Month: November 2023

5 minutes with Scottie Stice

Scottie Stice has headed Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief since 2014, when he became interim director. In January 2015, he assumed the position permanently. Previously, Stice served as an SBTC DR volunteer, a senior pastor, missions pastor at First Baptist Dallas, an International Mission Board missionary in El Salvador, and director of missions for the Del Rio-Uvalde Baptist Association. A graduate of Criswell College, he has earned a Master of Arts in Missions and a Master of Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Stice and his wife, Judy, have four adult children and five grandchildren.

Where has SBTC DR deployed this year?

We have had a relatively slow year with 19 deployments. Among these, volunteers have served in migrant ministry in Brownsville, responded to Hurricane Idalia in Perry, Fla., assisted storm survivors in Millington, Tenn., and served tornado survivors in the Texas communities of Perryton, Winnsboro, Bloomburg, and the Gulf Coast, plus Little Rock, Ark., and Shawnee, Okla. Volunteers have ministered to the homeless in Texarkana, responded to fires in Jasper County, assisted victims of storm and wind events in Spring and Kountze (Jefferson and Hardin counties), and ice storms in Round Rock and Austin. They have removed mold from a flooded church in Sheffield and participated with the Salvation Army in a training event in Grand Prairie. 

What has been the most meaningful moment for you as DR director in 2023?

It is hard to choose a single event. What is meaningful to me is when SBTC DR volunteers go to a disaster-stricken community and meet the needs of the survivors. The tornado near Little Rock does stand out this year, as SBTC DR teams responded at the request of Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief. The Arkansas teams were busy serving in Mississippi when the storm hit Little Rock. Our teams deployed very quickly, traveled to Little Rock, and went operational within 24-36 hours.  

What are some of the blessings of involvement in DR ministry?

Ministry to survivors of storms. We minister to many believers who grow stronger in their faith after a disaster. We are also able to share the gospel with and minister to many unbelievers.   

What are the most pressing needs of SBTC DR?  

We always need more volunteers who will deploy and the resources to support them while they are in the field. Transportation, food, and equipment are expensive. God has been faithful to provide what we need just as we need it.  

How can the churches of the SBTC pray for SBTC DR this coming year? 

Pray for more workers for the harvest. We are perpetually shorthanded. Pray for the resources to send the teams of volunteers that make a difference in disaster-stricken communities.  

Ennis family prepares to spend Christmas with adopted daughter they’d always prayed for

Brent and Michelle Bratcher love their two sons, but they also wanted a daughter … or two. 

So the Bratchers turned to the foster system, seeing God grow their family through a whole lot of prayer and the assistance of the Texas Baptist Home for Children. 

Michelle and Brent’s journey to faith is as inspiring as their willingness to help children. Both grew up in Ennis, although Michelle moved there from Duncanville before sixth grade. 

“I was not allowed to attend church as a child,” Michelle said. Friends kept inviting her to church, which finally led to her salvation at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Ennis as a high school senior. Shortly after, Brent rededicated his life to Christ. 

The pair began dating as high school sophomores and married in June 2001. They were blessed with two sons: Andrew, now 15, and Nathan, 13. Life was good. They longed for more children, yet Michelle’s health precluded this. 

“Coming from a big family myself, I knew I wanted four kids,” Michelle said, explaining that she had undergone five hip surgeries. The couple considered adoption, but a financial crisis hit.

“We were scammed by a builder and lost over $100,000 [trying to build] a home in Ennis,” Michelle said. “We knew we’d never have the funds to adopt.” 

Discouraged, they learned from friends about fostering to adopt, which can often be a lower-cost alternative to traditional adoption.

“We gave all glory to God, that even in the tenuous waiting, insane stress, constant prayers, He still came through like our knight in shining armor! It wasn’t in our timing; it was in His.”

A battle to adopt

The Bratchers became certified to foster in 2021 and had their first placements—including Isabel, the daughter they would eventually adopt—in July of that year. For a short time, they also fostered Isabel’s biological sister.

Counselors warned the family the sisters would fare better if they were split up and that separation might help with healing, but because the Bratchers were “adoption-minded,” both sisters were allowed to stay with the family. For a variety of reasons, Isabel’s biological sister eventually went to live with another family.

