Month: March 2024

Cooperative effort among state disaster relief teams assists ranchers affected by Panhandle wildfires

CANADIAN—A massive cooperative effort among Southern Baptist Disaster Relief state teams, including Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief, rushed 1,031 large round bales of hay in early March to areas devastated by recent Panhandle wildfires.

By March 21, plans to transport 1,200 more bales were also underway. As of Sunday, March 24, an additional 1,600 bales of hay have been made available pending the arrangement of transportation.

The hay relief effort—which has also included the North American Mission Board’s Send Relief, the Texas Salvation Army, and a major corporation—started when SBTC DR was contacted March 8 with a request for help. SBTC DR Director Scottie Stice was flummoxed. SBTC DR crews, along with other state SBDR teams, had hurried to the Panhandle even as the wildfires raged. Feeding, shower and laundry, and recovery crews were busy. But how would the team acquire and transport hay?

“We can’t handle this. We don’t have the equipment. We don’t have the time. We don’t have the people. We don’t have semi-trucks or trailers,” Stice remembered telling the Lord.

On March 10, Stice sat in Sunday school at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Ennis thinking of the desperate need for hay. He looked at the whiteboard where the substitute teacher had written, “Ask God.”

So Stice did.

“I read it twice. Then I prayed and asked God,” Stice said. “I sent off a text message to other state DR directors. Before Sunday school was over, we had received a promise of two semi-truck loads of hay from Kentucky Baptist DR.”

The effort gained momentum from there, with SBDR teams from Missouri, New Mexico, Illinois, Tennessee, Ohio, and Arkansas—in addition to Kentucky—promising to help.

“Farmers and ranchers across the various states are donating the hay, by and large,” Stice said.

Volunteers load hay bales onto a truck to be delivered to the Texas Panhandle, where wildfires devastated not only acreage, but livestock. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Send Relief provided some hay loads and a grant to facilitate distribution efforts, he said. More trucks were still needed, so Stice contacted the Salvation Army Texas Division Emergency Disaster Services notifying them of the need.

“We’ve been waiting on your call,” Director Alvin Migues said.

Within a day, the Salvation Army sent two trucks, two drivers, and rented trailers to Arkansas to pick up hundreds of bales of hay and transport them to sites in Borger, Canadian, and Pampa designated as hay depots by Texas A&M AgriLife agents. The AgriLife agents then began coordinating with ranchers to distribute the hay where it was needed.

A large corporation requesting anonymity also sent three semis with trailers to Arkansas. The effort is ongoing.

“It’s been a huge cooperative effort meeting a real need in West Texas,” Stice said. “This illustrates how Baptist DR teams and like-minded organizations can partner to get the Lord’s work done.”

Texas is home to some 11 million head of cattle, more than 85% located in the Panhandle, according to the Texas Department of Agriculture. Tens of thousands of head were affected by the fires which burned more than a million acres.

“Pray God will provide a means for us to get the hay where it is vitally needed,” Stice said.


How we’ve seen God raise up multigenerational disciples in our church

Over my first two decades of ministry, serving with students and as a lead pastor in New Mexico, my wife, Krista, and I experienced a consistent theme: we saw fruitful growth in the first generation of disciples in which we were investing as they studied the Word, memorized Scripture, engaged in personal evangelism, and connected through life-on-life communities that practiced vulnerable accountability. But we rarely saw those relationships create second-, third-, or fourth-generation disciples. 

Don’t get me wrong—we saw several victories for the Lord and isolated examples of multigenerational reproduction, but nothing like the multiplication testimonies we were hearing from pastors like David Platt, Robby Gallaty, and others. Honestly, I was discouraged with the feeling of always seeming to trip over a hurdle I was never quite able to clear.

This is when we went to the white board. At a pastor’s retreat, we asked our whole team to write down the disciple-making tools they were using. We then prayed, agonized, and wrestled over letting go of some of our favorite tools in order to isolate only those we felt would be most effective at making multigenerational disciples.

