Month: February 2024

SBTC DR teams respond to historic Panhandle wildfires

PAMPA—Late February wildfires ravaging the Texas Panhandle continued to burn from northernmost Hutchinson County across the region, prompting Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott to issue a disaster declaration for 60 counties on Tuesday (Feb. 27) as the fires doubled in a single day.

Southern Baptists of Texas Disaster Relief crews immediately responded to the emergency and continue to do so.

SBTC DR’s quick response feeding unit (QRU) headquartered in Pampa with a crew from the Top O’ Texas Baptist Association led by James Greer sprang into action Tuesday, setting up operations at the association office in Pampa to cook for first responders. After preparing lunches and dinners, most volunteers left for the evening to take care of their own places threatened during the emergency, Greer said.

Volunteers returned Wednesday as the Pampa QRU spent that day preparing meals, its operations moved to Canadian, Texas.

“They’ve got hot chili dogs going out for lunch right now,” Scottie Stice, SBTC DR director, said at noon Wednesday.

Wednesday morning, Stice issued a call-up for SBTC DR recovery units to be deployed to Canadian. The Pampa QRU is expected to continue its service and an additional QRU will be activated, Stice said. Plans are in the works for an incident management team to deploy as well, with a command post to be established either in Canadian or Pampa. Chaplains and shower/laundry crews and units are also being activated.

“Our QRU and shower/laundry volunteers will support the expected 150 first responders who will be housed at First Baptist Pampa,” Stice said.

“At the moment, our energies will be directed toward Pampa and Canadian,” Stice noted, adding that as of Wednesday, as many as 100 homes have been reported burned in the Fritch area also.

Currently six wildfires are burning: the Smokehouse Creek fire in Hutchinson County, the 687 Reamer fire nearby, the Grape Vine Creek fire in Gray County, the Magenta fire in Oldham County, and the Windy Deuce fire in southern Moore County, just north of Potter County, where the Pantex plant, the nation’s main facility for assembling and disassembling nuclear weapons, was forced to cease operations temporarily Tuesday night.

Active Panhandle blazes currently cover a combined area of some 374,000 acres, according to the latest figures by the Texas A&M Forest Service and reported in the Wall Street Journal.

This article also contains reporting from and the Wall Street Journal.

A different kind of medicine

God uses pharmacist-turned-church-planter to expand gospel influence in one of Texas’ fastest-growing communities

Eric Patrick’s journey from dispensing medicines to saving souls as a church planter transported his family 40 miles north of downtown Dallas to the burgeoning town of Little Elm. 

After seven years as a pharmacy tech and eight as a pharmacist working for two large hospital systems, the Florida native felt God pulling him in a new direction in 2019. He stopped practicing pharmacy and began teaching financial literacy and running a web-based marketing business to support his family. 

Patrick, his wife, Antoinette, and their two young daughters joined Flower Mound’s Rockpointe Church in 2019, where Antoinette still serves as human resources director. It was a good fit. “We got plugged in at Rockpointe,” Patrick recalled. 

During a season of intense prayer and Scripture reading, Patrick penned the following: “I pray that God gives me wisdom and surrounds me with those that are part of His ordered steps in my life in my pursuit of ministry. I don’t know what my ministry will look like, but Lord, if it is your will, make it known to me.”

"I pray that God gives me wisdom and surrounds me with those that are part of His ordered steps in my life in my pursuit of ministry."

In the summer of 2020, with COVID-19 just beginning, Patrick was asked to lead an online Bible study on the book of Daniel. As he led the group, leaders and others at his church affirmed his calling to one day become a pastor. 

Ron Holton, Rockpointe’s lead pastor, was among them. He recommended Patrick seek further education for the purposes of becoming a church planter. Though he had already earned a doctorate to prepare him for his previous career, Patrick enrolled in a master’s program at Dallas Theological Seminary in 2020.

“Eric never blinked at any of it,” said Holton, noting Rockpointe has a vision to plant 10 churches by 2030. “He is well-read. He attended conferences, asked questions. They downsized and lived conservatively and intentionally. … [He is] among the hardest-working and most intellectually bright planters I have ever worked with.”

A call to plant … but where?

As his extended education continued, Patrick was advised to consider where to plant a church. Should they move to his native Tampa? Memphis also came to mind. “We didn’t know where we were going for a while,” Patrick admitted.

But with Patrick’s mother recently relocated to Dallas and other family living nearby, the pull of North Texas stayed strong.