Meanwhile, the Bratchers started the process of adopting Isabel—who is lovingly also called Izzy. “This began our fight,” Michelle said. The process stalled in court. The couple’s attorneys eventually sought a trial, hoping a jury might see the “common sense” behind allowing the adoption of a girl who was already so loved.

“The system refused to listen to what was best for Izzy, until one month prior to trial,” when the district attorney intervened and allowed the adoption petition to proceed, Michelle said.

“We gave all glory to God, that even in the tenuous waiting, insane stress, constant prayers, He still came through like our knight in shining armor! It wasn’t in our timing; it was in His,” Michelle said. 

“TBHC was right there with us the entire time, holding our hands, and staying steadfast in prayer. We waited over two years to adopt Izzy,” Michelle said. The adoption was formalized in September 2023.

The Bratchers finally formally adopted their former foster child Isabel on Sept. 29, 2023. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

Love of a family

The Bratchers also currently foster another girl, age 11. 

“We adore [our foster daughter] and will adopt her if … it’s God’s will. Our human nature thought we would adopt sisters, but the love of a family, no matter what it looks like, will always win,” Michelle said.

Isabel’s biological sisters—the older one fostered by the Bratchers and a baby sister—have fared well, adopted by other families in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Michelle said the families will keep in contact and the girls will see one another regularly.

Challenges remain. The stresses of regular family life and too little time are to be expected. But Isabel and her foster sister have suffered past trauma and need plenty of rest. The family frequently declines invitations and curtails plans because Izzy, in particular, must be in bed by 7:30 p.m.

Andrew and Nathan also have made adjustments to the changes in their family dynamic. The Bratchers seek help when needed and keep the doors open for honest conversation.

A family friend recently presented Isabel and the Bratchers with a Christmas ornament commemorating her adoption.

They have run into criticism from some people advising them to quit fostering, as many families do, after a year. “We have to remind ourselves that we aren’t living for those people, even though we love them dearly,” Michelle said. “We are living for God. He has called us to this, and He calls all His children to spread the gospel to the world.” To date, they have fostered four children, including Isabel. They have seen two trust Christ as Savior.

Tabernacle Baptist and fellow parents have been a great source of comfort and help, Michelle said. Likewise, she credits TBHC as an integral part of their successful adoption.

 “They never judged,” Michelle said. “They provided support with books, groups, and training to help us. Our case manager checked on us all the time. If it weren’t for TBHC, we most likely would have quit.”

This Christmas promises to be “amazing,” Michelle said. “We have an official daughter to celebrate His birth with. Izzy is so thankful to be a Bratcher at last. She doesn’t have to fear moving anymore. We get to spoil and love on our foster daughter this year, too. We will help her see her family as she wishes for the holidays and support her in any way we can.

“Life is so full,” she added. “We are so thankful for God’s love and His expanding His kingdom. Our house is full, our hearts are full.”

Looking back at what was, dreaming of what is to come

I’ve made it a practice to use the end of each year to look back on the stories we’ve told in the Texan about all that God has done over the previous 12 months. They are different in so many ways, but the same in one main aspect: They all tell the stories of how God is moving through our family of churches. 

As we say goodbye to 2023 and begin to look ahead to what God will do in the year to come, here are just a few of our favorite stories from the past year:

A long journey, paved with steps of faith (April)

What comes to mind when you think of the first day of school? Back-to-school shopping? School buses? High school football? Misael Rodríguez, Hispanic pastor of Hillcrest Español in Cedar Hill, described his upbringing in Cuba in our April issue and presented a different back-to-school routine with which he became familiar. 

At the beginning of each school year, the principal of his school would walk past every classroom, identify the Christians, and ask them to stand up so they could be teased and taunted by their classmates. “I remember one time we were put in front of 500 students on campus so they could boo all the religious kids,” Rodríguez recalled, “but I didn’t give up my faith.”

Rodríguez’s brave tale provided a sad-but-powerful reminder we often take for granted: There are countless people in this world who are truly persecuted for their faith in Christ. 

‘God’s moving on campus’ (June)

The collegiate ministry of Fredonia Hill Baptist Church in Nacogdoches took a spring break mission trip to New York City to participate in community outreach and a vacation Bible school. One of the young women on the trip—who would later admit her motive for going had more to do with experiencing New York and less to do with service­­—ended up giving her life to Christ.

