Author: Baptist Press

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.”

Puerto Rican Baptists brace for hurricane season

As we enter the Atlantic hurricane season, Southern Baptists are intentionally preparing at-risk communities to navigate the perils of natural disasters and their aftermath.

In Puerto Rico, many are weary from the past decade of nearly 20 back-to-back tropical storms.

Families hardly have any time to recover from the physical loss and emotional trauma before another storm breaks on their shores. This perpetual state of exhaustion is pervasive, so Send Relief and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief partnered together to hold a preemptive disaster response training for almost 250 Spanish-speaking trainees, as well as 10 coaches, this month.

“Volunteers here were extremely enthusiastic about the training,” said Send Relief Crisis Response Director Coy Webb. “It greatly strengthens the ability of Puerto Rican Baptist churches and trainees to be equipped to respond when crises arise in this new hurricane season.”

Last year during Hurricane Fiona, hundreds of trained Puerto Rican Baptists partnered with Send Relief teams to deliver food, water, laundry services and temporary roofing to those impacted, and these teams are prepared to replicate last year’s projects in the wake of the current earthquake, flooding and storm predictions.

Over the last three years, Send Relief, in partnership with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, has been able to train more than 800 volunteers in crucial project management for mass feedings, mobile kitchen maintenance, chainsaw response, debris clean-up, flood recovery, roof tarping, initial damage assessment and—most importantly—spiritual and emotional care.

“I’m excited that Send Relief had the opportunity to partner with local churches to offer them and strengthen local believers in their efforts to provide real help and hope to those suffering and devastated by disasters,” Webb continued. “As we minister, it enables us to demonstrate the love of Christ as 1 John 3:18 teaches us to – both ‘in actions and in truth.’”

Pray for Puerto Rico and the disaster response teams in place to be given extra measures of peace and comfort as they re-enter hurricane season.

Oral Bible stories reach ‘everyday’ people

Riding home on the subway, Patrick Stein casually looked around at fellow passengers. Two things stood out: 1) As a 50-something, he was probably one of the oldest commuters. The median age in this North African city was 26. 2) Everyone had earbuds and stared at their phones, each person in their own private world.

The International Mission Board missionary silently wondered what it would take to get people as interested and engaged in Bible stories. As the train clanked along, an idea took shape. Why not create oral Bible stories to put on phones? Because people listened to their phones with headphones or earbuds, no one would know what they were listening to—creating a natural level of privacy in this Muslim-majority region.

For months Stein’s team of veteran missionaries and local believers had prayed strategically for the Holy Spirit to show them a way to reach their city in a new way and the answer came on this train ride.

“We looked at prayer as kind of a walkie talkie in the time of war. It was like we prayed, ‘Hey, we need fire power right there,’” Stein said, remembering how they pinpointed prayers to needs and watched God powerfully respond. “We prayed specifically for a way to share Bible stories in a language the everyday person could understand.”

The local Bible, Stein explained, is written in a dialect no one speaks. In this city of millions, even people who read well use an English Bible because it’s easier to understand. More than a decade of living in this culture made Stein aware that using either of these Bibles wasn’t the way to go anyway. While many in the city are literate, Stein’s team understood the natural way of learning for most is still orally. Plus, if they wanted to reach the “everyday person” selling a soft drink on the side of the road, paper wasn’t going to work.

It took two years for the team to create 50 Story Together Bible Stories in the local modern language with a story arc called, The Promised Savior. All stories point to Jesus, whether it is from the Old Testament or Revelation.

“We have a story team made up entirely of national believers who craft the stories in a simple, clear and understandable way,” Stein said. “We used professional actors to record them because we wanted it engaging and to draw people in.”

The two-minute stories—available as video or audio—are used for evangelism and discipleship and downloaded from a website. Stephens Amani, a local pastor, has used this method for sharing the gospel. As he explained the simplicity of the story arc leading to Jesus, he smiled and added it is an easy way to bring people to the King of kings.

“This is something very easy to use and people really like it,” Amani said. “People are sharing it on social media with each other.”

Moving the stories to social media was a natural extension of the project. In a region where Christians are often persecuted, it provided another layer of privacy for evangelism. A story could be posted so anyone can watch it. Then, a person can ask questions via the comments. Many have no one they can safely ask questions to about Christianity.

On the other end of the social media is a team of trained local believers. Stein said there are a lot of trolls just fishing for an argument or to find the identity of Christians. The local believers have learned how to sift through the noise and find the person who is truly seeking the Lord.

“Using social media like this to spread the gospel isn’t 100% fool proof,” Stein said, noting there’s always some risk in this region when sharing the good news. “The local believers decided spreading the gospel is worth the risk.”

A heart or sad face emoji on a post can lead to a gospel conversation that changes a life for eternity. One man saw an advertisement for the Jesus stories on social media. He began to engage with local believers online, asking them deeper questions.

“Then it came time to meet in person,” Stein said, explaining that the purpose is to take those seeking the Truth from online to a face-to-face encounter. “This man met with our national partner, heard the gospel and became a follower of Jesus. He is now being discipled using the 50 stories.