The Patricks took a compass, centered it on the Metroplex, and drew a large circle encompassing outlying communities. They began visiting locations, driving through neighborhoods, and renting vacation homes for extended periods so they could experience living in the areas. Mesquite and Balch Springs seemed a possibility. They talked to realtors, attended public events … yet the answer seemed to be, “No, not yet.”

That changed when Patrick drove north between highways 121 and 380 to Little Elm. As he looked around, he knew he had found the place. He saw neighborhoods and businesses, but not many churches.

Harvest members prepare “Glory Packs” for area elementary-aged kids in need as a service to the Little Elm community.

Little Elm, incorporated in 2001, had about 47,000 residents by the 2020 census. That number is now approaching 60,000, making it one of the fastest-growing communities in Texas.

Patrick attended meetings of the Little Elm Chamber of Commerce, meeting another pastor employed by Denton ISD who invited him to join a Bible study for teachers and administrators at Braswell High School. Despite the long drive from Flower Mound, Patrick jumped at the chance. He shared his vision of starting a church in the area.

As an assistant principal showed him the high school campus, Patrick was overwhelmed. The cafeteria seemed familiar. He realized he had dreamed about being in that very spot, speaking to people.

“From there, God kept pulling us,” Patrick said. “We built relationships with district administrators and principals.” 

The school district agreed to allow the new church to lease the high school cafeteria for Sunday services. After three preview services—Easter, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day—attracted 150-200 people, Harvest Ministries officially launched on Aug. 13, 2023, drawing more than 300. 

The church has attracted a steady multiethnic attendance of 150 each Sunday since opening. Some teachers and administrators from the high school come, as do many students.

“The fact that the youth will come to their school on a Sunday is a good sign,” Patrick said.

Even before the official launch, Harvest held an evening vacation Bible school last June in the school gym. Twelve children trusted Christ. On Father’s Day, one dad was baptized and immediately afterward baptized his daughter.

After its August 2023 launch, the multiethnic Harvest has attracted about 150 weekly. SUBMITTED PHOTO

“I’m not that great, but God is. He keeps showing up and showing out. We need to lean on Him.”

Advancing the mission

Excitement is high. Plans to increase youth activities are underway. The church is reading through the Bible together this year “to promote biblical literacy,” Patrick said. They hope to be in a permanent facility within five years.

Harvest’s values include “kingdom multiplication,” the pastor added—focusing on making disciples and planting at least one church by its fifth year.

Patrick credits both their sending church, Rockpointe, and Send Network SBTC—the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s church-planting partnership with the North American Mission Board—for getting Harvest this far.

Rockpointe provides financial support and counsel. Send Network SBTC provides quarterly financial support and resources. Patrick said he is grateful for the chance to network with other planters and participate in the SBTC’s Black Church Network. Joe Ogletree, pastor of Image Church in Cypress, serves as a mentor and coach to him.

“It’s so important to be able to connect with other planters who are six months to two years ahead of me and to have that network of planters and pastors to provide support in more ways than one.

“I’m not that great,” Patrick added, “but God is. He keeps showing up and showing out. We need to lean on Him.”


Learn more about how SBTC churches are advancing the mission.

EMPOWER 2024: Breakouts include emphasis on reaching, refocusing, and raising up leaders from Gen Z

IRVING—Several breakout sessions at the 2024 Empower Conference focused on how to reach Generation Z—the generation of people born between 1995 and 2010—and molding them into the future of the church. Here’s a sampling of the content from those sessions, held Monday and Tuesday at the Irving Convention Center:

‘Relationships matter deeply’

Sean McDowell, a renowned apologetics professor and author, acknowledges there’s a certain level of cynicism from older generations when it comes to Gen Z. Churches that look beyond the negative narrative, however, will be better equipped to reach them with the gospel, he said.

“How we view this generation shapes how we relate to them,” McDowell said. “I will tell you one thing about this generation—they value authenticity, and they can kinda tell if you really care and if you’re invested and whether they’re important to you or not. … We have to remind ourselves it is a privilege and honor to reach out to this generation.”

McDowell said Gen Zers have faced unique challenges. Theirs is the first digitally native generation, he said, one in which its members learned to swipe smartphone and tablet screens before they learned to talk. Ninety seven percent use social media, and nearly as many (79%) experience emotional distress when they are unable to use their smartphones.

Despite having more access through technology to personal connections than any previous generation, Gen Z is on the verge of the greatest mental health crisis in decades as it labors to stay afloat in a sea of loneliness and overwhelm. While 71% of its members identify as religious or spiritual, as few as 4% have what some would consider a biblical worldview. Only half believe gender is defined by one’s sex at birth.