Now on fire for Jesus, the young woman returned home and shared with her small group what God had done for her on the trip. As a result of her testimony, two people were saved. Another trip participant led someone to the Lord via text message. The gospel continued to spread and, before long, 17 students at nearby Stephen F. Austin State University were baptized. God can take something so small and turn it into something truly great. 

‘Not defective, but effective’ (June)

I rarely read something that freezes me in my tracks, which is why the story of Whick Turner, pastor of First Baptist Church in Christine (about an hour south of San Antonio), was so memorable for me. In our monthly What’s Your Story feature in June, Turner’s testimony began with him describing how he went from temporarily filling the pulpit at the church to becoming its full-time pastor. Then old Whick drops the following bomb out of nowhere: “Some church members say they can hardly tell I’m blind.”

Wait … what? 

The article filled my mind with wonder (“How difficult must his sermon prep be?”), but it challenged me. We can be so good at coming up with excuses not to serve the Lord. Instead of using his blindness as an excuse, Turner not only serves faithfully, but uses his circumstances to encourage others to do the same.

Our prayer is that these stories—and the ones to come—not only encourage you, but bless you as you consider the work of our mighty God during this holiday season. 

From Christmas robbery to redemption

Austin pastor’s book chronicles tale of bank robber who later turned to Christ

Many Central Texas natives know the story of the infamous Santa Claus Robbery that took place two days before Christmas 1927 in the Eastland County town of Cisco. 

Thomas Goodman, pastor of Hillcrest Church in Austin, was pastoring an Eastland church in the 1990s when he heard the tale of four bandits—one disguised as Santa—who robbed the First National Bank of Cisco, briefly escaping with two young female hostages.

The job was supposed to be “easy in, easy out,” Goodman tells congregations and audiences in a message called “The Parable of a Texas Crime.” The crime, however, became anything but easy. As word spread of the robbery, 1,000 armed citizens surrounded the bank—many hoping to claim the reward offered by the Texas Bankers Association promising $5,000 for a dead bank robber and “not one cent for a live one.” The controversial reward was a response to an epidemic of bank robberies in the 1920s. In today’s dollars, the amount would equal a staggering $85,000.

The manhunt was the largest in Texas history to date and the first to involve air reconnaissance, Goodman noted.

Of the four bandits, one would suffer fatal injuries during the getaway; one would die in the electric chair; one would be lynched by an Eastland mob. And one would serve 15 years of a life sentence and become a Christian whose life was so radically changed he would earn a conditional pardon from Gov. Coke Stevenson and later a full pardon in 1964 from Gov. John Connally.

It’s that last man who inspired the title of Goodman’s recently released novel, The Last Man: A Novel of the 1927 Santa Claus Bank Robbery.

Goodman has had the opportunity to speak and sign books at church and civic events, like Eastland’s fall festival. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Goodman is far from the first to chronicle the crime. Numerous nonfiction books and articles in Texas Monthly and Texas Highways, among other magazines, tell the tale. But all accounts stop at the violent lynching. Goodman found the rest of the story more compelling: a changed life thanks to the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

A prolific writer, the pastor decided to try his hand at fiction, running the idea past his deacons, who supported the venture.

“I get up at 6 a.m. and write till 8:30 when the church office opens and I feel I am on the clock,” Goodman said. “I write on my own time, whatever that means for a pastor.”

Writing the novel has given Goodman opportunities to speak not just in churches, but also at western festivals and for civic organizations, settings that are not explicitly religious. “It’s not a 300-page sermon, but it is overtly Christian,” he said of the book. “The story itself is fascinating, with a redemptive element. By the time the last man dies in his 90s, he has been a God-fearing, church-going man for 50 years.”

The pastor likens the story to Jesus’ parable of the sower and the seeds, noting parallels between the parable’s “four patches of ground” and the crime’s “four men.” Though the seed and the sower were the same, only one patch of ground yielded fruit. Similarly, although all the robbers had opportunities to respond to the gospel, only one did.

And that is a Christmas story worth telling.

