention and earning a Doctor of Ministry from Southeastern Seminary. Along the way, God drew his heart to church revitalization. 

He discovered Clear Lake, which had been used by God to do great things but was in a season of decline, and God moved him there with his wife Emily and two children in 2015. At the time, the church was mainly senior adults and his 5-year-old and 3-year-old were two of about 10 children attending.

“We haven’t seen fast, explosive growth, but as we’ve been faithful to preach and to pray and to love and to stay, we’ve seen God bring health and growth to our church in a meaningful way,” Matthew said. “Our church is spiritually healthy, loving, and unified.”

Attendance on Sundays ranges from 150 in the summer to 200 on a high attendance day, and the children’s ministry has grown to about 40 kids, he said.

“It didn’t happen overnight, but now we’ve got a leadership team of about 30 people that went to the Equip Conference and were encouraged,” Matthew said. “It’s a challenge to develop leaders, and it takes time, but we have new leaders stepping up and a growing ministry to young families.”

The children’s ministry at Clear Lake Baptist Church in Houston grew from about 10 kids in 2015 to 40 children most Sundays now.
Clear Lake ministers to about 30 children every week through an afterschool program it started at a local elementary school. SUBMITTED PHOTO

God used a love for reaching the nations to draw Matthew to Clear Lake. Houston is the most diverse city in America, he said, with more ethnic groups than any other city. Ministry to international students had been part of Matthew’s college work, and the University of Houston campus in Clear Lake appealed to him.

Also, Matthew had a previous missions partnership in India, and he led Clear Lake to get involved. “As a small church that doesn’t necessarily have a ton of resources, we still can make a Great Commission impact,” Matthew said, adding that the church was introduced by the International Mission Board to a church planting network in India. 

“We’re able to fund monthly support for 10 church planting families among 10 different unreached people groups in India,” he said. Matthew also travels occasionally to teach biblical theology to about 100 Indian church planters. 

“We just got a report that this network of churches that we sponsor has shared the gospel with nearly 1.3 million people” and saw more than 158,000 decisions made for Christ, he said. 

Locally, Clear Lake established a food pantry to feed the community. When COVID demands pressed beyond their ability to provide, they reached out to five other churches for help. Now Clear Lake partners with those churches to run an independent food pantry providing groceries for about 300 families per week. 

The church also started an afterschool program in a local elementary school, ministering to about 30 children each week, said Matthew—who also serves as chairman of the SBTC’s Texas Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee and on the leadership team of the convention’s Young Pastor Network.

“When you invest in a church and you take time and you don’t give up, you see fruit,” Matthew said. “Fruit doesn’t come quickly, typically. It takes years of tending and cultivation. But when you walk through difficulties, you get to be a part of experiencing the spiritual fruit that God brings in season.”

Lone Star Scoop • October 2023

TBHC to mark 500th adoption with ceremony

Texas Baptist Home for Children will soon mark its 500th adoption, TBHC President Jason Curry told the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Executive Board during its August meeting in Grapevine. A special celebration focusing on adoptions is planned at TBHC’s Waxahachie headquarters on Nov. 16—just before Ellis County’s official Adoption Day recognition and two days before National Adoption Day on Nov. 18.

By the time of the November celebration, the actual 500th adoption will have already taken place, said Scott Arthur, TBHC development supervisor, who noted that the festivities will honor all the adoptive families thus far.

“We are celebrating numbers 1 to 500,” said Arthur, adding that the November event will also mark the kickoff of the “For the Future 500” campaign to take the organization forward.

—Texan staff

Wildfires, storms send SBTC DR crews into the field to serve

Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief feeding crews deployed in Jasper, preparing meals for first responders and the community following August’s Shearwood Creek wildfires. About a dozen SBTC DR volunteers from Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jasper met their community’s needs, producing 100-150 meals per day over a three-day period from Aug. 24-26.