Two approaches can help churches be more effective at reaching Gen Z, McDowell said: helping them develop a biblical worldview by addressing culturally relevant issues from a godly perspective, and working hard to build trust relationships that will open the lines of understanding and communication. Both require long-term, relational investments.

“ … Relationships matter deeply. We need to lean in with Gen Z, build relationships, get to know them, go on their turf, spend time with them,” McDowell said, “so we have [the opportunity] to speak to their hearts.”

Grant Skeldon of Thinq works with Christian leaders to amplify their impact for the kingdom of God. SBTC PHOTO

Asking the right question

As churches have considered how to reach Gen Z, Grant Skeldon wonders if there’s been too much focus about why they’re leaving the faith and not enough attention on a more important question: Why do those who remain in the faith stay?

Skeldon is next gen director for Thinq Media, an organization that aims to help Christian leaders faithfully navigate culture while provoking the curiosity of non-believers. As Skeldon has interacted with high-capacity leaders ranging from pro athletes and actors to musicians, he said he began to notice common themes that led God to use them to have wider influence.

High-capacity Christian leaders generally have had a disciple-maker who invited them into the most intimate, personal spaces of their lives. That approach works well with Gen Zers, who tend to place a high value on authentic relationships, and it stands in contrast to approaches that merely invite them to church to hear information about Jesus.

“Mentorship is come meet with me. Discipleship is come and follow me. Church [is often] come and listen to me,” Skeldon said. “We are telling that [last one] to a generation that is already saturated with content. But they are starved for connection, and that’s where we can separate ourselves.”

The leaders he has studied have also:

  • Had a milestone moment in their lives when someone recognized a particular gift or talent and verbalized that recognition;
  • Had “robust exposure” to a community or group of people who raised their standards or view of excellence;
  • Been entrusted with what he called “ridiculous, huge” responsibility at a young age;
  • Had someone who not only encouraged them, but offered resources to help them achieve their dream or big goal;
  • Received tough love in the form of helpful feedback that tangibly changed them; and
  • Benefitted from the network of someone more experienced and resourced.

“I want to train up Christians who go and change the environments they are in,” Skeldon said, “places where they work, play, live that become different because of their relationship with Jesus.”

Winning the battle for young minds

Eighty percent of Gen Z Christians hold a sexual worldview that is not consistent with biblical values, according to Amy Davison, a popular author, podcaster, and founder of Mama Bear Apologetics. Fifty seven percent of professing Christians believe premarital sex is acceptable, and more than half believe homosexuality should be “accepted, defended, and promoted in the church,” she said.

Such numbers shouldn’t be a surprise considering the constant barrage of attacks on biblical worldview coming from an increasing number of sources—including the media, Hollywood, musicians, and even toy manufacturers. With those attacks has come a coordinated effort to normalize “sex positivity”—a worldview that espouses as proper any sexual activity that is desirable and consensual.

The strategy to implement that unbiblical worldview is two-fold: use intimidation and fear to silence Christian adults who disagree, even to the level of trying to criminalize biblical teaching as hate speech, while simultaneously grooming younger generations to accept them or risk one of the worst fates they can imagine: unpopularity and rejection—especially on social media.

Just as the culture tries to capture the hearts and minds of the young, so, too, should the church, Davison said. Parents and guardians still have the greatest chance to lay the biblical foundations necessary to refute false teaching: 54% of young people ages 12-15 say their parents have had the strongest influence over their sexual decisions, while 32% of those 16-19 say the same thing.

Davison offered a method for parents to teach truth using an acronym she calls R.O.A.R.:

  • Recognize the messaging being offered by cultural sources and evaluate their claims;
  • Offer discernment, guiding younger generations through conversations about what is true and what is false about the claim;
  • Argue for a healthier approach, encouraging young people to juxtapose claims against the unchanging truth of God’s Word; and
  • Reinforce truth through continued discussion, discipleship, and prayer.

“What we, as the church, need to be doing is empowering parents to be bold in the faith,” she said. “ … We need to be fighting for truth, because our kids are wanting to hear from us.”


EMPOWER 2024: Pastor’s powerful testimony headlines CP luncheon

IRVING—John Meador, lead pastor of Cross City Church in Euless, offered a simple-yet-powerful reminder to the capacity crowd at the Cooperative Program luncheon on the final day of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention 2024 Empower Conference: “God is faithful.”

