Author: Jayson Larson

‘A great woman of God’: Mary Frances Melton passes away at age 90

ABILENE—Mary Frances Teaff Melton died Wednesday morning, Sept. 20, in Abilene. She was 90 years old.

A Texas native, she married her husband of 72 years, T.C. Melton, in 1951. Mary Frances was a graduate of Hardin Simmons University and taught in public schools for 20 years.

The Meltons served churches in West Texas for decades as pastor and wife. Later, they became an encouragement to pastors in that part of the state and great supporters of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention as T.C. became a consultant for the convention.

Said SBTC Executive Director Nathan Lorick: “The Meltons have been such a blessing to the SBTC. Mary Frances served the Lord faithfully with such a sweet spirit. Our hearts and prayers are with T.C. and the Melton family as they grieve the loss of a great woman of God.”

SBTC Executive Director Emeritus Jim Richards, Lorick’s predecessor, knew the Meltons well.

“Mary Frances Melton was a supportive pastor’s wife and vital ministry partner for over 70 years,” Richards said. “It is impossible to tally, this side of heaven, the ways God blessed His people through her. I’m praying for my friend T.C. as we all await the day when we’ll see her again.”

Services are being held under the direction of Hamil Family Funeral Home, 6449 Buffalo Gap Road, in Abilene. A graveside service will be held at Rose Hill Cemetery at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 23. A funeral service will follow at First Baptist Church, 301 Locust, in Merkel, Texas.



East Texas church seeing ‘little things that have huge effects’ through student ministry

MARSHALL—For many, youth ministry has a distinctive texture: big and loud.

But for John Bailey, student pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Marshall, pointing the next generation to Christ is just as much about things simple, small, and subtle. Though it may never show up on a ministry scorecard, Bailey said he gets excited about brief conversations that allow gospel seeds to be planted. He’s been encouraged by students who once seemed indifferent to Jesus now showing more receptivity and focus during Bible study.

Bailey even sees progress in the fact that many students who once stayed seated during youth worship times now stand.

“We’re not trying to conquer the world,” he said. “We’re really just trying to make a small difference, and we’re seeing little things that have huge effects. What we’re really hoping for is that these little sparks will turn into fires that just can’t be quenched as students continue beyond high school and through their academic careers.”

Bailey said this generation of students is very open and honest about their struggles. While some have an idea about where they want life to take them, many have no direction and don’t know what the future will hold for them. While Bailey admits he doesn’t have the answers to many of those questions, he finds in them opportunities to share truth: “God has a plan for you. You may not know what that is, but He does, and you can have confidence in that.”

Bailey was a student, himself, when someone had an eternal impact on he and his family.

His early life saw him zigzag across much of North America. He was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, but spent most of his formative school years in Portland, Ore. In sixth grade, he played on a soccer team with a teammate whose dad served as the worship leader at a nearby church. The worship leader invited Bailey’s family to church, where they heard the gospel. His parents got saved and baptized within a year, with Bailey deciding to give his life to Jesus two years later.

John Bailey and his wife, Leah. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Following high school, Bailey joined the military and served from 2008 to 2013 and, upon marrying his wife, Leah, moved from Maryland to Texas. While in Texas, Bailey interned as a recreational minister at a church in Universal City while working as a San Antonio firefighter. He eventually was encouraged by leaders in the church to visit a Wednesday night youth service where Leah was already volunteering.

Bailey admits he did not feel like youth work was a good fit for him, considering his background in the military and in firefighting. Even so, he decided to take a chance and help with the youth. In the process, he got hooked on youth work.

Before long, a part-time staff position ministering to middle school students opened up at the church and Bailey answered the call to serve—setting the tone for how the Lord would use him upon transitioning to Immanuel in Marshall.

Immanuel is seeing about 60 students attend on Wednesday nights thanks, in part, to opportunities the Lord has provided outside the church. IBC hosts a monthly prayer and devotion time at the local high school, and they also meet in front of the school at the flagpole the first Wednesday of every month. Six students showed up at the first gathering this past spring. They prayed and studied 1 John 4:7-21, about God’s love for us and the love that we are to have for one another. By the time the group held its final meeting of the spring, 10 students had started regularly attending.

Through continued hard work and faithfulness to teaching the simplicity of the gospel, Bailey said he anticipates the next generation catching fire for the Lord and impacting a world in ways that can’t be measured.

“Just the idea that any one of these students could have an impact on the kingdom is amazing,” he said. “We will follow Christ’s example and then hopefully these students will go out into the world after high school and have or continue a relationship with Christ that impacts the world.”


Young adults pack BT Church’s growing Move Conference

McALLEN—Danny Rangel, online and young adult pastor at BT Church in McAllen, says people ages 18-29 face what he calls “life’s big decisions” regarding beliefs, ideologies, college, career, relationships, and marriage.

To help them navigate those challenges, BT Church hosted its third annual Move Conference on Aug. 25-26. More than 200 young adults attended—an increase of 40 percent from last year.

The mission of BT’s young adult ministry is to help young adults “move faithfully in the culture while following Christ,” Rangel said. The 2023 Move Conference expanded on that. Guest speakers and breakout leaders focused on topics including discipleship, faith in the workplace, mental health, finances, career mapping, social media as ministry, and studying Scripture.

Olivia Thai, a corporate media executive from New York City, shared practical career counsel—including resume-building and interview tips—during a breakout session. Thai is a member of a NYC church planted by Rangel. Israel Mendez, a church planter from San Antonio, spoke on “Moving with Jesus,” focusing on spiritual disciplines and practices.

Luke Lefevre, author and founder of the Consecrate movement, delivered the keynote message on holiness and revival. Lefevre also participated in a question-and-answer session on revival with Rangel. Music was led by Dallas worship leader Chichi Onyekanne.

Young adults delivered short talks onstage. These mini sessions of “young adults speaking directly to young adults” were new this year, Rangel noted.

“I really believe this year we were challenged and encouraged to pursue Jesus to experience holiness more realistically,” said a conferencegoer named Angelo. “I definitely left refreshed and excited to seek out revival in my every day.”

“I wasn’t expecting the presence of the Lord to be there so quickly or be so strong, but Friday, as soon as worship started, I could feel Him and it was powerful,” added Jessica, another attendee.

How to lead people who may not always like you

As pastors, sometimes it’s hard to imagine there are people in the church who don’t like us. Maybe it’s a small minority, even just one or two people. But it’s true—sometimes people won’t like you. Maybe it’s because of decisions you’ve made. Maybe it’s your priorities or personality. Maybe it’s your preaching or even your clothing.

No matter the reason, this can be a hard thing for pastors to accept. Even if you’re not bothered by the opinions of others, it can be difficult to lead those who may be upset with you. So how do you lead people who seem like they don’t like you? Three simple, perhaps unsurprising ways:

1. Be glad they love Jesus.

It’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s all about Jesus. Therefore, if these individuals truly love Jesus, this is something to celebrate. Even if they’re upset over trivial or secondary things, we can be glad they have the main thing—and that’s Jesus. Perhaps this isn’t true of all, but for those who love Jesus and just disagree with you, you still have more in common with them than anyone else in the world. You have experienced the same grace of God in Jesus Christ. This is something to be glad about.

2. Empathize with them.

Depending on why they’re upset, this may be difficult. But it’s at least possible to genuinely empathize with people you feel are in the wrong. If someone is upset (even over secondary things like music style or how long you preach), we can genuinely try and understand why they’re upset. At a minimum, trying to understand where they’re coming from may help limit your frustration. Of course, there may be exceptions to this rule.

3. