Author: Baptist Press

IMB using telemedicine to create gospel access

Sitting in a home office in Ohio, a doctor logs onto her laptop at 3:30 a.m. Across the globe it’s mid-morning. The doctor smiles at a face that pops up on her screen. Consulting with her patient, she asks what brought him in today. Then she listens, in real time, to his heartbeat.

Thump thump. Thump thump. Thump thump.

His heart sounds stable. That’s a good sign. Next, a nurse next to the patient in the clinic holds an otoscope to the man’s ear. A live video of the veiny, flesh-colored ear drum appears on the doctor’s screen in the U.S.

As the doctor does a visual assessment of the patient, she diagnoses him. The infection that has been causing pain in his ear is curable, with the right medicine. She then consults with the nurse, and the team is able to get the patient treatment.

Through telemedicine strategies employed by the International Mission Board, missionaries around the globe are able to provide a reinvented mobile medical clinic. Thousands of miles across the Atlantic, doctors are able to treat people in desperate need of physical and spiritual care. Technology makes this possible, as well as the gifts of Southern Baptists that provide the medical clinics’ kits.

When COVID-19 hit, most of the Western world became acquainted with telemedicine. Just as one would FaceTime their grandma across the country, people now often consult with their doctor via a video screen. Geoff Little, an engineer turned physician who volunteers his time meeting needs across the globe, wondered why this same strategy couldn’t be employed to increase gospel access in hard-to-reach places. To fill a need, he created the kits.

Because of the kits and clinics, Little was able to see Amahle’s eternity changed. Amahle is an 11-year-old daughter of a witch doctor. Everyone around her was convinced she was possessed by a demon.

For as long as her parents could remember, their daughter had suffered violent seizures – three per day. Their area is isolated from most medical care. To protect her, the family chained Amahle to a tree in their compound.

In desperation, the village witch doctor reached out to Christians in a local church. Was there anything they could do? He asked them to pray for his daughter. The church prayed and connected with IMB missionaries several hours away, asking for help.

The desperate dad was right – all the witchcraft in the world couldn’t solve her problems. However, through the clinic, Little diagnosed her correctly and prescribed medicine and a care plan for her seizures.

On any given Sunday now, Amahle can be found in the local church, smile on her face, praising Jesus who she recognizes as Savior. Through the IMB workers, national Christians, and Little, her mother also saw her greatest need – spiritual lostness – met alongside the physical needs of her daughter. While the family still prays for the salvation for Amahle’s father, a new church has been planted in a nearby village.

The kit that saved Amahle’s life was funded through the IMB’s Dr. Rebekah Naylor Preach and Heal Fund. It’s a fully equipped telemedicine kit. It’s about 14 inches wide, and inside, there’s a Microsoft Surface pro tablet, a speaker phone, a webcam, a stethoscope that plugs right into the computer, and a Bluetooth enabled blood pressure cuff and pulse oximeter. Currently, the IMB has two of these kits and has done telemedicine consultations in 10 countries. The hope is to soon have many more kits on the field to connect the least reached to medical providers.

“There are people all over this world that have to go a tremendous journey to see even the most low-level medical provider,” Little said, explaining his heart for this ministry. Now through this ministry, a clinic is taken via a mobile phone right to their villages.

More than 30 providers comprise Little’s team. They are physicians, physician’s assistants and certified registered nurse practitioners in many specialties who have the desire to preach and heal. Little recruits them at events like the IMB’s MedAdvance conference and through other IMB healthcare strategies.

Through the local clinic and national doctors, medication or follow-up care is prescribed, and lives are changed. More than 20 have made professions of faith due to this telemedicine strategy.

As each person enters the clinics, national believers and IMB missionaries greet them and share hope of the gospel as well as the hope that proper medical care provides to improve their quality of life on this side of eternity.

Tom Hicks, the IMB’s new director of Global Health Strategies, expressed his gratitude for the impact of the project. “By partnering with national believers and healthcare providers, we can capitalize on openings for clinics in days rather than months. We can see an opportunity to care for hurting people on Thursday and be doing clinic with national partners by Monday morning.”

Hicks explained that because the clinics work with national partners, the patients can connect with local churches and believers. “Our telemedicine consultants work with the technology and national translators and church planters to see the gospel get to the lost in new and exciting ways,” he said.

Rick Dunbar, an emergency room doctor and chairman of the IMB’s health strategies advisory group, commented, “Geoff (Little) is using his skills and training to create gospel access. Through this strategy, he’s also creating jobs for nationals. And the teams are getting behind closed doors and getting the chance to share the gospel with the unreached while taking care of them medically.”