Meador delivered the luncheon’s keynote address, sharing personal stories of God’s faithfulness from his 17.5 years at Cross City—although he admitted having experienced God’s provision at every church he has served.

“In 45 years of marriage and 40 years of pastoral ministry, it never ceases to amaze me to see how God moves,” Meador said, “ … to move people’s hearts to give in such a way that churches are funded, pastors are paid, mission dollars are sent, and missionaries share the gospel all over the world.”

He shared how at previous churches where he served, he had seen God enable congregations to pay off massive debt incurred before his arrival. Cross City’s story provided a more recent illustration of God’s faithfulness as the church embarked on a 2016 reset.

In 2004, Cross City—then known as First Euless—had $6.7 million in debt with no repayment plan and no lead pastor. Bill Anderson, a former pastor, returned as interim and challenged the congregation to give more, restore missions giving, and retire the debt. When Meador arrived as pastor in 2006, he said he realized the wisest thing he could do was allow the momentum to continue that had already been established through a renewed effort to give.

Within 28 months, the church was debt free. “We burned the note,” Meador recalled.

By 2016, Cross City was giving more than 20% to missions, with at least 10% going to the Cooperative Program. Yet building renovations were needed and the reset vision involving significant ministry expansion—including a northwest Tarrant County campus—would cost $30 million, four times the church’s budget.

Meador said he recommended temporarily reducing CP giving from 10% to 7%. Then a church member called him.

“Faith is not doing less. It’s doing more and expecting God to accomplish what He wants,” the godly man told the pastor.

After three sleepless, prayer-filled nights, Meador returned to the committees he asked to slash the missions budget and admitted he was wrong, promising never again to ask for a reduction.

“It was a decision that needed to be made,” he said. “The question to ask [is]: How do we trust God in all of our decisions so that the decision is financial but faith-oriented?”

After extensive planning, Meador and Cross City launched its Generations campaign, sharing the master plan in 2019. By March 1, 2020, people prepared their commitments to the campaign. Then COVID hit and, beginning in mid-March, the church paused in-person worship for 11 weeks.

“It was not a comfortable way to begin a fundraising campaign,” Meador said.

But God provided miraculously, despite the pandemic. “It was a humbling and awesome time,” Meador said. With God’s provision and through the generosity of His people, the church received $7.5 million in unexpected designated giving, as well as other funds raised through the sale of some church property. This opened the door for the church to move forward with its efforts to launch a satellite campus and fund other ministry efforts related to the reset.

“We saw God fully provide everything we needed and do more while we gave more to missions,” Meador said. “God is truly able to make all grace abound to us.”

It’s not lost on Meador that Cross City might have missed such a blessing because of his own willingness to consider giving less to missions.

“One phone call made me walk by faith,” he said. “ … Trust God with your decisions. Trust God with the money He has provided. He is able to do above and beyond all that we could ask or think.”

In closing the luncheon, SBTC Executive Director Nathan Lorick encouraged churches by reminding them CP giving contributes to advancing the gospel across Texas, the nation, and the world.

“The Cooperative Program is the only thing under God’s kingdom where you can be where you are and all around the world at the same time,” Lorick said. “It is not a program. It is a people.

“In a day in which culture would say step out, I am asking you to lean in.”

Puerto Rico Baptists ready for ‘great movement of God’

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico—Puerto Rico Baptists learned about church revitalization efforts, were encouraged in their cooperation, and heard from several SBC leaders at their annual meeting Feb. 10.

“The unity and transformation of lives through the gospel will be an important emphasis in our continued work,” said Luís Soto, director of the Convención de Iglesias Bautistas del Sur de Puerto Rico (Convention of Southern Baptist Churches of Puerto Rico). “I firmly believe that in Puerto Rico there is a great movement of God through our churches and our convention.”

Soto, who is also the pastor of Iglesia Bautista Sin Paredes in Guayama, Puerto Rico, emphasized the great opportunity that pastors will have to receive revitalization. “We eagerly anticipate the launch of our new revitalization process and are confident that these tools will be a great help to our churches,” he said.

Growing spiritually and numerically

As part of this revitalization, Nathan Lorick, executive director of the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention (SBTC), brought greetings via video from the 2,749 SBTC churches that are praying for Puerto Rico. The two conventions are ministry partners.

Lorick also extended an invitation to “Pillars of a Healthy Church,” a conference scheduled for March 23 at the Iglesia Bautista Sin Paredes, in Guayama, Puerto Rico.