From that process, we developed the following four principles that helped us leap over our non-multiplying hurdles. These principles became the catalyst for the discipleship strategy we adopted upon our return to serve in Texas.

At a pastor’s retreat, we asked our whole team to write down the disciple-making tools they were using. We then prayed, agonized, and wrestled over letting go of some of our favorite tools

Create consistent language and tools

Curriculums come and go, but just like a master carpenter has specific tools he gives his apprentice, so too must disciple-makers equip others with lasting skills that remain consistent in future generations. At the front of every journal or workbook, we train disciple-makers to be proficient in the same four categories: tools for the discipleship meeting, gospel-conversation tools, Bible study/prayer tools, and spiritual growth tools.

Set the expectation to multiply from the beginning

Reproduction is greatly increased when the beginning of the relationship is started by saying, “This investment is not just for you, but also for the person you will disciple behind you, and the next soul, and the next soul.” We look for four traits in those we train through our disciple-making process: they must be faithful, available, teachable, and reproducible (2 Timothy 2:2). Clearly setting this expectation at the outset makes it easier when you launch them out to multiply.

Intentionally give away leadership sooner than you want

Structure meeting times in a way you can easily give portions of the meeting to those being trained. Most of us learn by doing, so we use the acronym MAWL (model, assist, watch, launch) to reinforce the idea that they will be leading others soon.

Be disciplined to check in on downline disciple-makers

As multiple generations are reproduced, we’re reminded of the importance of checking in on the growth of those we’ve launched. We have a pastor on our team devoted to mapping individuals using Coggle—a web-based tool that facilitates collaborative work—so we can pray, track, and check in. 

I told our new church in Texas it could take up to three years to produce two dozen men and women equipped and participating in multiplying discipleship. By a miracle of God, we have six dozen already engaged and more than one example of discipleship to the fourth generation.

You may have different tools—and praise God if they are working in your context. Whatever you choose, always remember the priority Jesus gave us to make disciples who make disciples. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Let’s get to work for His glory!

A short—yet powerful—book to preach to your people

I enjoy hiking. It brings together some of my favorite things: family, nature, and exercise. I cherish the moments of discovery on the trail when my children are surprised by spectacular views. I love how the quiet of a nature hike declares God’s glory. I look forward to the physical challenge of a trek.

But not every hike is suited for my family. Some trails are too technical, some too long, while others are too simple or short. I’ve also found we need a variety of vistas. We need mountains and lakes, coastlines and canyons, waterfalls and woods. Simply put, the process of selecting a trail is both an art and a science.

Pastor, your preaching calendar is like selecting a trail, leading you to be sensitive to the needs of your congregation while providing a panoramic view of the entire counsel of God (Acts 20:27). With that in mind, I want to give you two reasons for leading your congregation down Philemon’s path:

It’s a short New Testament trail

Your church needs variety in biblical themes and genre. Just like my family enjoys hiking a variety of landscapes, your people need the whole counsel of God. Evaluate your past, present, and future preaching calendars to determine if you are providing this.

Have you been in a lengthy book for countless weeks? Have you tackled a series of long books? If so, the brevity of Philemon will be refreshing to your congregation. It’s a short trail with some spectacular views. Maybe you’ve been preaching a series of narrative, prophetic, law, or wisdom passages. If so, Philemon could be a great fit for your congregation. It’s a gospel-centered, relationship-driven epistle.

It’s a master path in forgiveness

If your church is anything like mine, you know relationships can get messy. Bitterness. Envy. Division. Hurt. You name it. The book of Philemon insists mercy and grace should ground our relationships.

Here’s the setting: Philemon is a wealthy, slave-owning Christian. He’s a leader in the church at Colossae who opens his home for a group of believers to gather. Onesimus is Philemon’s runaway slave who wronged his master (Philemon 18). By God’s providential hand, Onesimus crosses Paul’s path in prison. While there, Paul leads him to salvation. “I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment” (Philemon 10).