“Isn’t it amazing?” he asked.

*Some names may have been changed for security purposes.

SBC president Bart Barber shares optimism for future during NAMB visit

ALPHARETTA, Ga.—Southern Baptist Convention President Bart Barber shared his optimistic outlook for the future as he visited the offices of the North American Mission Board (NAMB) on Sept. 6.

“I’m going to predict that spiritual awakening is coming for America, and that we’re going to have the opportunity to benefit from that and participate in that, and it’s not just wishful thinking,” Barber said in response to a question from NAMB president Kevin Ezell about the future of the SBC. “As a student of our history, the spiritual awakenings that we’ve had before have come in times of profound darkness. Just because that feels like a trend right now doesn’t mean that we’re stuck in that.”

In describing the challenges facing the next generation, Barber described their situation as inheriting a “raw deal.” He referred to statistics that show how 46% of adolescents today are reporting that they consistently deal with feelings of anxiety and depression.

“They’re unhappy with what their culture has handed to them,” Barber said. “There’s going to be a profound opportunity to point them toward answers to the longings and questions that they face, and that’s always [been] there. But, I think it’s going to come in a deeper, more profound way. I think that Southern Baptist churches are going to be one group of churches that are still around actually preaching the Gospel whenever that moment comes. I’m optimistic about where things are headed.”

Before speaking to the future of the SBC, Ezell asked Barber to share more about what the last year and half have been like serving as president, and Barber discussed the joy of meeting Southern Baptists from across the nation. Hundreds of people and churches have sent him messages of encouragement, letting him know that they have been praying for him.

But neither Ezell nor Barber shied away from the ongoing challenges facing the SBC.

“There have been some ways that God has blessed us amazingly over the last couple of years, but there have also been some obvious ways that God’s hand that’s on the SBC to bless the SBC, is also on the SBC to humble the SBC,” Barber said. “Serving in a time like that poses some additional challenges.”

Despite the challenges, however, Barber maintains that the SBC remains the best way for Baptist churches to partner together for the sake of the Great Commission.

“Over the course of time, we have repeatedly found reasons to cooperate instead of reasons to separate,” Barber said of the history of Southern Baptists. “There have always been reasons to separate from the beginning … but even with reasons to separate in front of us all the time, God’s continually led us to reasons to cooperate that have overcome the reasons to separate.”

Barber called the SBC’s Cooperative Program “genius” and went on to use the church he pastors, First Baptist Church of Farmersville, Texas, as an example of how a congregation in a small town supports missionaries around the world and can travel to serve alongside and learn from those on the mission field.

“Even the things that we do on our own,” said Barber, who pastors FBC Farmersville in North Texas, “are enhanced and made stronger, made wiser and more efficient, by the fact that we’re able to draw from the knowledge, planning, encouragement and training that comes out of this thing we’ve all built together. It’s a beautiful, I believe divinely inspired and planted, thing that’s going on in the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Before closing the meeting, former SBC president and current president of Send Relief, Bryant Wright, prayed over Barber and the days ahead for the Southern Baptist Convention.

More than 150 U.S. soldiers baptized during basic training in Missouri

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (BP)—SBC Chaplain (CPT) Logan Lair recently baptized more than 150 U.S. Army soldiers as a part of summer chapel services during basic training in Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

Lair told Baptist Press 84 new trainees were baptized in July, and 73 in August.

“Trainees, typically from my perspective, have been pretty hungry to learn about spirituality and their spiritual strength,” Lair said.

“It’s great to see their spiritual strength grow through basic training. It’s an amazing blessing for me as a chaplain to be able to see where those trainees have come from and then to see where they are going. I get excited every baptism Sunday. … It’s such a joy to see.”

Lair explained Fort Leonard Wood typically experiences a “summer surge” of initial entry trainees beginning in June because of soldiers enlisting after high school graduation. The high-pressure environment often prompts spiritual conversations, said.

“It goes without saying, basic training is stressful,” Lair said.

“[A trainee] graduates high school, maybe a day or two later gets on a bus to go an army base. As soon as they get off the bus, they’re immediately encountering drill sergeants, army structure and discipline, and it doesn’t stop for a couple weeks. That’s inevitably a stressful situation for them.

“The Chaplain plays a great role in all of that because we create a safe place for a trainee to process and vent. As a Chaplain I get a lot of tears, in fact I carry tissues on my uniform and usually go through about a pack a day. Many times, those conversations are spiritual conversations, and we’re able to talk about that spirituality piece.”

Lair said occasionally, a trainee will ask him about his faith, and he’s able to share the Gospel, something he calls “an honor and a joy.”