Wildfires near the Panhandle town of Lefors, which caused the evacuation of that community and school district on Sept. 8, also prompted the deployment of the SBTC DR Quick Response Unit from Pampa to serve first responders and volunteers.

Two SBTC DR chainsaw crews deployed to Tennessee the week of Sept. 10, said Scottie Stice, SBTC DR director. The volunteers assisted survivors of summer windstorms in an ongoing recovery effort. A future deployment to Maui may also occur, but SBTC DR help has not been requested at this time.

Meanwhile, West Brownsville Baptist Church continues its border ministry, with volunteers preparing almost 3,400 meals supplied by SBTC DR in August. The gospel was presented 2,882 times that month with 631 professions of faith seen by Pastor Carlos Navarro and his church members.

—Jane Rodgers

Several Texans named to SBC Cooperation Group

NASHVILLE  Addressing “things we have never done before” in the history of the Southern Baptist Convention will permeate discussions of those who will present a report next June that could reassert or redefine what constitutes a church to be in friendly cooperation with the SBC, said President Bart Barber. 

A 20-member Cooperation Group was named by Barber in September and came about from a motion at the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting in New Orleans that placed the group’s formation in Barber’s hands. Jared Wellman, pastor of Tate Springs Baptist Church in Arlington, will serve as chair. 

 Other members include Matt Henslee – associational missionary, Collins Baptist Association in McKinney; Jason Paredes, lead pastor, Fielder Church in Arlington; Jim Richards, executive director emeritus, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention; and Juan Sanchez, senior pastor, High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin. Tony Wolfe, executive director-treasurer of the South Carolina Baptist Convention who formerly served as the SBTC’s associate executive director, will also serve on the group.

—Baptist Press

Move Conference attracts growing number of young adults

McALLEN  BT Church hosted its third annual Move Conference on Aug. 25-26. More than 200 young adults attended—an increase of 40 percent from last year. The aim of the conference is to help adults ages 18-29 navigate life’s big challenges.

Guest speakers and breakout leaders focused on topics including discipleship, faith in the workplace, mental health, finances, career mapping, social media as ministry, and studying Scripture. One breakout session offered resume-building and interview tips, while another focused on spiritual disciplines and practices. 

“I really believe this year we were challenged and encouraged to pursue Jesus to experience holiness more realistically,” said a conferencegoer named Angelo. “I definitely left refreshed and excited to seek out revival in my every day.”

“I wasn’t expecting the presence of the Lord to be there so quickly or be so strong, but Friday, as soon as worship started, I could feel Him and it was powerful,” added Jessica, another attendee.

—Jane Rodgers

Abilene church sees enrollment continue to rise at Christian academy

ABILENE  When Abilene Classical Academy opened its third school year this fall at South Side Baptist Church, it did so with a growing number of students. 

Enrollment at the school, which follows a three-day-a-week model and welcomes students pre-K through eighth grade, has swelled from 60 students to 125, said Blake White, South Side Baptist Church’s lead pastor. White said the school has its own 501c3 designation and is tuition-driven, but the church also gives support. 

Article XII of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 regarding education inspired the founding of Abilene Classical, White said. The school also met a local niche by being “robustly biblical” and “classically-oriented,” he added.

“We are coming alongside parents: Christ-centered, classical, collaborative,” White said.

—Jane Rodgers

Fort Worth pastor bestows priceless gift by donating kidney to staff member

A blessing, to give and to receive

Rudy Kebreau and Randal Lyle are bound by far more than their mutual faith and pastoral calling these days. Lyle, senior pastor at Meadowridge Community Baptist Church, gave Kebreau, his next generation and children’s pastor, a priceless gift this summer when he donated a kidney to his friend and associate.

It was an unlikely match made this side of heaven that even astounded transplant doctors who rarely, if ever, see perfect matches between Anglo donors and Haitian-American recipients. Yet, after extensive testing, Lyle met all the markers for donating a kidney to Kebreau. 

“God gave me good health and God brought us together,” said Lyle, 52. “We want the Lord to be glorified in this. He put it all together.”