Onesimus is not Paul’s natural son. He’s a son by faith in Christ. Paul was the means God used to bring Onesimus into the family of God. In this short letter Philemon is the offended brother. By all legal rights, he could punish Onesimus. Yet Paul appeals to him to freely forgive Onesimus.

“Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus … So if you consider me your partner [Philemon], receive him [Onesimus] as you would receive me” (Philemon 8-9, 17).

Preach Philemon, because your people need this beautiful model of forgiveness. Forgiveness is costly. It would cost Philemon and it will cost your congregation. But it also holds untold power for healing and ministry. This is why Paul identified Onesimus as useful to Philemon (Philemon 11) only after his conversion. Together, Philemon and Onesimus could serve as brothers in the work of gospel ministry.

At my church, we tackled the book of Philemon in three weeks. I had just finished a lengthy series through the book of Colossians and honestly, I was weary. I took this small letter as a chance to rest and share the pulpit with three qualified and competent men from my congregation. It was an opportunity to teach my congregation to rely on God’s Word, to equip future pastors, and to rest. During those three weeks, I was a joyful member taking in the surprising views from this much-needed hike.

Your church needs this epistle because forgiveness and reconciliation are at the very heart of the gospel message. Plus, if for nothing else, Onesimus is fun to say!

Easter Sunday remains a high attendance day for most churches

BRENTWOOD, Tenn.—Most pastors are expecting one of their largest crowds on Easter, but those expectations have tempered some in the past decade.

The three highest-attendance Sundays for pastors—Easter, Christmas and Mother’s Day—have remained the same since 2011, but each is now less likely to be among the top days, according to a Lifeway Research study of U.S. Protestant pastors.

“While many churches consider high attendance as something from their pre-pandemic past, seasonal changes have resumed,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “Church attendance is predictable again with periods of consistency in the fall and early spring, as well as holiday crowds at Christmas and Easter.”

Today, 90% of pastors identify Easter as the day their church has its highest, second-highest or third-highest attendance for worship service. Four in five (81%) say the same for Christmas, and 51% identify Mother’s Day. But fewer pastors point to high attendance on those three days compared to 2011. Easter, down from 93% to 90%, and Christmas, down from 84% to 81%, dropped three percentage points, while Mother’s Day fell eight points from 59% to 51%. A day the church designates to invite friends is the only day to have a statistically significant increase in the past decade, climbing from 14% in 2011 to 20% in 2024.

An additional study finds several of the top days for church attendance are among U.S. Protestant churchgoers’ favorite holidays to celebrate.

Easter Sunday gatherings

More than half of U.S. Protestant pastors (52%) identify Easter as the day their church typically has its highest attendance for worship services, statistically unchanged from the 55% who said the same in 2011. Another 30% say Easter is the second most attended day at their congregation, while 8% identify it as the third-highest-attendance worship service.

“On any given Sunday, a large minority of a congregation may not be present for worship,” said McConnell. “Easter is the day when the most church members get to church—and for a good reason: No other theme is as profound to a Christian than celebrating that they died with Christ and as Jesus was raised to life, so too Christians are now alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

Pastors of churches that top 100 attendees are more likely than small church pastors to say Easter is one of the highest attended services, if not the highest, at their churches. Those at churches with 250 or more for an average weekend worship service (67%) and those with 100 to 249 (60%) are more likely than pastors at churches with 50 to 99 on average (51%) and those with fewer than 50 (44%) to say Easter is their highest-attendance service of the year. Additionally, those at churches that average 100-249 for worship services (93%) and those at churches with 250 or more (98%) are more likely than pastors of churches with attendance of less than 50 (87%) to rank Easter in their top three high-attendance days.

Among churchgoers, Easter ranks third among their favorite holidays to celebrate (10%). Those who attend worship services at least four times a month are more likely than those who attend one to three times a month to pick Easter (14% v. 5%). Also, churchgoers with evangelical beliefs are more likely than those without to choose the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection (13% v. 6%).