“At this conference we want to help you identify and overcome the barriers that prevent churches from growing,” Lorick said, adding that SBC President Bart Barber will attend the conference. The SBTC and Puerto Rico partnership is under the supervision of Colin Rayburn, mobilization and missions associate for the SBTC.

“We have loved being your ministry partners for the past year,” Lorick said. “We look forward for the coming years of fellowship and partnership.”

The meeting was held at the Send Puerto Rico and Iglesia Bautista Ciudad de Dios. Xavier Torrado, director of Send Network Puerto Rico, leads a church planting residency.

There are currently 56 Southern Baptist churches on the island trying to reach a population of more than 3.4 million people. Puerto Rico has 78 municipalities, and roughly 40 of those do not yet have a Southern Baptist church. In the capital city, San Juan, there is a great need for more churches to serve its population.

Bruno Molina (left) of the SBTC and Luis Soto, director of the director of the Convention of Southern Baptist Churches of Puerto Rico. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

Hearing from leaders

Attendees also received video greetings from Barber, who thanked the leadership of Puerto Rico for their faithfulness and love for Christ; North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell; and International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood.

Bruno Molina, language and interfaith evangelism associate at the SBTC and director of the National Hispanic Baptist Network, addressed the meeting.

“I want to encourage you as Hispanic pastors and leaders to connect in mission, share resources, celebrate what God is doing among Hispanics and collaborate together,” Molina said.

Brad Russell, pastor of Old Powhatan Baptist Church in the city of Powhatan, Va., brought a message from 1 Corinthians 15:58. Russell’s church has collaborated with Send Relief for more than five years. He encouraged pastors to “stand firm and unmovable,” united in ministry, as people bought by the blood of Christ, focused on the Bible, and not to crumble under the pressure of being a pastor.

“God knows the results and our work is not in vain,” Russell said. “None of us deserve the ministry we have; it is an act of God’s grace. God does not depend on us because no one can do what God has done on this island.”

Convention President Camilo Méndez said 2023 was “a period of significant progress for the Convention of Southern Baptist Churches in Puerto Rico.”

“We are excited by the opportunities that this new year presents to us,” he said. “We are confident that, with the continued support of our members and collaborators, we will be able to achieve new goals and continue to serve our local churches well and effectively.”

Conducting business

Representatives and leaders of convention presented annual reports, and Soto pointed out one of the last year’s most notable achievements—the completion of the convention’s first two modules of biblical counseling training, which included more than 250 people representing 35 churches and 39 pastors.

Attendees also approved a budget of $143,000, $20,000 of which will go to SBC Cooperative Program causes. Both of those numbers are increased from last year.

Jonathan Santiago, director of Send Relief Puerto Rico, thanked pastors and leaders for their help with Send Relief, specifically a new adoption office in San Juan.

“We thank all the churches and ministries that have been part of this cause,” he said. “As an integral part of the Adopting Ministry, we continue committed to the service of caring for orphans.”

He added that more than 2,500 volunteers served with Send Relief in Puerto Rico in the past year.

Soto thanked pastors’ wives, saying: “Their dedication and service in the ministry are invaluable, and we are grateful for their commitment and sacrifice.”

The women’s ministry of the Puerto Rico convention is under the direction of Kirzy Colón under the umbrella of the local Woman’s Missionary Union. Kirzy presented the annual report for the WMU (Union Femenil Misionera). “There is no doubt that God is at work in the Southern Baptist churches in Puerto Rico,” she said.


To truly care for your flock, you must lean in

Shortly after arriving at his first pastorate, a friend of mine hosted a dinner at the parsonage for his church. As the members of the church trickled in, the same phrase was repeated: “So this is what it looks like inside here!”

No, my friend’s new partners in ministry were not being nosy about his decorating style. They were simply reacting to being in the parsonage for the first time. You see, during the 20-year tenure of his predecessor, many had never been invited to step foot in the pastor’s house, located just 30 yards from the church.

It’s not possible to provide effective pastoral care while keeping the flock at arm’s reach. I would suggest that while one can carry out the actions required for pastoral care without any particular emotional investment or relationship, caring for our people holistically requires much more. How do we nurture these necessary relationships?

Cultivate a heart of gratitude

In Philippians 4, Paul says, “Whatever is true, honorable, righteous, holy, pleasing, or praiseworthy, if there is something that is virtuous and if there is something worth praising, think intently about these things.” While this is a command for all Christians, it is a non-negotiable for pastors because it undergirds our care for our congregation. When we cultivate a heart of gratitude and think intently about the best in our people, it makes it much easier to care for them—not just through action, but through emotion as well.