Lair said two chapel services and various Bible studies are offered on Sundays, in addition to spiritual guidance and counseling services available through several Protestant chaplains working at Fort Leonard Wood.

As many as 2,000 trainees will attend the services, and baptism services are held on the third Sunday in July and August.

Lair is thankful for the opportunity to minister to the trainees and said Fort Leonard Wood’s baptisms are just one example of God moving in the military.

“That baptism service is one of many testimonies of the good work Army chaplains are doing all around the world in our nation’s military,” he said. “My counterparts, other chaplains, are doing amazing things on other posts (basic training locations) that have similar stories. It’s an absolute blessing to each and every one of us. It’s a team effort.”

Lair, a North American Mission Board-endorsed chaplain and graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, was commissioned as an active-duty Army chaplain in 2019 and came to Fort Leonard Wood in January of this year.

“I was a civilian pastor and church planter for a long time,” he said. “The connections I make, the counseling that I do, the highs and lows that I walk with people on a daily and weekly basis is not even comparable to my civilian ministry,” Lair said.

“It’s an amazing joy for me to walk with soldiers and family through their challenging days and their joyful days. A chaplain definitely gets to experience the highs and lows of life with people. Words can’t explain how joyful it is to be a part of that. Chaplaincy is the best job in the Army. I’ll fight anybody over that.

“Southern Baptists can be encouraged and should be praying for chaplains to be able to speak a spiritual component into the lives of soldiers. … There are great, life-changing moments that are happening at almost every moment.”

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

Initial episodes of ‘Gridiron & the Gospel’ reflect college football-gospel connections

NASHVILLE—George Schroeder’s 25-plus years of covering college football means little surprises him about the sport, including a historic, nationwide change the same week he co-launched a podcast about it.

Conference realignments fundamentally altered the landscape. And sure, it was something for Schroeder and Brad Edwards, co-hosts of “Gridiron & the Gospel: A Faith & Football Podcast,” to discuss. But as the title implies, it’s far from the only thing.

Schroeder is a former Baptist Press editor and award-winning sports journalist for outlets such as USA Today and Sports Illustrated. Edwards, previously an ESPN researcher and sports personality with appearances on SportsCenter and College GameDay, joins Schroeder in discussing the sport and its intersection with the gospel. Both shared their testimonies in early episodes and take part in weekly segments such as “On My Heart,” where they talk about what God has been teaching them lately.

Now the groups and care minister at Storyline Church in Arvada, Colo., Schroeder, it so happens, lives near the center of two storylines covered in the podcast’s early episodes—the departure of the Colorado from the Pac 12 to the Big 12 and the Buffaloes’ potential success under new head coach Deion Sanders.

A production of BP Sports presented by Sunsplash, Gridiron and the Gospel’s episodes are available on its website as well as major podcast platforms.

“The first few weeks have been a lot of fun for us, and I hope for the listeners, too,” Schroeder told BP. “Brad and I know it from our years of covering college football, but there’s never a shortage of interesting things going on in the sport.

“This is my hope for Gridiron and the Gospel, and I know it’s Brad’s, too: That we bring a weekly helping of real insight and just plain fun – but that listeners get so much more than a college football fix.”

That “so much more” comes with the gospel’s connection to those who love college football, whether they be fans, athletes, coaches or Baptist state convention directors.

Episode 3 guest Todd Unzicker, executive director-treasurer for North Carolina Baptists, shared his testimony that began when he was a sportswriter. Covering University of Georgia football introduced him to well-known media personalities and created a SportsCenter-leading stir when he asked new South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier about a player’s arrest.

Unzicker shared on the episode how the next day his shanked golf shot ended up on a different fairway at the feet of … Steve Spurrier. The Old Ball Coach apologized for his reaction before and told Unzicker he could have the first question when USC came to Athens later that season.

But Unzicker, “definitely not following Christ” at the time, wouldn’t be there. Instead, he would be headed to Honduras as a missionary.

This came to be through observing the faith of Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt.

“There was something different about him,” said Unzicker, whose job put him in Richt’s orbit for at least a half-hour almost daily.

“He took time to know our names, ask us about things, how he could pray for us,” Unzicker said. “This went on in a season of [spiritual] bankruptcy in my life. I started going to the church that he went to, because I wanted to see what made him tick.”

Unzicker was warned by a bartender about the church, Prince Avenue Baptist, “because they’re serious about Jesus there.” The warning only intrigued Unzicker, saying it made him want to “go all-in” on seeing how Christ could change his life.