The pastor sees the transplant process as an object lesson for his congregation. “We are a multi-ethnic church,” Lyle said. “I think it was a testimony that, in a sense, we are all the same. The issue was never anyone’s background or skin color or anything.”

“The church had been praying for Rudy and trying to figure out how to help him. Donating a kidney was not on my radar.”

From Boston to the Metroplex

Kebreau, 48, never expected to leave his native Boston for Texas. But God called and Southwestern Seminary beckoned, so he and his family moved to Fort Worth.

Kebreau, his wife, and two daughters started attending Meadowridge a decade ago, during his last semester in seminary. Lyle had been the pastor about nine years at that point and Meadowridge was blooming again following a revitalization effort started 10 years prior with the assistance of Wedgwood Baptist Church.

“Everyone [in the family] liked the different departments,” Kebreau recalled about the church. “We decided to make it a home. … We came for the church.”

Soon the church came calling for Kebreau, when Meadowridge’s children’s minister left. Kebreau, who by then had completed a Master of Arts in Christian school education at Southwestern, had to be persuaded to apply for the job.

“I put in my resume just so everybody would leave me alone,” Kebreau said with a chuckle. “The Lord just did what He was going to do.” Kebreau came on staff in March 2014 and was an immediate blessing, Lyle said. 

“It was the Lord’s providential timing,” Lyle said. Little did he or Kebreau understand then just how providential the timing was.

Lyle visited Kebreau’s hospital room following the successful procedure. Kebreau is continuing to recover following the transplant and hopes to be back at work soon. SUBMITTED PHOTO

‘Why would I not help?’

Kebreau, who through a variety of circumstances had lost insurance coverage while in seminary, had let his diabetes go unchecked for years. His ankles began swelling and his blood pressure became dangerously elevated. Consultation with a nephrologist revealed Kebreau’s kidneys were failing.

It seemed like the worst news possible. Kebreau had lost his mother to kidney failure years before. He reluctantly went on home dialysis and was placed on a transplant list at Texas Health Fort Worth. The Kebreaus received the impression it would take years for Rudy to get a kidney.

“The church had been praying for Rudy and trying to figure out how to help him,” Lyle said. “Donating a kidney was not on my radar.” Yet from time to time, he wondered if he could donate.

“Whatever God blessed you with is to bless other people,” Lyle said. “I knew my good health was for more than going to the gym.”

At the same time, Lyle was reading A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, a book by 18th century English theologian William Law, a man who influenced George Whitefield and John Wesley. As part of his thesis, Law exhorts wealthy Christians to use their gifts for God’s glory. 

Lyle realized that exhortation had deeper implications. “It’s as if the Holy Spirit prompted me, ‘You’ve got an extra kidney,’” he said. “If I have an extra kidney and a brother who needs help, why would I not help?”

Lyle’s wife, Samantha, “didn’t bat an eye” when the pastor gave her the news.

“OK, if that’s what God is telling you to do, go ahead,” she urged.

Lyle submitted the online transplant application and the transplant center contacted Lyle, who was soon undergoing psychological and physical testing and counseling required for potential donors.

“I felt healthy,” he said. “But I didn’t know if I could pass the test. They drew lots of blood. They checked for every disease known to man, did chest x-rays, heart exams, kidney tests, organ tests.” 

Not only did the test results come back fine, but Lyle matched every marker needed to be Kebreau’s kidney donor.

The two pastors learned the good news in late March 2023 and announced it to the church in April. At Kebreau’s insistence, they set the date for the procedure for late June, after Meadowridge’s vacation Bible school and following his daughter’s high school graduation in May.

On June 28, Lyle endured a laparoscopic procedure to detach the healthy kidney, although the actual kidney removal necessitated a larger abdominal incision. Two surgeons were present, one to remove the kidney and the other to supervise the preparation and transplant of the kidney to Kebreau, leaving him with a total of three kidneys (the original kidneys are not removed in transplants).