The Last Man is available online and at
brick-and-mortar booksellers. For more information, visit

AM23: SBTC messengers conduct significant business at meeting

EULESS—The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention met for its an­nual meeting Nov. 13-14 at Cross City Church in Euless. The event drew 925 registered messengers and 247 regis­tered guests, a total of 1,172 people. Messengers conducted significant business that facilitates the convention’s ministry for the coming year:

Forshee, Lopez, Cooper elected to serve as officers

Austin pastor Danny Forshee was elected SBTC president by acclamation on Nov. 14, the final day of the meeting.

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

Rounding out the convention’s elected leadership is Eddie Lopez, pastor of First Baptist Forney En Español, who was elected as vice president, and Sharonda Cooper of Emmaus Church of Georgetown, who was elected convention secretary. Both were also elected by acclamation.

$27.8 million budget approved

Messengers approved a $27,833,488 budget for the next year. This amount is the same as the 2023 budget. The convention’s business and financial plan prohibits raising a budget for the next fiscal year above the current year, beyond receipts in the prior year.

Sexual abuse awareness, prevention resources made available to churches

Messengers were informed of resources being made available to raise awareness and help prevent sexual abuse at SBTC churches during the Nov. 14 afternoon session.

A membership to MinistrySafe—an organization whose mission is to protect children and those who serve them through training and resourcing—will be provided at no cost for the first 500 churches (first-time users) that sign up. SBTC churches interested in learning more are being urged to text PROTECT to 469-727-7272.

Additionally, SBTC Executive Board Chairman Caleb Turner reported to messengers that a licensed therapist specializing in trauma and sexual abuse has been retained by the convention as a resource for churches.

Effective date for 2022 motion extended

At the 2022 annual meeting in Corpus Christi, messengers approved a motion to interpret the SBTC’s constitutional affiliation requirement that the “office of pastor be limited to men” to apply “not only to the titles of senior pastor or lead pastor, but to any role designated by the noun ‘pastor.’”

Referencing a request by SBC President Bart Barber that state conventions “pause” actions they may be considering that involve the nature of cooperation, the SBTC Executive Board recommended the date for implementation of the 2022 motion for presently affiliated churches be moved to Jan. 1, 2025. After a time of discussion at this year’s annual meeting, the board’s recommendation was approved by a hand vote of messengers.

Messenger intends to propose constitutional amendment in 2024

Messenger Rob Collingsworth of Redemption Story Church in Fort Worth reported his intent, in accordance with Article IX of the SBTC Constitution, to propose two constitutional amendments at next year’s annual meeting. Collingsworth is proposing the following amendments (in bold):

Article III. Doctrinal Statement

“The Baptist Faith and Message, adopted in 2000 and amended in 2023 by the Southern Baptist Convention, shall be the doctrinal statement for the Convention.”

Article IV. Affiliation

Section 1 “(d) affirms the church-wide authority and oversight office of pastor/elder/overseer to be limited to men.”

AM23: Great Hills’ Forshee elected next SBTC president

EULESS—Danny Forshee was elected president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention by acclamation during the Tuesday morning session of the 2023 SBTC Annual Meeting held at Cross City Church.

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

In his nominating speech, Houston’s First Pastor Gregg Matte said two words typify Forshee: joyful and prayerful. “[His presidency] will done from his knees in prayer,” Matte said.

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

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

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

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


AM23: Send Network SBTC planters sent out with encouragement, prayer

EULESS—Julio Arriola, director of Send Network SBTC, opened the church planter commissioning ceremony at the 2023 SBTC Annual Meeting Tuesday morning (Nov. 14) with a reminder of Luke 10:2: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”

The number of church planters, family members, and Send Network SBTC staff who joined Arriola onstage at Cross City Church for the commissioning service was hardly few, however. Dozens filled the worship center stage, representing the 36 churches planted since the beginning of the partnership between the SBTC and the North American Mission Board begun in 2022. Those churches, Arriola said, represent all corners and communities across the state: “from East Texas to West Texas, north to south, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio,” representing “different languages, different ethnicities, different cultures.”

Arriola welcomed not only planters who have worked through Send Network SBTC, but also asked other planters in attendance to come forward. “The Lord is using you. We are grateful for you,” Arriola said. Speaking to the messengers, he added, “Your faithfulness in Cooperative Program giving and [the annual Annie Armstrong Easter Offering] has made this possible.”

Arriola invited SBTC Executive Director Nathan Lorick to the stage to pray for the group.