Episode 4 featured a discussion with Mike Sanford, who has coached at the college level for several years in various roles, including as Sanders’ Colorado predecessor in an interim role.

In addition to discussing the life of being a college coach, Sanford talked about God’s work in his life.

“I don’t want to be the person who constricts my worship to Sunday,” he said. “I don’t want to constrict my worship to the prayer right before a meal or putting my kids down to bed. I want spontaneous acts of worship in my life.”

Discussion over the gospel is central to the show.

“We’re passionate about college football. But Brad and I both love God because He first loved us, and we want to encourage people to follow Jesus,” Schroeder said.

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

Dockery installed as 10th president of SWBTS

FORT WORTH, Texas—Beginning his 40th year of service in Christian higher education, David S. Dockery was officially installed as the tenth president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary during an investiture ceremony that was part of the school’s Aug. 22 convocation service.

In the presence of faculty, staff, students, trustee officers and new trustees, and guests, Board of Trustees Chairman Jonathan Richard exhorted Dockery to “continue the best of the Southwestern heritage to reflect the convictions of our founder, B.H. Carroll, regarding doctrinal fidelity, Gospel faithfulness, and a commitment to Christian unity and cooperation.”

Dockery, who was elected president by the seminary’s board of trustees in April, committed to “serve faithfully in accordance” with the charge presented by Richard on behalf of the board of trustees.

In his convocation address following the ceremony, Dockery spoke about “the basics of theological education with particular reference to our work here at Southwestern.”

“I believe our focus today needs to be on the renewal of our understanding of and commitment to our primary mission of providing theological education, which encourages the Great Commandment and the fulfillment of the Great Commission,” he said.

Dockery noted theology is at the “heart of theological education” at Southwestern. While the statement might be “tautological” or “obvious,” he explained some might think theology is “abstract” because it “has been the path down which some have traveled to open the door to liberalism, heterodoxy or other wrongheaded thinking or practice.”

He contended, however, that “theology done correctly is essential for the transmission of the Christian faith from one generation to the next and is foundational, fundamental, and basic for the work of theological education.”

He added that “thinking rightly about God, which is the very essence of theology” is “vital” for everyone.

Dockery, who also serves as distinguished professor of theology, noted “Southwestern exists to serve the churches and we carry out this work primarily as the church’s teaching arm.”

Dockery noted the historical relationship between the church and theological education.

“The history of the church has been intertwined with this important work we call theological education, even though for many years it was carried out in informal settings – even as it continues to be in various contexts today,” Dockery observed.

He added the church is the “primary focus” of theology at Southwestern Seminary as the practice of theology is implemented “primarily by ecclesial theologians” who are “helping others reflect biblically and historically” on the Triune God and His Word, work, will, and world as they “prepare for a life of walking with God, and for worshiping and serving God, as well as for serving others.”

Noting “theology is certainly not the whole of church life nor does it by itself fulfill the expectations of the Great Commandment or the Great Commission,” Dockery said, “there must be a place to encourage faithful Christ followers to love God not only with heart, soul, strength, and our minds as well, and also to love one another” while simultaneously not allowing theology to “devolve into some kind of intellectual aloofness or uncommitted intellectual curiosity.” He explained “theology is grounded in holy Scripture” and is “shaped by serious biblical interpretation, careful historical reflection, and important philosophical considerations.”

Recognizing that theology is the “foundation” for “ministry inside and outside of the church,” Dockery said theology serves the church by helping followers of Christ to know God and Christ, to fulfill the teaching and apologetics ministries of the church, and to provide “reminders” of God’s greatness, goodness, and faithfulness. He said, “Theology connects everything that is taught here on this campus,” adding “in that sense we are all theologians.”

Tracing the “pattern of Christian truth” to include “key doctrines” such as the Bible as God’s written Word, God as Trinity and “creator, revealer, and redeemer,” men and women created in God’s image, the fall of humans, Jesus Christ “alone” as “the way, the truth, and the life,” while Christ also accomplished the redemption of humankind as the lone way to God for sinners, Dockery said, “At Southwestern we affirm and confess not only the essentials found in the pattern of Christian truth but the affirmations of the Baptist Faith and Message.”

Dockery added the “vital and essential truths” give a “framework for shaping a Christian worldview and Christian ethics to help us interpret and understand our place in this world.”

Citing a recent study in the book “The Great Dechurching,” Dockery said the authors contend that by the early 1990s almost one-third of Americans claimed to be evangelicals, although over the past decade that percentage has returned to lower numbers that predate an increase in the 1970s to the 1990s.