Making every day a ‘kidney day’

So far, Kebreau’s recovery has gone well. He recently had his dialysis port removed, takes anti-rejection medicines, and must stay in relative isolation at home until December. He hopes to be permitted to go back to his office at church on days when the facilities are empty even sooner.

“I feel great,” Kebreau said.

For Lyle, the recovery has also continued smoothly. He was not allowed to lift anything over 10 pounds for six weeks; it was about eight weeks until he could run again. He has lingering tightness from the abdominal incision but is otherwise back to normal.

Normal, but changed.

During his brief hospital stay, nurses and techs would come in. Many expressed astonishment that he had donated a kidney to a person who was not a relative. 

“Seeing their reaction, I realized that every day needs to be a kidney day for me,” Lyle said. “I need to be thinking, ‘How do I show the love of God in such a way that it’s a big deal to someone else?’”

Lyle learned he was only the second living kidney donor so far in 2023 at Texas Health. He told the transplant team he would be happy to talk to others about what to expect.

He said he would do it “100 times again” if he could, advising people to “slow down [and] figure out how to let your light shine before men.”

And make every day “a kidney day.”

Feeling lonely, pastor? You’re not alone.

Elijah had just had his greatest success in ministry when he crashed and burned.

You know the story, recorded in 1 Kings 18. Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to prove their god was the true one. They danced and called out for Baal to consume their offering. Elijah mocked them. Finally, Elijah rebuilt the altar of the Lord. Elijah poured water on the bull, so much so that a trench dug around the altar was filled. Then Elijah prayed for the Lord to demonstrate His power and fire fell and consumed everything, including all the water. 

Elijah was enjoying a ministry high. Before his pulse settled, he also courageously took out all the false prophets.

But when he got word that Jezebel was after him, he fled like a whipped pup. He hid alone in the wilderness a full day’s journey away, sat down, and said, “I have had enough!”

Some of you are there right now. Exhausted, afraid, and alone, you are thinking, “I have had enough!”

The truth is, almost every one of us has been there. A 2022 Barna poll shows that nearly two in three pastors either “sometimes” or “frequently” felt lonely or isolated in the prior three months.

I’m not sure isolation is unique to the ministry. Many men and women sitting in front of you each week feel lonely. What makes it unique for ministers is that pastors are surrounded by people constantly. I believe isolation and loneliness are among a pastor’s most preventable challenges.

People are cheering us on from every corner of our convention. So if you feel isolated, ensure you’re not the person who runs off and isolates himself like Elijah did.

To be clear, it’s not a recent phenomenon. Isolation has been challenging for decades, and although it was exaggerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s always been challenging. It’s normal to feel isolated occasionally. For that matter, some seasons of life and ministry are better than others. 

So, who can fix the situation?

You can.

Notice in 1 Kings 19 that Elijah flees Jezebel and then goes so far as to leave his faithful attendant behind in Beersheba. If you’re lonely, actively find people inside and outside the church who can become your encouragers in the ministry. Find someone you can call, text, or visit with who restores and refreshes you.

Isolation is both dangerous and avoidable.

And before you say, “Well, I can’t have friendships in the church because it can become awkward,” let me tell you that the pain of isolation exceeds the awkwardness of staff friendships, member friendships, or friendships with other pastors in your community. The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and your local association exist to serve you and connect you and your wife with other pastors and ministry couples, so make time to attend a few events where you can both come and be refreshed.

People are cheering us on from every corner of our convention. So if you feel isolated, ensure you’re not the person who runs off and isolates himself like Elijah did. Isolation is real, but it’s one of the most preventable challenges a pastor may face.

If you are a pastor looking to connect to resources related to this article, contact Jeff Lynn, senior strategist for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s Church Health & Leadership department, at 877-953-7282 or email

‘A great woman of God’: Mary Frances Melton passes away at age 90

ABILENE—Mary Frances Teaff Melton died Wednesday morning, Sept. 20, in Abilene. She was 90 years old.