Gratitude sets the tone for a positive relationship. Moreover, gratitude can be contagious. If you lead by example, your people will recognize you are not simply doing your job in caring for them, but that you truly appreciate them. That paves the way for them to develop reciprocal gratitude. It is a beautiful thing to see a pastor and a church member who each view the other with genuine thankfulness to the Lord.

Be vulnerable

Through personal experience, warnings from others, or simple personality preferences, some pastors develop a wall between themselves and their people. They are “on” when they are around their flock, and they will rarely, if ever, let their flock see behind the curtain. Perhaps you’ve even heard the phrase “mask of ministry.”

This sort of artificial relationship would be troubling if spotted in one of our members, but it is no less troubling when it shows up in our own lives. If you always wear the mask, don’t be surprised if your people never truly know you—or if you don’t know them either. Choose to be vulnerable. Let your members see behind the mask. Is there risk here? Of course! But it is the same risk you ask your people to take when you challenge them to be vulnerable and open with other believers.

Invest in their lives

A pastor choosing to invest in his members will look different in each church. For some, this can be as simple as learning the names and prayer needs of your people. But if you are able to invest more, do so, knowing that the pastoral dividend will be great. Bring a meal after a hospital stay, show up at birthday parties, invite your people to come watch sporting events with you … the options are truly endless.

Have patience

The last ingredient is time. Gratitude, vulnerability, and life investment are all necessary ingredients for caring for your people well. But much like stock, this investment requires time to bear the greatest fruit. A pastoral relationship with these key elements can yield wonderful fruit, but a relationship that has faithfully incorporated these elements for years will yield a much greater harvest.

So, faithfully tend to your flock knowing that your investment, vulnerability, gratitude, and patience will yield their greatest fruit in the years ahead.


EMPOWER 2024: Lyons urges ‘holy resilience’ at multigenerational Women’s Session

IRVING—How should Christian women meet life’s challenges? With “holy resilience,” according to author, and teacher Rebekah Lyons.

Lyons served as the featured speaker at the 2024 Empower Women’s Session held Monday at the Irving Convention Center. The crowd that gathered to see her was diverse—including mothers with infants and toddlers, senior citizens, and every age in between.

Lyons, author of Building a Resilient Life and the devotional A Surrendered Yes, shared the story of her family of six—which includes two children with Down syndrome: the couple’s oldest son and their youngest child, an adopted daughter. Popular culture maintains that resilience merely means to bounce back, she said. “Jesus tells us the opposite: ‘In this world, you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.’”

Brokenness is universal, she added: “Any kid, any marriage, any home life, any relationship—we are all broken people in need of a Savior.”

Lyons said resilience is a consecrated daily act and not “naïve optimism.” At its heart, resilience is “a belief that Christ has truly overcome the world.”

Unexpected tests

A move to New York City challenged Lyons and her family in unexpected ways. She began having acute panic attacks, times of sheer terror that strained relationships with loved ones. She became afraid of elevators, subways, trains, and crowds—circumstances impossible to avoid in New York.

In researching her struggles, she learned that confronting one’s fears and entering spaces provoking fear cause physiological changes in the brain, enabling the growth of neurons. Avoidance of difficult things, she found, has a different growth effect.

“When you avoid fear, it grows,” she said. “God isn’t calling us to be fearful.”

Over time, she discovered an utter dependence on God that enabled her to survive. Through that process, she learned to stop being a “control freak” and came to understand God had a purpose in her tears.

“If you can’t grieve, you can’t be comforted,” she said. “If you are crying, there’s a good chance you are on the road to healing.”

Five rules of resilience

Lyons’s experiences led her to develop five rules of resilience, the basis of her book, Building a Resilient Life.

The first rule of resilience is to name the pain. “Ask Jesus to get in the middle of that place of pain,” she said, recommending a rhythm of confession like that of David in Psalm 139. “Tell God the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The enemy dwells in the secret. He wants to keep you there.”

Secondly, Lyons urged the audience to shift the narrative from what is broken to what is whole. “We are all broken and it’s Christ’s mercy and kindness that invites us to bring anything to Him … No conversation [is] off limits with God,” she said.

Third, to develop a holy resilience, one must embrace adversity, moving toward, not away from, obstacles. “The reason we can … embrace adversity is not because we are the savior but because we are governed by the one who is,” she said.

The fourth key is to make meaning. Lyons reminded listeners they are reflections of God’s glory. God has willed our various stories so His glory might be displayed in us. “No two of us look alike,” she said. “That means your imprint on this world was ordained by God Himself.”