The authors “are right on target when they suggest that many of those who were a part of this great evangelical expansion lacked deep roots in the understanding of the Christian faith,” Dockery observed. “I think it must be acknowledged that we have contributed to this decline by our failure to emphasize serious discipleship, worldview formation, and the importance of theology, especially as the culture has become more secularized, polarized, and confused.”

He said the study’s authors call for “faithful and thoughtful theological, catechetical, and confessional renewal as the way forward for the church.”

“At Southwestern, we want to help individual Christians and churches produce deeper roots, and we do this by getting our own priorities right in what we are called to do as an institution, which includes emphasizing foundational beliefs that shape the life of the church and inform participation in the communion of the saints,” he said.

Theological educators, Dockery said, “must seek to reclaim the work of doing theology as an aspect of our overall purpose for the mission of the church, for the role of the pattern of Christian truth has served such a shaping role since the church’s earliest generations.”

Dockery said the “responsibility” to make “theology applicable for the church” lies with theological educators.

“Our calling to serve in the work of theological education is thus a call to develop mature believers, strengthening hearts, heads, and hands, which results in the praise and adoration of God,” said Dockery, adding that a “healthy theological education, founded on good theology, should always lead to doxology. Theology that does not lead to doxology may be intellectually stimulating, but it falls short of the biblical vision of the flourishing of God’s people for His eternal glory.”

In his closing remarks, Dockery challenged the Southwestern community to “recommit ourselves afresh to academic excellence in teaching and scholarship, in research and service, as well as personal discipleship and churchmanship.”

“Let us seek to lay hold of the best of the Southwestern heritage and tradition, carrying it forward to serve the church and to engage the culture and the academy, doing so with convictional kindness,” Dockery concluded. “Let us not forget that service on behalf of faithful Southern Baptists and the broader evangelical world is both a privilege and responsibility, as well as a distinctive calling.”

Dockery, a 1981 Master of Divinity graduate of Southwestern, was the 2002 recipient of the seminary’s distinguished alumni award. He has served at Southwestern since 2019. A distinguished Baptist theologian and author, Dockery is the president emeritus of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, where he served as president from 1996 to 2014. Dockery also served as the president of Trinity International University and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (2014-2019). Dockery previously served churches in his native Alabama, Texas, and New York. He and his wife of 48 years, Lanese, have three grown sons and eight grandchildren.

Dockery’s entire message can be viewed here.

Maui churches after Lahaina fire: ‘We’re not going back to normal.’

MAUI, Hawaii—As the Aug. 8 Maui fires raged out of control in Lahaina, local churches on the island that were outside the burn area immediately began grappling not with whether they would respond but how.

Pastor Jay Haynes of Kahului Baptist Church in Kahului preached a pair of messages of the last two weeks on grief and lament to help his congregation spiritually and emotionally navigate the trauma, including a message on Psalm 42 Aug. 20.

“We’re not going back to normal. There’s not really ‘going back to normal.’ There’s no way to move forward acting like nothing happened, that everything’s fine,” Haynes said. “We’re still going to have various rooms on this property being used as shelters. We’re still going to have rooms being used for storing donations and distributing donations to people who need.”

Stoked by winds up to 80 mph, flames engulfed the town and many of its terrified residents with deadly speed. So far, 114 are reported dead, making the wildfire the worst in modern U.S. history. Maui’s mayor reported Aug. 21 that 850 people are still unaccounted for. Some 2,200 structures were destroyed, causing an estimated $6 billion in damage.

In the immediate aftermath, Haynes, along with fellow pastor Rocky Komatsu of Waiehu Community Church in Wailuku, helped deliver supplies on trucks down into Lahaina to help meet the most pressing physical needs of those displaced by the wildfire that consumed nearly the entire town of Lahaina. Haynes’ message Sunday underscored their resolve to continue helping survivors who lost everything.

Valley Isle Fellowship in Wailuku became a staging ground for relief ministries that needed a base of operations, and its pastor Nick Love has been serving in his role as a chaplain to support the efforts of the Hawaii National Guard and U.S. Air Force as they maintain order and utilize cadaver dogs to identify human remains.

The process of searching for bodies is highly specialized and very time-consuming, meaning those carrying out the task have been putting in extremely long hours.

“Hearing their stories has finally started catching up to me,” Love said. “Hearing what they’re seeing and what they’re going through. They’re professional, but it’s difficult on them.”

During the same time, Love, who only came on board in April of this year, has continued leading Valley Isle Fellowship.

Bryant Wright, president of Send Relief, spent the weekend and part of Monday meeting with pastors and other ministry leaders on the island of Maui to encourage those directly impacted as well as those who have been key in responding to the ongoing needs.