Christmas crowds

Perhaps unsurprisingly, U.S. Protestant pastors say Christmas is also one of their most well-attended services. More than a quarter (28%) say they typically have their highest attendance for worship services as they celebrate the birth of Jesus, statistically unchanged from 29% in 2011. Around 2 in 5 (39%) point to Christmas as the second in their attendance rankings, while 14% place it third.

“Pastors may have been thinking of different types of worship services for Christmas since the question did not specify a Sunday morning or weekend worship service,” said McConnell. “Different churches have different traditional Christmas celebrations that may not land on December 25. The largest attendance may be on Christmas Eve, the nearest Sunday or the day of a concert.”

Mainline pastors are more likely than their evangelical counterparts to identify Christmas as their best-attended service (35% v. 26%). Protestant pastors in the Northeast are also more likely than those in the South to have Christmas at the top of their attendance rankings (33% v. 24%).

Additionally, pastors in the Midwest are more likely than those in the South to have Christmas in their top three (84% vs. 78%). The largest churches, those 250 or more, are more likely than the smallest churches, fewer than 50 in attendance, to say Christmas is one of their three most well-attended services (89% v. 79%).

Christmas is by far the favorite holiday of Protestant churchgoers (63%), but those at the smallest churches are least likely to agree. Those attending churches with weekly worship services that average 500 or more (69%), 100 to 249 (69%) and 50 to 99 (63%) are more likely than those at churches with fewer than 50 (53%) to say Christmas is their favorite holiday to celebrate.

Mother’s Day visits

While pastors identify Christmas and Easter as far and away their highest-attendance seasons, Mother’s Day remains the clear third, despite dropping in popularity in the past decade. Few Protestant pastors say Mother’s Day is their highest (6%) or second-highest attendance day (14%), but a plurality (31%) point to the holiday as their third highest.

African American pastors are more likely than white pastors to say they have their highest attendance for a Mother’s Day service (12% v. 5%). They are also more likely than white pastors to rank the holiday in their top three (66% v. 49%). Additionally, pastors 65 and older (55%) are among the most likely to say Mother’s Day is one of their three highest attendance services.

Non-denominational pastors (64%), Baptists (59%), Restorationist Movement pastors (59%) and Pentecostals (54%) are more likely than Presbyterian/Reformed (39%) and Lutheran pastors (30%) to place Mother’s Day in their top three.

San Antonio church discovers the tools, training needed to reach next generation of believers

To position itself for a healthy future, University Baptist Church in San Antonio set a goal of “growing younger,” placing a renewed emphasis on reaching young families even as it continues to treasure and involve older generations. 

The church realized most families in the surrounding area “are not more than two generations removed from active church participation,” Pastor David Norman said, explaining that in a given family, the child may have never heard of Jesus, the parents may have attended church sporadically, and there is a strong likelihood the grandparents were active in church.

The nearest neighborhood to the church is largely filled with young families, so the congregation went to work painting, updating, and cleaning its preschool and children’s areas. 

“Preparing a nursing mothers room was a big step for our church, utilizing that space for those that we’re trying to reach rather than for storage,” Norman said.

The idea of growing younger was spurred by the church’s participation in one of the first cohorts of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s Regenesis process for guiding churches toward health and renewal. Norman now serves as a trainer in the program. 

“I’ve been subject to crafting more vision statements than I can count, and I breathed a deep, deep sigh when I saw that was part of the Regenesis process,” Norman said, “but this was a very helpful manner of going about it.”

Regenesis helped University Baptist Church develop a three-year vision of being “a church family surrendered and sent,” with 200 adults engaging in connect groups, 150 engaged in one-on-one discipleship, and baptizing at least one new believer each month.

“The beauty of Regenesis is that it helps you discern God’s vision for your church and the unique contribution to the kingdom your church has to offer.”

Though the numbers are just markers, Norman said, by comparison the church averages 135 in worship now with about 100 in connect groups. Along with growing younger and growing together, the church is emphasizing evangelism and leadership development. 