Finally, Lyons called for the audience to endure together to become resilient. She stressed the importance of community, calling for emphasis on relationships rather than possessions.

“You show up. You keep showing up,” she said. “You don’t just drop [off] a casserole and run.”

EMPOWER 2024: Gaithers, Jeremiah, Reavis exalt Jesus during Classics Session

IRVING—A crowd of over 1,800 enjoyed the Classics Session of the 2024 Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Empower Conference, featuring the Gaither Vocal Band and pastors David Jeremiah and Herb Reavis Jr.

The event, held Monday at the Irving Convention Center, is planned each year with senior adults in mind. The Gaithers led off the session with an hourlong concert featuring their gospel quartet sound and later returned for another 40 minutes, after which SBTC Executive Director Nathan Lorick presented Bill Gaither with a plaque commemorating his long impact on the kingdom of God.

‘God has something for you to do’

Speaking from Romans 13:11-14, Jeremiah—pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif.—preached a message he called “Live Like You Were Dying,” emphasizing the urgency of “getting better” in your Christian walk.

“The only way you deal with the darkness is to shine the light,” he said, referring to verse 12. He went on to suggest four ways to resist and overcome the world’s influence on our lives:

  1. Watch vigilantly (v.11): Quoting Matthew 16:3, Jeremiah asserted, “It’s important to understand the times so that we know what we ought to do.” In the context of Romans 13:11, he emphasized the imminence of Jesus’ return.
  2. War valiantly (v.12): “You are the light of the world,” Jeremiah said to his listeners, noting that Jesus has left His followers to carry that mantle. “Walk as children of light, not like you used to be.”
  3. Walk virtuously (v. 13): This verse lists a set of sins—carousing and drunkenness, sexual impurity and promiscuity, and quarreling and jealousy. “We can’t be just like everyone else,” Jeremiah said, noting that such sin can make us useless to God.
  4. Wait victoriously (v. 14): “Be watching for the return of Christ,” he urged. “Put on Christ. Intend that He goes where you go.” Jeremiah said other Christians in our lives can provide strong safeguards so we can “kick sin off [our doorsteps so] it won’t end up in [our] house.”

In conclusion, Jeremiah urged his hearers to stay holy, stay healthy, stay humble, and stay hungry.

“God has something for you to do,” he said.

David Jeremiah preaches from Romans 13 during the Classics Session of the 2024 Empower Conference Monday at Irving Convention Center. SBTC PHOTO

‘Does Jesus have all of you?’

Emphasizing the lordship of Christ, Reavis—pastor of North Jacksonville Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla.—turned to Philippians 2:5-11 for his text.

“Jesus does not want to be your co-pilot,” Reavis said. “He demands first place in your life.” To illustrate his point, Reavis noted Jesus is called Lord more often in the New Testament than He is called Savior.

He drew from his text two reasons everyone should make Jesus Lord:

  1. Because of what He gave: From verses 6-8, Reavis noted Jesus was in the form of God prior to the incarnation, but “emptied Himself of all outward trappings of majesty. … He clothed Himself in the body of a peasant carpenter … and stooped low to become obedient to the point of death … to death on an old rugged cross.”
  2. Because of what He gained: Jesus’ terrible suffering on our behalf is in stark contrast to God’s exaltation of the risen Christ. God highly exalted Him and gave Him a name and title above all others. “On the field of battle … there was only one standing, robed in white, with the keys of death, hell, and the grave,” Reavis exclaimed, “and that was Jesus Christ, whose foot was on the neck of the enemy!” We should, therefore, “live like Jesus is alive forever more.”

“This truth,” Reavis said, “demands a practical response: I should bow my knee and confess Him as lord. His will becomes my will; His aims become my aims.

“You have all of Jesus. Does Jesus have all of you?”


Please, Lord—do it again!

Iam a contributing author for an upcoming book dedicated to my Ph.D. supervisor, Malcom McDow. I was asked to write a chapter based on my dissertation on the ministry of Charles G. Finney (1792-1875) during the Second Great Awakening. God used McDow in wonderful ways in my life while I was a student at Southwestern Seminary.  

I understand that many are not fans of Finney. I certainly do not agree with many points of his theology and offered a critique in my dissertation. However, I greatly appreciate Finney’s love for the lost and his ministry to preach the gospel.