A Texas native, she married her husband of 72 years, T.C. Melton, in 1951. Mary Frances was a graduate of Hardin Simmons University and taught in public schools for 20 years.

The Meltons served churches in West Texas for decades as pastor and wife. Later, they became an encouragement to pastors in that part of the state and great supporters of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention as T.C. became a consultant for the convention.

Said SBTC Executive Director Nathan Lorick: “The Meltons have been such a blessing to the SBTC. Mary Frances served the Lord faithfully with such a sweet spirit. Our hearts and prayers are with T.C. and the Melton family as they grieve the loss of a great woman of God.”

SBTC Executive Director Emeritus Jim Richards, Lorick’s predecessor, knew the Meltons well.

“Mary Frances Melton was a supportive pastor’s wife and vital ministry partner for over 70 years,” Richards said. “It is impossible to tally, this side of heaven, the ways God blessed His people through her. I’m praying for my friend T.C. as we all await the day when we’ll see her again.”

Services are being held under the direction of Hamil Family Funeral Home, 6449 Buffalo Gap Road, in Abilene. A graveside service will be held at Rose Hill Cemetery at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 23. A funeral service will follow at First Baptist Church, 301 Locust, in Merkel, Texas.



Nueva Plantación hispana en San Ángelo ya busca plantar más iglesias

Una mentalidad de multiplicación


l camino de Santiago Machado para seguir a Cristo y pastorear el Centro Cristiano Beraca fue oscuro y difícil.

Creció en un hogar donde todos, incluida su madre, practicaban la brujería. Cuando cumplió 16 años, empezó a servir en el ejército en su natal Cuba, donde se encontró con muchos problemas, incluyendo un accidente en un camión de combate que se estrelló debido a un descuido de su parte. Sobrevivió al accidente, pero fue condenado a tres años de prisión militar.

Machado describe que su vida en ese momento se encontraba “muy mal en todos los sentidos”.

Hasta que Jesús apareció en la vida de Machado de la forma más inesperada. 

Al principio de su encarcelamiento en la prisión militar, Machado le pidió a un amigo que fuera a su casa y le contara a su madre lo que le había ocurrido. El amigo hizo lo que se le pidió y volvió para informar a Machado de lo que había averiguado: que su madre había entregado su vida a Cristo después de escuchar el Evangelio un mes antes. No sólo eso, sino que el amigo le dijo a Machado que él mismo había entregado su vida a Jesús después que la madre de Machado le compartiera el evangelio.  

Al oír el testimonio de su amigo y cómo Jesús había cambiado la vida de su madre, Machado –en un acto de desesperación– decidió entregar también su vida a Cristo. Comenzó a leer el Nuevo Testamento que le había dado su amigo y, en poco tiempo, empezó a ver a Dios obrando en medio de sus circunstancias.

“La visión de la iglesia no es permanecer estática. Tenemos que levantar misiones e iglesias. Esa es nuestra pasión”.

Dios tenía planes para mí

A los quince días de su encarcelamiento, el director de la prisión llevó a 50 presos en un gran camión a realizar trabajos forzados. Cuando los presos regresaban del trabajo, un capitán pidió a Machado y a otro preso que pusieran una linterna en la parte trasera del camión porque estaba oscureciendo. Mientras los dos hombres se dirigían a la parte trasera, el camión fue embestido por otro vehículo que iba a muy alta velocidad. Murieron muchos de los que iban en el vehículo, incluido el capitán. 

Machado se arrastró fuera del camión y cayó en la carretera. Los equipos de emergencia lo encontraron fuera del vehículo, consciente, pero en estado de shock. “Yo podía hablar”, dijo Machado, “pero sentía que Dios me decía que no hablara. Mis labios estaban sellados”.

Machado no habló durante los tres meses siguientes, ni en el hospital ni cuando lo devolvieron a la prisión. Como los oficiales de la prisión no sabían qué hacer con él porque no hablaba, lo devolvieron a su unidad militar. Después de 20 días en su unidad, un médico declaró que Machado no estaba apto para seguir en el ejército, por lo que fue dado de baja. Machado declara que Dios obró un milagro aquel día. De una condena de tres años de prisión, sólo estuvo 15 días.