“For our three-year vision to be attained, these are the four initiatives that we believe are necessary to that end,” the pastor said. “We have to grow younger, we have to go out, we have to grow together, and we have to grow up.”

Last fall, the church offered two Bible studies—one on evangelism and the other for young mothers who would otherwise drop off their children on Sunday nights and leave. Also, the children’s ministry focused on missions, while students learned to steer conversations toward the gospel. 

To reach families in the community, the church started hosting a trunk-or-treat event in the fall. They ask for 100% participation from members: if someone is unable to sit out in the cool weather that night, that person can donate candy or help organize. 

With a goal of baptizing one new believer each month, University Baptist Church is intentional about leading people to Christ.

“We found shortly after I came here (in 2020) that there were a lot of really large Halloween events but that parents were really eager to bring their kids to a safe environment where they could go trunk to trunk with no traffic,” Norman said. “It was an opportunity for us to love them, to provide for them, to show them that we are a church that cares for them.”

One of the trunks was manned by an off-duty Santa Claus who gave out candy canes and invited children to Pancakes with Santa, an event hosted by the church in early December. 

“My family has 22 years of Santa pictures with our children. We have spent a lot of time in line waiting on Santa,” Norman said. “We’ve spent a lot of money paying for those pictures. We decided we would provide an avenue for parents to come, eat pancakes, and take a picture of their kids with Santa—no stress.”

All church members are urged to participate in Vacation Bible School at University Baptist Church in San Antonio.

Church members had been training to share the gospel and their testimonies, the pastor said, and Pancakes with Santa provided an opportunity for them to engage their neighbors. Attendees were invited to the church’s Christmas Eve service, which was aimed at people who don’t know Jesus. 

“On Christmas Eve, we saw probably twice our typical Sunday morning numbers,” Norman said. 

Considering how God has used Regenesis to renew University Baptist Church to this point, Norman encouraged other churches to set goals tailored for their congregations. 

“My encouragement would be revitalization is very difficult. It is something only the Lord can do,” Norman said, “but I think the Regenesis process provides an opportunity to discern how the Lord is leading your church. 

“One of the things I constantly emphasize is that Regenesis is not a copy and paste. It’s not a program. It’s not something you just pick up and take on,” he added. “The beauty of Regenesis is that it helps you discern God’s vision for your church and the unique contribution to the kingdom your church has to offer.”

Regenesis is designed to help churches identify and overcome growth barriers. A Regenesis One-Day event is coming to your area soon. 

How we fence the Lord’s table at our church

Have you ever noticed that when you watch a movie or television show and a nightclub is part of the scene, there seems to be two different types of security strategies?

One strategy employs a door man who stands at the front of the line and lets people in whose names are on the list. The second strategy utilizes a bouncer, who allows everyone in and only removes people when there’s trouble.

Sometimes a form of these strategies is used by churches when it comes to the Lord’s Supper. Some churches have a door man mentality, where requirements are in place and enforced, while others have a bouncer mentality, where no requirements are in place and issues are dealt with only when they arise.

At our church, we use the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 to inform our strategy for observing the Lord’s Supper. Article 7 states the following:

“The Lord’s Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming.”

Our church understands this to mean that the Lord’s Supper is for members of the local church only. So who is a member of a local church? Again, our church turns to the BF&M 2000, Article 6, for guidance:

“A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord.”

As we read it, a member is a baptized believer by covenant in faith and fellowship with other believers and operating under the commands of Jesus for that local church. Since our church believes the Lord’s Supper must have requirements that need to be met for someone to partake, we reject the bouncer strategy, which represents open communion.

That leaves our church with the door man strategy. This strategy has two options: closed communion, where only members of that local church can partake in the Lord’s Supper, or close communion, where a baptized believer in good standing with a local church can participate in the Lord’s Supper even if they are not members of that specific body. Our church believes both options are permissible in accordance with BF&M 2000 guidelines, and the local autonomous body can decide which option it practices.

So how do we fence, or protect, the Lord’s Supper at our church? I’ll give you four statements we use every month when we partake in the Lord’s Supper:

  1. We state that the Lord’s Supper is for Christians who have followed in believer’s baptism after salvation, and if they do not meet those requirements, they cannot partake.
  2. We state that if there is a guest who meets the above requirements and is a member in good standing of another local church, they are welcome to partake.
  3. We state that if parents have children in the service who are not Christians or haven’t followed in believer’s baptism after salvation, they cannot partake. We encourage parents to use that opportunity to have a gospel conversation with their kids about why they could not partake of the Lord’s Supper.
  4. We state that anyone watching online cannot partake, but that we look forward to the day they can participate when they are back in fellowship with the local body.

While these practices work in our context, each church must decide how to scripturally administer the Lord’s Supper in its own context. Even so, I believe these four statements will enable you to gracefully administer the Lord’s Supper in your local church and effectively lead your people to remember the death of Jesus as He instructed us in His Word.




I don’t want to do anything but this!


hen I was a 16-year-old back in India, my soccer coach led me to the Lord. From that time, I’ve been very passionate about sharing the gospel with anybody and everybody. I feel a great burden to do this because otherwise they will perish. I don’t want their blood to be on my head. 

This passion continued as I became an engineering student in college and then moved to the United States to complete my education. My wife, Rachel, and I got plugged into an Indian church in the San Francisco area. I saw that the church was good, but I was not seeing an element of sharing the gospel to people who were outside the church. I started a group called EMT (Evangelism Ministry Team). We began to share the gospel with people who were recently released from prison, and we discipled them. But I still felt a pull to do something more when one of the men asked me to baptize him.   

So, in summer 2007 I was crying out loud in my car driving on Highway 101 when I heard the Lord telling me, “Feed my sheep.” I said, “Lord, I don’t know how to feed sheep. I can share the gospel. I can lead people to the Lord, but I don’t know how to feed sheep.” But later I heard two messages on the radio by Chuck Swindoll and Chip Ingram. Both of them were talking about how men of God should be prepared in season and out of season to share the Word of God, to prepare people for God’s work. I loved it. I wanted to find out where these two pastors studied. Both studied at Dallas Theological Seminary. We prayed—my wife, my three kids, and I—and we left California and moved to Dallas to go to seminary.

(Left) Only Rachel and Nitin were present at the first meeting of their church in 2010. (Right) A much larger crowd was present years later when the church gathered with the other churches it has planted. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

I don’t think I’ll ever be tired of doing this. I don’t want to do anything else but this.

After enrolling at Dallas Seminary, I was struggling—no job, no finances—but God was still good. I went to a [church] nearby, ate food there because they gave free food … went to seminary, flunked Greek a couple of times, but those were good challenges. I did a church planting class with Aubrey Malphurs that God really used. I heard bikers give testimony of churches they started, of people who left [the profession of being] prostitutes. They started doing ministry among those women for their children, starting churches in San Francisco and other places. These testimonies enhanced my thinking: “You know what? Just evangelism won’t work. Church planting is the way to do discipleship.”

There were so many Asian Indians coming to Dallas around 2010 and 2011, and there were temples coming up everywhere. I used to go to every site and pray that God would never allow a temple to grow or be completed. But [later] I started thinking, “Why don’t I tap into all these Indians and start sharing the gospel?” In my church planting class, we wrote mission statements for a church plant. Mine was “Seek the lost, strengthen the weak, and send the strong.” With this mission statement, we registered our church, Church of the Way, on April 1, 2010. We still use that mission statement as we set priorities in our ministry. 

Church of the Way planted its first church in Murphy two years later. That one didn’t last, and we’ve had a couple of other tries that didn’t stick. But we have congregations in Carrollton, Frisco, and Plano, along with two services in Tamil [a South Indian language] that meet each week. We have struggled sometimes to find places to meet, but now have a building we bought from an Armenian congregation and we just contracted to buy a second building from a Lutheran church. 