“This is just one story of how this Story Together Bible Stories project has been instrumental in being a first contact with the Word of God,” he added.

Stein invites you to be a part of this project by praying and giving:

  • Pray for safety and discernment for volunteers who answer social media requests. Ask God to show them who is really seeking Jesus.
  • New believers are to be baptized soon. They were evangelized and discipled through this project. Pray for them to tell their friends and family about their gospel transformation.
  • It’s time to create new Bible stories. Seven are already planned but need to be recorded. Consider giving so this project may continue to safely reach people through simple, everyday language.

Some names have been changed due to security.

SBC leaders discuss role of prayer in Asbury Awakening

NEW ORLEANS (BP)—A group of SBC missions and prayer leaders gathered on the CP Stage at the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting in New Orleans to discuss the Asbury Awakening that happened earlier this year and the role prayer played in the movement.

The panelists agreed that prayer is the foundation of genuine revival.

“When most of us pray for revival, we really don’t have a clue what we’re praying for,” said Timothy Beougher, associate dean and professor of evangelism and church growth for the Billy Graham School of Missions at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“We think we are praying for ecstasy, and yes, joy is a byproduct of revival, but … revival does not begin in ecstasy, it begins in agony. We’re convicted of our sin, we’re forced to confess that sin, acknowledge that sin, repent. There were a lot of tears at Asbury.”

The awakening began in early February after a call to repent and seek the Lord during a Wednesday chapel service at Asbury University in Wilmore, Ky. The service led to an outbreak of worship, prayer and repentance from students and faculty. It spread quickly, and for more than two weeks, people came from far and wide, filling the chapel 24/7.

The movement gained national attention, even spreading to several Baptist-affiliated schools around the country.

Bill Elliff, founding and national engage pastor at the Summit Church in North Little Rock, Ark., and author of many books on prayer, joined Beougher on the panel, which was moderated by Kie Bowman, senior pastor emeritus at Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, and prayer assignment leader at the SBC Executive Committee.

Beougher wrote his master’s thesis on a similar revival at Asbury in 1970 and how it affected Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Southern Baptists in general. Many trace the nationwide “Jesus Movement” of the 1970s to the first revival at Asbury.

Bowman began the talk by asking Beougher what such movements should be called or if that matters.

“I don’t know in the end it really matters what we call it,” Beougher said. “I like to make a distinction between revival and awakening. Revival is when God pours out His Spirit on a group of believers, whether that be a family, a church family, a college campus. Awakening is when that spills out in the broader culture.

“So we could say if a revival happens everybody in the church will know it, if an awakening happens everybody in the community will know it. So I think it is legitimate to call what took place in February of this year at Asbury a revival.”

Elliff added some thoughts on the terminology.

“I do think the distinction is really important,” Elliff said.

“To revive means to bring to life again, and that can only happen to people who are believers. And there was a lot of that at Asbury. Spiritual awakening to me is when lost people are just awakened to the Gospel by the Spirit of God and the power of God. And there was a lot of that at Asbury, and in other campuses as it spread around the nation.

“I know the leaders there (at Asbury) called it an awakening just to take the broad term, but I think it was probably more revival that led to some spiritual awakening. Which is characteristic in the spiritual awakenings that have happened across our history as a nation, that one leads to another.”

Elliff was a freshman at Ouachita Baptist University in the fall of 1970 after the similar revival happened at Asbury that spring. The movement even spilled onto his campus, and the experience “dramatically” changed his life forever.

He has since written more than 50 books about the topics of prayer and spiritual awakening. Elliff, who attended the Asbury event in February, said the experience reminded him of the earlier revival in that the movement could be characterized by “radical humility.”

“When this happened … my wife and I looked at each other and said ‘let’s go.’ When we got there we saw the same, and experienced the same environment, the same components that had happened during the Jesus Movement.”

He added that prayer is “symbiotic” with the experience of revival.

“There’s no revival without prayer. There never has been. Usually what happens is that prayer comes out of desperation. What’s fascinating right now is that God is bringing us as a nation to a level of desperation that we haven’t seen in our lifetime. There is an amazing, unprecedented movement of prayer across our nation.

“I think what it’s done is built, like never before, a faith to believe that God can do this.”

View the full panel discussion on the Cooperative Program YouTube Channel.

SBC 2023: FBC Farmersville’s Barber reelected SBC president

NEW ORLEANS, La. (BP)—Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church of Farmersville, was reelected to a second term as president of the SBC on Tuesday at the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting in New Orleans.

Out of 11,014 messenger votes, Barber received 7,531 votes (68.38%) while Georgia pastor Mike Stone received 3,458 (31.40%). There were 25 ballots disallowed.

Barber was nominated by Jarrett Stephens, senior pastor of Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston. Stone was nominated by Florida pastor Willy Rice.

“I do not believe this is owed to Dr. Barber, but I do believe he has earned it,” Stephens said.

In his first term, Barber appointed the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force and represented the SBC on CBS’ 60 Minutes.

“He courageously gave straight answers to tough questions and was unapologetic in his defense of sound doctrine, pointing millions of people to the hope of Jesus. I was so proud he represented us,” Stephens said.