“Many of the pastors we’ve been meeting with have been young pastors,” Wright said. “They’re in the midst of leading churches to engage their communities in the fallout of one of the most historic tragedies, not only in Hawaii’s history but in the history of the United States.”

Gay Williams and her husband John have been leading disaster relief efforts for the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention (HPBC) as Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteers from around the Hawaiian Islands have joined the effort.

“Here on the ground in Maui, we have been working with some of the first responders and other partners in response with their housing,” Williams said. “We are preparing to bring in our teams who will eventually do personal property recovery, or ash sifting, for the homeowners when they are allowed into their properties.”

Williams anticipates that there will be opportunities for SBDR teams from the continental U.S. to serve in the efforts to help residents recover their belongings, such as jewelry or other items, that may have endured the inferno.

On Aug. 21, Send Relief sent a shipment of fire recovery supplies to Maui to assist SBDR teams as they serve families who have lost everything. The shipment left Send Relief’s warehouse in Ashland, Ky., and was packed with protective gear including Tyvek suits, N-95 masks, goggles and more.

Wright, along with Robert Miller, director of regional ministries for the HPBC, began exploring ways to connect churches on the mainland with those on Maui.

“The recovery here will take years as there are thousands of people who have lost loved ones and their homes,” Wright said. “Beyond that, even though Maui and Hawaii remain open for people to visit, there has been an impact on the tourism industry and some have also lost the ability to earn a living. And there will be needs for these churches in Hawaii to meet for weeks, months and years to come, and we want to see mainland churches explore ways to empower the local church for ministry.”

To learn more and support the response, visit

State of the Bible: Gen Z changed through Scripture despite decline in use

PHILADELPHIA (BP)—Most Gen Z adults say their lives have been transformed through Scripture despite their three-year decline in Bible engagement, the American Bible Society (ABS) said in the latest chapter of the 2023 State of the Bible.

The oldest Zoomers were toddlers when the world was abuzz with turn-of-the-century Y2K projections, and many still live with their parents. Some Zoomers are as young as 11, too young even to be included in the ABS study limited to ages 18 and above.

“Gen Zers have been described as curious, digitally savvy, and advocates for change. We see all of this reflected in our research, but we also see a generation struggling to find their footing with faith,” ABS Chief Ministry Insights Officer John Farquhar Plake said in announcing the latest release from the report.

While only a 10th of the generation regularly engages with the Bible, Zoomers still confess a significant interest in the Bible and its message.

“Ministry leaders may be surprised to find how open Gen Z adults in their communities are to discussions about God’s Word,” Plake said. “And if the trends we’re seeing continue, it’s crucial to be having those conversations now.”

The fifth chapter of the study holds key findings about Zoomers and the interest in Scripture:

  • 44 percent of Zoomers are “extremely curious” about Jesus, but the interest is higher among the youngest adult Zoomers.
  • 56 percent of Zoomers ages 18-21 said they are curious about Jesus or the Bible, but only 34 percent of Zoomers ages 22-26 said the same.

Curiosity has sharply declined since 2022, when 77 percent of all Gen Z adults reported curiosity in Scripture.

Scripture engagement among Gen Z adults registers at 10 percent, down from 12 percent in 2022 and 14 percent in 2021. Despite low Scripture engagement:

  • 49 percent of Zoomers ages 18-21 say the Bible’s message has transformed their lives, and 52 percent of those 22-26 say so.
  • 58 percent of Zoomers identify as Christian, including Catholic, Protestant and “other” Christian traditions, ABS said.
  • 34 percent identify as agnostic, atheist or having no religion.

Even non-practicing Christians and non-Christian Zoomers are open to Scriptural experiences and conversations. ABS found:

  • A quarter of non-practicing Gen Z Christians would accept a Christian friend’s invitation to stream a church service, watch a TV show or movie about Jesus, or attend a Christian concert.
  • 18 percent percent non-Christian Zoomers said they’re open to eating a meal in a group where biblical issues are discussed.

The ABS expanded the State of the Bible this year to explore the various ways people connect with God, incorporating nine spiritual temperaments bestselling author and former Southern Baptist pastor Gary Thomas presented in the 1996 book “Sacred Pathways.”

The ABS found that the largest chunk of Zoomers—27 percent of those 18-21, and 32 percent of those above 21—identify as naturalists and connect best with God while in nature.

The smallest portion identify as intellectuals, including 2 percent of younger adult Zoomers and 6 percent of older Zoomers. Intellectual Zoomers connect best with God when they learn something new about Him.