“Dios tenía planes para mí”, dijo Machado.

Vivir al servicio del Señor

Al volver a casa de su madre, Machado empezó a servir al Señor en la iglesia. Iba con su madre a compartir el Evangelio en su comunidad, lo que alimentó su pasión por ver a los perdidos salvados. Fue en esta iglesia donde Machado conoció a su esposa, Irene, comenzando una familia que incluía dos hijos y un matrimonio que lleva 35 años y sigue creciendo.

Los Machado fueron eventualmente enviados como misioneros a Punta Brava en La Habana por tres años, comenzando en 1986. Él pasó a pastorear ocho iglesias y a fundar 15 grupos de estudio en hogares. Ocho de esos grupos se convirtieron en iglesias que siguen funcionando.

En el 2012, Machado recibió una oferta para pastorear una iglesia en San Ángelo, Texas, la cual aceptó. Pero a medida que pasaban los años, comenzó a sentir que el Señor lo llamaba a plantar una nueva iglesia centrada en las misiones y la evangelización, dos cosas muy cercanas a su corazón. Sintiendo que Dios lo movía en una nueva dirección para convertirse en un plantador, Machado dio un paso de fe y dejó su iglesia y la seguridad financiera que le proporcionaba. Fue entonces cuando conoció a Edgar Trinidad, pastor del Centro Cristiano Kairo en San Ángelo. 

A medida que Machado y Trinidad se fueron conociendo, descubrieron que compartían la visión de plantar una iglesia en San Ángelo. Trinidad finalmente propuso una asociación que permitiría a Machado servir como pastor asociado voluntario en Kairo mientras aprendía más sobre la plantación de una iglesia. Machado aceptó el reto.

Una nueva plantación, un nuevo camino

Machado trabajó bajo la dirección de Trinidad durante dos años y medio. Su formación incluyó el trabajo con Send Network SBTC, una asociación de plantación de iglesias entre la Convención de los Bautistas del Sur de Texas y la Junta de Misiones Norteamericanas. Después de ser certificado como plantador por la convención, Machado y Trinidad comenzaron a explorar un lugar para plantar. El Señor los dirigió al norte de San Ángelo, en donde la iglesia de Trinidad pudo comprar un edificio que albergaría la nueva obra.

El primer servicio en la nueva iglesia, Centro Cristiano Beraca, se celebró el 1 de octubre de 2022. A medida que la iglesia se acerca a su primer aniversario, entre 25 y 30 personas asisten ahora los domingos.

“Dios nos ha dado muchas estrategias” para llegar a la comunidad, dijo Machado. Por ejemplo, el Centro Cristiano Beraca abre sus puertas para dar de comer a la comunidad todas las semanas. Es una oportunidad para que la iglesia alimente a la comunidad no sólo físicamente dice Machado, sino también espiritualmente. Se predica el Evangelio antes de servir la comida, lo que ha llevado a 20 personas a tomar la decisión de seguir a Jesús y ser bautizados.

Y aunque todavía es una iglesia joven, el Centro Cristiano Beraca ya está tratando de formar a la próxima generación de plantadores para que la misión pueda seguir adelante.

“La visión de la iglesia no es permanecer estática”, dijo Machado. “Tenemos que levantar misiones e iglesias. Esa es nuestra pasión”.

Budding Hispanic plant in San Angelo is already looking to plant more churches

Multiplication Mindset


antiago Machado’s path to following Christ and pastoring Centro Cristiano Beraca was a dark and difficult one.

He grew up in a household where everyone, including his mother, practiced witchcraft. When he turned 16, he began serving in the military in his native Cuba, where he encountered many problems—including a wreck in a military truck that crashed because of his negligence. He survived the wreck but was sentenced to three years in military prison.