I just love the Word of God and teaching people how to read the Word of God. I share this with everybody so they can understand. In 1 Timothy 4, Paul talks to Timothy and tells him to get into this habit of the public reading of Scriptures, exhorting people, and teaching people. That’s what I follow. It’s a joy. I don’t think I’ll ever be tired of doing this. I don’t want to do anything else but this.

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Never give up on anyone!

What a wonderful Empower Conference God blessed us with on Feb. 26-27 at the Irving Convention Center. I am so grateful for the inspiration and encouragement my wife, Ashley, and I received. I want to say a special thank you to our executive director, Nathan Lorick, and Tony Mathews, senior strategist of missional ministries at the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. We are so blessed to have gifted men of God full of integrity leading our convention.

In Luke 19:10, Jesus states, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Jesus sought and saved Zacchaeus, a tax collector deeply hated by most. Jesus first found him perched in a sycamore tree. Our Lord told him to come down out of the tree so He could come stay at Zacchaeus’s house. After encountering Christ and hearing the message of salvation, Zacchaeus surrendered his life to Jesus and started following Him. 

After encountering Christ and hearing the message of salvation, Zacchaeus surrendered his life to Jesus and started following Him.

No one is ever beyond the reach of God. He can save anyone. Consider these other examples:

  • One of my favorite hobbies is reading biographies and autobiographies. I am currently reading the remarkable story of Mitsuo Fuchida, the Japanese fighter pilot who led the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. In his book, Wounded Tiger, T. Martin Bennett recounts the fascinating story of how Fuchida came to faith in Jesus.
  • In Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton, he chronicles the life of the greatest founding father of the U.S. never to have been elected president. Hamilton was a genius in the fields of politics, banking, and commerce. He was the first treasury secretary to serve under President George Washington. Some of his many accomplishments include writing most of the Federalist Papers, creating the first bank in America, and starting the U.S. Coast Guard and Customs Service.  

But most do not remember him for these prodigious accomplishments. They remember Hamilton as the man who lost the pistol duel in 1801 to Aaron Burr, the U.S. vice president at the time. As he lay on his deathbed, Hamilton asked for a pastor to come and administer the Lord’s Supper to him. Chernow records the conversation Hamilton had with the Rev. John Mason: “As Mason told how Christ’s blood would wash away his sins, Hamilton grasped his hand, rolled his eyes heavenward, and exclaimed with great fervor, ‘I have a tender reliance on the mercy of the Almighty, through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ.’”

Jesus is still seeking and saving the lost today. He invites you and me as His disciples to join Him in this wonderful adventure of seeking out the lost and sharing the good news with them. No one is ever so far from God that He cannot reach them.  

Keep going, loving, helping, and sharing the wonderful message of salvation. I invite you to join me today to obey our Lord when He said in Matthew 4:19, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Let us not give up on anyone!

Kendrick Brothers revive favorite characters in upcoming release ‘The Forge’

ALBANY, Ga. (BP)—It mirrors a family reunion from the best of the Kendrick Brothers’ work. “The Forge,” releasing in August, revives beloved characters from “War Room” and features actors from “Courageous” and “Overcomer.”

Returning in The Forge are War Room’s prayer warrior Miss Clara, played by Karen Abercrombie; young mother and lukewarm Christian Elizabeth, portrayed by Priscilla Shirer; and Elizabeth’s husband, an overambitious pharmaceutical salesman and lackadaisical father played by T.C. Stallings.

Add to them Cameron Arnett from Overcomer, where he played Thomas Hill, a recovered drug addict blessed to meet and coach his daughter while suffering blindness months before his death. And there’s Ken Bevel, the Courageous father and sheriff’s deputy Nathan Hayes, who stoically held onto his truck as thieves sought to carjack it, solely to save his infant son inside.

Super Bowl champion, husband and father Benjamin Watson makes his Kendrick Brothers debut in The Forge, as does Aspen Kennedy, who stars in BET’s “Ruthless.”

Prayer and discipleship are the themes of The Forge, featuring a committed Christian husband and father who mentors a high school graduate unsure of what to do in life.

“The message of prayer that was featured in War Room is interwoven in The Forge,” Stephen Kendrick said of the film in “The Heart of The Forge,” released March 11. “I believe the church, right now in this generation, needs to get back to what Jesus did with His disciples.”

Prayer is enriched in The Forge with discipleship among a tightknit group of men, Alex Kendrick said in the March 11 video.

“Karen Abercrombie played the role of Miss Clara in War Room, and she resumes that role, playing Miss Clara in the Forge,” Alex Kendrick said. “The women in War Room that pray for each other and invest in the younger generation, matches up to the men of The Forge praying together, keeping each other accountable, investing in the younger generation.”

“The Heart of The Forge” teases with a glimpse of Shirer portraying not only Elizabeth, but a twin sister Cynthia. And there’s a glimpse of Arin Thompson, who played the asthmatic champion cross country runner Hannah Scott – and Hill’s daughter – in Overcomer.

“I always enjoy working with The Kendrick Brothers, mostly because I know whatever’s going to happen, it’s going to be an adventure,” Shirer said. “The body of Christ, the bride of Christ, is supposed to be about turning all of our attention, our ambitions, our focus, fixing our eyes on Jesus.”

It’s Shirer’s third outing with the Kendrick Brothers, adding to her roles in War Room and Overcomer.

It’s Stallings’ third time around as well, after Courageous and War Room.

B.J. Arnett, Cameron’s real-life wife and a department chair at Clark Atlanta University, plays wife to Cameron’s role of Joshua in the new production.

Affirm Films, a Sony company, plans to release The Forge in theaters in August.

Shirer’s brother and former NFL fullback Jonathan Evans, an associate pastor at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship pastored by their father Tony Evans, also joins the cast.

Awakening conference to focus on ‘extraordinary power of prayer’

FORT WORTH—“The ministry of prayer,” E.M. Bounds once wrote, “ … is a ministry of ardor, a ministry of unwearied and intense longing after God and after His holiness.”

Continuing to encourage churches and leaders toward that passionate pursuit is the chief aim of the Awakening National Prayer Conference scheduled for April 18 at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“The Awakening National Prayer Conference at Southwestern Seminary will be a day set aside to focus on the extraordinary power of prayer,” said Kie Bowman, SBC national director of prayer.

Featuring speakers who have “all experienced significant encounters with God as a direct result of prayer,” Bowman says the conference will focus on prayer for spiritual awakening and the fulfillment of the Great Commission. “I encourage pastors to bring their teams to learn and grow in the power of prayer,” he said.

The conference, a collaboration between SWBTS and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, will feature some of the country’s most influential prayer leaders:

  • Julio Arriola, director of Send Network SBTC, a church planting partnership between the SBTC and the North American Mission Board;
  • Bill Elliff, founder and national engage pastor for The Summit Church in Little Rock, Ark.;
  • Ronnie Floyd, author and senior pastor emeritus of Cross Church in Springdale, Ark.;
  • Steve Gaines, senior pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., and his wife, Donna;
  • Robby Gallaty, senior pastor of Long Hollow Church in Hendersonville, Tenn.;
  • Todd Kaunitz, lead pastor of New Beginnings Baptist Church in Longview;
  • Nathan Lino, senior pastor of First Baptist Church Forney; and
  • Nathan Lorick, SBTC executive director.

“The SBTC has made prayer a priority for many years,” Lorick said. “It’s a joy to come alongside Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and prayer leaders to spend a day diving deep on developing a culture of prayer.”

The conference will include a pair of lunch sessions: Elliff will facilitate a panel discussion with Kaunitz and Lino on the role of prayer in life, ministry, the church, and revival. Donna Gaines will lead a women’s prayer lunch. The conference will also feature times of worship, prayer, and sermons.

“I encourage pastors to bring their teams to learn and grow in the power of prayer,” Bowman said.

For more information or to register, visit