Thanking God for His goodness in sending planters, Lorick said in his prayer that God is “bringing the world to Texas.” He prayed for God’s favor and provision for the planters, plants, and their communities, and for churches and pastors to come alongside to assist planters.”

Jason Crandall, Send Network SBTC church plant lead, also prayed for the planters, with Arriola translating in Spanish. Crandall thanked God for sending the workers to respond to the “lostness of 19 million people [in Texas] who are far” from Christ.

During his report Monday evening, Lorick reported encouraging numbers related to the convention’s recent church planting efforts. In 2022, Send Network SBTC planted 36 churches—more than double the number planted the year before. Projections indicate the number of 2023 church plants may rise to 50, the most planted in a single year since 2005, he added.

“In 2024, we are dreaming of planting more churches than we ever have in one single year,” Lorick said.

Said Arriola: “We firmly believe that our current cohort of church planters will be at the forefront of a revival within our family of churches, pioneering a transformative era of church planting and evangelism.”

AM23: Annual meeting messengers called to prayer, thanksgiving

EULESS—Prayer permeated the opening session of the 26th annual meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Monday evening (Nov. 13) at Cross City Church.

For the second consecutive year, the culmination of Monday’s proceedings was a prayer meeting led by SBTC President Todd Kaunitz, lead pastor of New Beginnings Baptist Church, and Nathan Lino, senior pastor of First Baptist Church Forney. Both churches have hosted prayer retreats over the past year aimed at reconnecting the hearts of their fellow pastors and church leaders across the state to prayer.

Kaunitz helped set the prayer tone earlier Monday evening as he delivered his president’s message rooted in Luke 24 and Acts 1. Kaunitz noted how Luke emphasizes the prayer life of Jesus more than any of the other gospels. That prayer focus continues into Acts, where Luke depicts the first church born out of a prayer meeting and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

“The same power that fueled the power of Jesus is also supposed to be the power that fuels the church,” Kaunitz said. He urged a return to prayer, noting there is an epidemic of prayerless pastors and churches across the country today. “Revival doesn’t start outside the church. It starts inside the church on our knees.”

Continuing into the prayer meeting, Kaunitz called upon messengers to practice what he had just preached. As the lights dimmed, the congregation sang “Lord, I Need You” and “This Is the Air I Breathe,” led by the praise team and worship leader Kyle Grizzard of New Beginnings. Individuals stood, knelt, raised hands, or bowed their heads throughout the worship center.

Two people worship and pray during the prayer meeting held on the first night of the 2023 SBTC Annual Meeting at Cross City Church. SBTC PHOTO

“Part of drawing near to God is singing and part is giving thanks to the Father,” Lino said, guiding the audience to pray in thanksgiving to Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals, and to praise Jesus, our advocate before the Father. Spoken prayers rippled across the auditorium.

Lino next led the crowd in a time of prayerful, personal consecration in which they meditated upon the first four Beatitudes and asked God for a spirit of humility—one that mourns sin, submits to the leadership of Christ, and hungers for righteousness. Many came forward while others knelt or stood in their places, heads bowed.

“Lord, is there anything you want to say to me? Is there anything I can do for you?” Lino urged the audience to ask. He prayed for blessings upon the convention as a whole and the next day’s gathering in particular.

Kaunitz returned to the stage, asking messengers to pray through the five markers of a mobilized church unveiled earlier in the evening by SBTC Executive Director Nathan Lorick. Five prayer leaders—Kaunitz, Danny Forshee, Caleb Turner, James Jordan, and Eddie Lopez—took turns guiding the group in asking the Lord for strength and power so that SBTC churches would be prayer-energized, evangelism-prioritized, disciple-making normalized, sending maximized, and partnerships synchronized.

Before closing, Kaunitz called upon individuals who were in trying circumstances to stand as others surrounded and prayed for them.

“There is no better way to begin a gathering of churches,” Kaunitz said in closing, “ … or to launch our next 25 years than with a prayer meeting.”


AM23: Longtime Sherman pastor honored with Leaders Legacy Award

EULESS—Mike Lawson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Sherman the past 24 years, was awarded the Leaders Legacy Award by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Executive Board on Tuesday (Nov. 14) during the 2023 SBTC Annual Meeting.