The State of the Bible annually looks at the Bible, faith and the church in America. The ABS collaborated with the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center (NORC) in designing the study conducted online and via telephone to NORC’s AmeriSpeak Panel. The 18-minute survey, conducted Jan. 5-30, produced 2,761 responses from a representative sample of adults 18 and older within the 50 states and D.C.

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

Protestant pastors say congregations fear for future of nation, faith

BRENTWOOD, Tenn.—“Fear not” is a frequent command in the Bible, but most pastors feel churchgoers aren’t getting the message.

A Lifeway Research study finds almost 7 in 10 U.S. Protestant pastors (69%) believe there is a growing sense of fear within their congregations about the future of the nation and world. Additionally, more than 3 in 5 (63%) say their churches have a similar increasing dread specifically about the future of Christianity in the U.S. and around the world.

“The Bible tells followers of Jesus Christ to expect trials, tribulations and suffering,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “However, Scripture doesn’t prescribe fear as the response to adversity. Instead, it frequently encourages rejoicing and faithfulness as anxieties are cast upon God.”

Concern for the future

Pastors are more than twice as likely to agree than disagree that their congregations are fearful about the future of the nation and world. Seven in 10 (69%) agree, including 25% who strongly agree, while 29% disagree.

White (71%) and Hispanic pastors (62%) are the most likely to say they see fear for the future in their congregations. African American pastors are the least likely to agree (42%) and the most likely to disagree (55%).

Pastors at non-denominational (75%), Methodist (74%), Baptist (72%) and Lutheran (72%) churches are more likely than Pentecostal pastors (53%) to spot fear among their congregants.

Those leading the smallest churches, with fewer than 50 in attendance at weekend worship services, are among the most likely to say their congregations have a growing fear about the future of the country and world (72%).

Less concerned than in the past

Despite so many Protestant pastors saying their churches are fearful, the percentage is down compared to previous studies.

In 2010, 76% said there was a growing sense of fear within their congregations about the future of the nation and world. In 2011, 73% said the same. The percentage remained similar (74%) in 2014, before falling to 69% today.

Over the same period, the percentage of pastors who disagree and don’t feel their churches have a growing fear about the future has increased to 29% today after 21% in 2010, 26% in 2011 and 24% in 2014.

“Compared to a decade ago, a few more churches today are avoiding the impulse to fear changes and adversity around them,” McConnell said. “But a large majority of pastors see their congregations moving toward fear rather than away from it.”

Faith-based fear?

While 69% of pastors say their congregations have a growing sense of fear about the future of the country and world, slightly less, but a still significant majority (63%), say their churches have a growing sense of fear about the future of Christianity specifically. Around 1 in 5 (21%) strongly agree, with 36% disagreeing.

“The number of people in America embracing the Christian faith is on a downward trajectory. So it isn’t surprising congregations are afraid of this trendline,” McConnell said. “Unfortunately, the growth of Christianity in other parts of the world is not bringing American Christians much comfort.”

Mainline pastors (40%) are more likely than evangelical pastors (33%) to disagree that a growing fear about the future of Christianity exists in their churches.

Among those more likely to spot fear in their pews, white pastors (64%) are more likely than African American (47%) pastors. Pastors in the Midwest (67%) are also more likely than those in the West (54%).

Denominationally, non-denominational (76%), Baptist (68%) and Methodist (66%) pastors are more likely than Presbyterian/Reformed pastors (49%) to see a rising concern for the future of Christianity.

Pastors report feeling more loneliness, less support, Barna finds

NASHVILLE (BP)—A growing percentage of Protestant pastors report experiencing increased feelings of loneliness and isolation, while simultaneously feeling a decreased sense of support from people close to them, according to research by Barna.

According to the 2022 survey of more than 500 pastors done by the Barna Group, 47 percent of pastors reported they “sometimes” felt lonely or isolated in the past three months, while 18 percent said they “frequently,” experience these feelings.

This total—65 percent—of pastors reporting these feelings is an increase compared with the 42 percent of pastors who reported the same in a 2015 survey, where 28 percent answered sometimes and 14 percent answered frequently.

Mark Dance, director of pastoral wellness for GuideStone Financial Resources, said the COVID-19 pandemic may have played a role in the increase in feelings of isolation, but the issue has been around for ages.

“I think isolation has been a challenge on-going for decades, and of course that challenge was exaggerated during COVID,” Dance said.

“I’m not sure that isolation is unique to the ministry. I just think isolation is a challenge for everyone. What makes it unique is that pastors are surrounded by people constantly, and so in my opinion, isolation and loneliness are among the most preventable challenges a pastor has.”