In 1830, Finney preached perhaps his most effective and memorable revival, which was held in Rochester, N.Y.  He returned in 1842 and God blessed yet again. Many were converted to Christ, including many leading citizens of the city. One of them was a man by the name of Judge Addison Gardiner. While Finney was preaching, Gardiner left his seat and Finney thought he was going home. To his surprise, the judge walked up the stairs to the pulpit and asked Finney to pray for him. Finney told the church the judge’s decision, and then spontaneously, without Finney asking them, many lawyers in the crowd arose and came forward. Finney asked if there were others who were ready to repent and surrender their lives to Jesus. To use Finney’s words, there was a “mighty movement.”

“Let’s share Jesus today with someone who does not know Him.”

Finney’s most memorable revival in England (1850) was held in London at the Whitefield Tabernacle, built in 1753 for the powerful evangelist of the First Great Awakening, George Whitefield. Finney preached for nine months at this church: twice on Sundays and once Tuesday through Friday evenings. On Mondays, they held a prayer service. The result of the revival was described as “little short of remarkable.” Finney asked Pastor John Campbell if he could conduct an inquiry meeting for those interested in salvation. Campbell was hesitant, fearing no one would attend the meetings.  

Finally, Campbell agreed to allow the meeting but informed Finney he could only use the infant room, which held around 40 people. Finney protested and said the meeting space was too small and requested to use the British school adjacent to the church. Campbell laughed at Finney and told him the school held up to 1,600 people. 

After Finney preached a short sermon in the evening, he informed the people they could either stay in the church and have communion or proceed to the inquiry meeting next door. Campbell was astonished when 1,500-1,600 people filled up the school. On one occasion during this revival, 2,000 people stood during the invitation.

When I read of God’s miraculous works in the past, I cry out to Him, “Please, Lord—do it again!”  May God stir our hearts to share both personally and publicly the saving message of Jesus Christ. If we are faithful to proclaim the gospel, I know God will do what only He can do—save the lost. Let’s share Jesus today with someone who does not know Him. 

EMPOWER 2024: ‘God absolutely loves you”: 18 saved as Student Rally draws massive crowd

IRVING—In only its second year, the high-energy Empower Conference Student Rally drew double the crowd—nearly 750 students and youth leaders from 70 churches—as the inaugural event did one year ago. But that wasn’t the most important number.

Before the night ended at the Irving Convention Center, 18 students gave their lives to Christ following an invitation offered by evangelist Ryan Fontenot, founder of RAGE Ministries.

“The world says find yourself … identify yourself. … Jesus says, ‘Deny yourself,’” Fontenot said. “Jesus is not signing up to be your co-pilot. He doesn’t ride shotgun. …He came to take over your life.”

Fontenot’s gospel invitation was preceded by his sharing a humorous anecdote about the first time he told his eventual wife he loved her. He then pivoted, addressing an even greater love: the love of God evidenced in Luke 5.

“Those words—‘I love you’—are thrown out kind of casually. … We have all these things that we say we love,” Fontenot said. Referencing Luke 5:27, which recounts Jesus’ calling of Matthew, Fontenot added, “This story gives us a full picture of the love of God. I want you to know tonight that God loves you. God absolutely loves you.”

Just as Jesus pursued Matthew before calling him, Fontenot said, “The love of God finds us right where we are.” Many of those Jesus sought and called to salvation were in difficult life situations, including those who were demon-possessed and a woman caught in sin.

“You come to Jesus in order to get right with God. You don’t clean yourself up first,” Fontenot said.

Not only does God meet us where we are—He also invites us to where He is, Fontenot said. “Jesus loves you. Jesus will meet you. Jesus won’t leave you right where you are.”

Fontenot added that when God calls people, He calls them to fully surrender all aspects of their lives. That surrendered life “changes us forever.” Matthew, a tax collector, left behind an entire business to follow Jesus. Peter and Andrew, fishermen, “jumped ship” and did the same.

Jimmy McNeal leads the more than 750 students and leaders in worship during the Empower Conference Student Rally. SBTC PHOTO

In doing so, those men experienced literal life change. Fontenot urged students who have already made a profession of faith to examine their own lives to see if there is evidence of change, asking them to evaluate their music playlists and other forms of entertainment, their attitudes about church, and their desire—or lack thereof—for the Word of God.

In addition to Fontenot, the rally featured illusionist Zak Mirz and worship leader Jimmy McNeal.

Mirz warmed up the group with a series of illusions heavy on audience participation. Students expressed amazement as Mirz made impossibly correct guesses, manipulated silver coins, and created artificial snow. As McNeal and his team led from the stage, students sang, raised their hands, and worshiped enthusiastically.

Exclaimed McNeal, quoting Psalm 150: “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.”