The Southern Baptists of Texas Foundation created the Leaders Legacy Endowment to fund an award “to honor individuals who have distinguished themselves by their service to Christ through the SBTC or the SBC.” Candidates are considered by the SBTC Executive Board and recipients are recognized during the board’s report during the annual meeting each year.

Lawson called the honor “special.”

“I am honored and humbled to be considered for this recognition and will treasure the blessing of it all of my days,” Lawson said. “I’m particularly grateful for opportunities to support and serve in this fine convention of churches called the SBTC.”

Lawson has been a leader at all levels of denominational service. In addition to pastoring Texas churches for nearly 40 years, he has served extensively on committees and boards for the denomination. Nationally, he was a member of the Southern Baptist Convention’s executive and credentials committees. His service to the SBTC includes time on the resolutions, nominations, and evangelism committees. More locally, Lawson has been a leader within Grayson Baptist Association as a seminary extension instructor and as a member of various associational committees.

He holds degrees from East Texas Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, including a Doctor of Ministry degree from Southwestern.

“Mike Lawson is a faithful pastor who has consistently modeled grace, humility, and integrity,” SBTC Executive Director Nathan Lorick said. “It is a joy to highlight faithful men like Mike who have selflessly served the Lord with excellence.”

Mike has been married to Kim, who serves as the church pianist, since 1990.

AM23: Lorick casts new vision for SBTC to attack growing lostness in Texas: ‘We must move forward together’

EULESS—When the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention was founded 25 years ago, Texas had a population of 19 million people. A quarter-century later, it’s estimated that’s how many lost people there are—19 million—among the state’s 30 million residents.

SBTC Executive Director Nathan Lorick likens it to a mountain of lostness—one of Mount Everest-sized proportions—but one that can be scaled as convention churches strategically work together.

On Monday, during the opening night of the SBTC Annual Meeting at Cross City Church, Lorick cast a new vision that aims to reverse the growth rate of lostness in Texas and the world. That vision, developed over the past year through a prayerful collaboration between SBTC leaders across the state, calls for a united front among the convention’s 2,700-plus churches.

“This is a daunting reality—one that ought to move our hearts to action,” Lorick said of the growing number of lost people in Texas. “What we’ve seen time and time again over the past 25 years as a convention [is this]: what seems like an insurmountable mountain to the world becomes a God-sized opportunity to reach every person and place God sends us.

“So how do we climb this mountain and reverse the rate of lostness in our state and the world? Just as we have for the past 25 years … we must move forward together.”

Lorick described the new vision as a “refocus” for the SBTC, one anchored upon its longstanding core values of being biblically based, missionally driven, and kingdom focused. The refocus provides a framework to drive the SBTC’s mission over the next 25 years: to mobilize churches to multiply disciple-making movements in Texas and around the world.

These disciple-making movements can be identified and measured by five markers: prayer-energized, evangelism-prioritized, disciple-making normalized, sending-maximized, and partnerships-synergized. Lorick noted all five markers are found throughout the New Testament.

“Knowing that God multiplies these markers, we want to mobilize churches toward them,” he said.

Mobilization of the markers will take place on three strategic pathways that resource churches with tools and training, network leaders with relationships and partnerships, and advance mission through giving and sending opportunities. As examples, Lorick noted continued growth among SBTC networks including the Black Church Network, Young Pastors Network, and Bivocational Pastors Network. He also lauded Regenesis, a revitalization process SBTC leaders project will have been completed by 500 pastors and leaders from 72 churches by May 2024.

Lorick said implementation of the convention’s new vision “won’t happen overnight,” noting it will begin to be integrated into the SBTC’s ministries and marketing objectives over the next year. The vision will be “fully optimized” in three years, he said, leading the SBTC to resource 1,000 churches, revitalize 350 churches, connect 1,000 leaders to 75 networks, and connect 1,200 churches to support 120 church plants. In 2023, Send Network SBTC, the convention’s church planting partnership with the North American Mission Board, expects to start 50 churches—which would be the most in a single year for the SBTC since 2005.

“No hill is too great for climbers like us,” Lorick said, “ … Let us move forward together and take our first steps on our path up that seemingly unscalable mountain as a family of churches. This challenge is too massive to go alone, but also one we cannot afford to walk away from.”