Dance said one factor in the survey data may be a younger generation of pastors who are more willing to be transparent about their feelings or ask for help. He even wonders if some of the percentages should be higher.

“I wonder if the other percentage are being honest with themselves,” Dance said. “It is very normal to sometimes feel isolated. Some times are better than others. I would expect them to say sometimes they are lonely.”

The same survey showed 49 percent of pastors reported they frequently felt “well-supported by people close to you,” within the past three months. This is a noticeable decrease compared with 68 percent who answered such in the 2015 survey.

Dance said he often challenges pastors that feeling isolated starts with them, and they need to take an active role in seeking out people both inside and outside of their church who can “refresh” them in their ministry.

“When I speak to pastors, which is almost every week, I remind them of how dangerous isolation can be, but also challenge them to embrace the responsibility to change that,” he said. “Isolation is downright dangerous, but it is avoidable.

“The pain of isolation exceeds the awkwardness of church friendships, whether it’s staff friendships, member friendships or other pastors in your community. As Southern Baptists, we’ve got associations and state conventions that would absolutely fall over themselves if you called them or showed up for their things.

“We have people cheering us on from every corner of our convention, so if we are feeling isolated, make sure that we are not isolating ourselves, because it is one of the most preventable challenges out there.”

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

Support pours in after death of NAMB Next Gen leader Pruitt’s son

ROCKWALL, Texas (BP)—Messages of condolences and prayer support came forward for Shane Pruitt and his family July 25 following the death of his son.

“Titus Praise Pruitt, our precious boy, went home to be with Jesus at 12:50 AM this morning,” Pruitt, National Next Gen director for the North American Mission Board, posted online.

“We are heartbroken, but also joyful. Joyful about him being home in Heaven with Jesus. Joyful that he will never again experience seizures, or a wheelchair, or medicines, or crying, or pain, or surgeries or suffering. Joyful that he is finally fully healed and fully alive. Joyful that he is getting to do so many things for the very first time like walk, run, sing, and worship the King face to face.”

Clay Smith, senior pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., was among those replying with support.

“Praying for you. So sorry to read of your loss. Grateful for the eternal mercy and grace of Jesus,” he said.

“May the Lord grant you great peace and the assured hope of the wholeness of his resurrection,” added Malcolm Yarnell, professor at Southwestern Seminary.

“I am so sorry … praying,” said Todd Gray, Kentucky Baptist Convention executive director.

NAMB President Kevin Ezell flew to Texas early this morning (July 26) to be with the Pruitt family and gave a statement to Baptist Press.

“In his short time here on earth, Titus endured great suffering but brought so much joy to those around him,” Ezell said. “His smile and personality lit up the room. Shane and Kasi gave him a home filled with love, faith and laughter. They are grateful Titus suffers no more, but the whole family will miss him terribly. Please keep the Pruitts in your prayers.”

“Shane Pruitt is one of my closest friends,” Nathan Lorick, executive director for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, told BP. “His love for the Lord and his family is an incredible example of how to live a life full of integrity.

“I can’t imagine the pain the Pruitts are going through, but I know others will see Jesus in how they walk through the loss of their precious son, Titus. I sincerely ask you to join me in praying for Shane, Kasi and their kids as they grieve the loss of Titus Praise Pruitt.”

Four of Shane and Kasi Pruitt’s six children joined their family through adoption. One of the children, named Praise, had lived practically his entire life in a Ugandan hospital due to health complications before coming home with the Pruitts in the spring of 2015.

Their son was given a new first name, Titus.

Shortly after Titus arrived at the Pruitt home, Kasi wrote about how God used her son to “constantly remind me that this life is but a moment, and a fleeting one at that. I pray for healing for our boy all the time, but the amazing reality is that one day healing will happen for Titus.

“It may or may not be in my timing but one day, either on this earth or in eternity, it will happen, and it will happen completely.”

Pruitt, a frequent speaker at student camps and other events, pointed to Titus over the years as an example and source of strength.

“Without a doubt the strongest and most resilient person I know,” he posted March 13 on his son’s return home after another surgery.

On Instagram, Kasi Pruitt reflected on her son’s life.

“The brightest light, biggest smile, most swag, and the absolute strongest person I have ever known. He experienced great suffering with great joy,” she wrote.

“… Being his Mom for the last 10 years has been nothing but a privilege!! He has made everyone in the Pruitt Pack better.”

Shane Pruitt said the same in his post on July 25.

“Please continue to pray for our family and especially our other kiddos as we have to learn a new normal without our Titus. We will be forever grateful for the 10 years the Lord gave us with him.”