Machado describes his life at that point in very simple, sobering terms: “Very bad in every way.”

That is, until Jesus showed up in Machado’s life in a most unexpected way. 

At the beginning of his incarceration, Machado asked a friend to go to his home and tell his mother what had happened to him. The friend did as he was asked and returned to report Machado’s mother had given her life to Christ after hearing the gospel a month earlier. Not only that, but the friend told Machado he had also given his life to Jesus after hearing the gospel from Machado’s mother.

Upon hearing the testimony of his friend, and how Jesus had changed his mother’s life, Machado—in an act of desperation—decided to give his life to Christ, as well. He began reading the New Testament his friend gave him and, before long, started seeing God working in the circumstances of his life.

“The vision of the church is not to remain static. We have to raise up missions and churches. This is our passion.”

‘God had plans for me’

Fifteen days into Machado’s imprisonment, the prison director took 50 prisoners in a large truck to perform hard labor. As the prisoners returned from the job, Machado and another inmate were asked by a captain to put a flashlight in the back of the truck because it was getting dark. While the two men made their way to the back, the truck was hit by another vehicle. Many in the vehicle were killed, including the captain. 

Machado crawled out of the truck and fell onto the road. He was found by emergency workers just outside the vehicle, conscious but in shock. “I could speak,” Machado said, “but I felt that God was telling me not to speak. My lips were sealed.”

Machado did not speak for the next three months—not in the hospital, and not when they released him back to the prison. Because prison officials did not know what to do with him since he wasn’t speaking, they returned him to his military unit. After 20 days back with his unit, a doctor declared Machado unfit to continue in the military, so he was released from his service. As Machado sees it, God worked a miracle that day. Out of a three-year prison sentence, he served only 15 days.

“God had plans for me,” Machado said.

Living in the Lord’s service

Returning to his mother’s home, Machado began to serve the Lord in the church. He would go with his mother to share the gospel in their community, fueling his passion for seeing lost people saved. It was at this church Machado met his wife, Irene, beginning a family that includes two children and a marriage that is 35 years strong and counting.

The Machados were eventually sent as missionaries to Punta Brava in Havana for three years, beginning in 1986. He would go on to pastor eight churches and start 15 home study groups. Eight of those groups sprouted into churches that are still operating.

In 2012, Machado received an offer to pastor a church in San Angelo, Texas—which he accepted. But as the years passed, he began to sense the Lord calling him to plant a new church focused on missions and evangelism—two things very close to his heart. Sensing God moving him in a new direction to become a planter, Machado stepped out in faith and left his church and the financial security it provided. That’s when he met Edgar Trinidad, pastor of Kairo Christian Center in San Angelo. 

As Machado and Trinidad got to know each other, they discovered they had a shared vision for planting a church in San Angelo. Trinidad eventually proposed a partnership that would allow Machado to serve as a volunteer associate pastor at Kairo while learning more about planting a church. Machado accepted the challenge.

A new plant, a new path

Machado worked under Trinidad’s leadership for two and a half years. His training included work with Send Network SBTC, a church planting partnership between the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and the North American Mission Board. After Machado was certified as a planter by the convention, he and Trinidad began exploring a location to plant. The Lord directed them to North San Angelo, where Trinidad’s church was able to purchase a building that would house the new plant. 

The first service at the new church, Centro Cristiano Beraca, was held Oct. 1, 2022. As the church nears its one-year anniversary, 25-30 people are now attending on Sundays.

“God has given us many strategies” to reach the community, Machado said. For example, Centro Cristiano Beraca opens its doors to feed the community every week. It provides an opportunity for the church to meet physical needs and minister to people spiritually, Machado said. The gospel is preached before food is served—something that has led 20 people to make decisions to follow Jesus or be baptized.

And though it is still a young church, Centro Cristiano Beraca is already looking to raise up the next generation of planters so the gospel mission can move forward.

“The vision of the church is not to remain static,” Machado said. “We have to raise up missions and churches. This is our passion.”