Barber has served as pastor of FBC Farmersville since 1999, as well as in a number of roles in the SBC. He served as chairman of the 2022 SBC Resolutions Committee and was a member of that committee in 2021.

He preached at the 2017 SBC Pastors’ Conference, served as first vice president of the SBC from 2013 to 2014, served on the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention executive board from 2008 to 2014 (including serving as chairman and vice chairman), served as a trustee for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary from 2009 to 2019 and on the SBC Committee on Committees in 2008. From 2006 to 2009, he taught as an adjunct professor at SWBTS.

An Arkansas native, Barber was saved at an early age, called to preach at 11, and preached his first sermon at 15. He has a B.A. from Baylor University, an M.Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. in church history, also from SWBTS. He and his wife, Tracy, have two children: Jim, 19, and Sarah, 15, who were adopted.

Planning and armed congregants top church security measures

BRENTWOOD, Tenn.—Most churches have some type of security measures in place during worship services. Pastors point to intentional plans and armed church members more than other measures, but compared to three years ago, fewer say they have plans and more say they have gun-carrying congregants.

Numerous fatal shootings have occurred at churches in recent years. In March, an armed assailant killed six people at The Covenant School, a Christian school in Nashville, Tenn. Shootings have also occurred at other places of worship like Jewish synagogues and Sikh temples.

When asked about their protocols when they gather for worship, around 4 in 5 U.S. Protestant pastors (81 percent) say their church has some type of security measure in place, according to a study from Lifeway Research. Still, more than 1 in 6 (17 percent) say they don’t use any of the seven potential measures included in the study, and 2 percent aren’t sure.

“Churches are not immune to violence, disputes, domestic disagreements, vandalism and burglary,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “While loving one another is a core Christian teaching, churchgoers still sin, and non-churchgoers are invited and welcomed. So real security risks exist whether a congregation wants to acknowledge them or not.”

Security measures

In terms of security specifics, pastors are most likely to say their congregation has an intentional plan for an active shooter situation (57 percent). Additionally, most (54 percent) also say armed church members are part of the measures they have in place.

Around a quarter (26 percent) use radio communication among security personnel, while 1 in 5 say they have a no firearms policy in the building where they meet (21 percent) or armed private security personnel on site (20 percent). Fewer have uniformed police officers on church grounds (5 percent) or metal detectors at entrances to screen for weapons (1 percent).

“Most churches are small, so security plans often don’t need to be elaborate or expensive,” McConnell said.

Around half of the fatal shootings in churches since 1999 have occurred in the South. Pastors in that region are the least likely to say they don’t use any of the security measures at their churches (12 percent). Conversely, they are among the most likely to report their congregation has an intentional plan for an active shooter situation (64 percent), radio communication among security personnel (34 percent) and armed private security on site (26 percent). Additionally, Southern pastors are the most likely to say they have armed church members (65 percent) and uniformed police officers on site (9 percent).

More worshipers in attendance often leads to increased security measures. The larger the church, the more likely it is to have armed private security personnel on site and radio communication among security personnel. Churches with 250 or more in attendance are the most likely to have armed church members (74 percent) and uniformed police officers on site (27 percent). Those large congregations are also among the most likely to have an intentional plan for an active shooter situation (74 percent).

Pastors at churches with worship attendance of fewer than 50 people (29 percent) are the most likely to say they aren’t using any of the methods of preparation considered in this study.

Mainline pastors (22 percent) are more likely than evangelical pastors (14 percent) not to use any of the seven potential ways of security preparation at their churches. Denominationally, Lutheran (34 percent) and Presbyterian/Reformed pastors (30 percent) are at least twice as likely as pastors at non-denominational (14 percent), Restorationist movement (13 percent), Pentecostal (12 percent) or Baptist (8 percent) churches to say they don’t use any of the security measures.

African American pastors are three times more likely than white pastors to say they have uniformed police officers on site (12 percent v. 4 percent). African American pastors are also more likely than white pastors to say part of their security measures includes radio communication among security personnel (37 percent v. 25 percent) and a no firearms policy in the building where they meet (34 percent v. 21 percent). Meanwhile, white pastors are more likely than African American pastors to say they have armed church members (56 percent v. 33 percent).

More guns, less planning

Compared to three years ago, pastors say they’re more likely to be relying on armed churchgoers and less likely to have a no firearms policy for their building. Fewer also say they have an intentional plan for an active shooter, compared to a 2019 Lifeway Research study.

Previously, 45 percent of U.S. Protestant pastors said armed church members were part of their congregation’s security measures. Now, more than half (54 percent) include that in their attempts to keep churchgoers safe. In 2019, 27 percent said they enforced a no firearms policy at their building. That has dropped to 21 percent now.

Churches are also less likely to rely on intentional planning to address potential security threats. In 2019, 62 percent said they had such a plan in place for an active shooting situation. Since then, the percentage of pastors who say that is the case at their church has fallen to 57 percent.

“While churches may have different convictions on how to maintain security, it is surprising that fewer churches have an intentional plan for an active shooter than did in 2019,” McConnell said. “As churches cut back on activities during COVID, this may have been one of the initiatives that did not resume for some churches.”

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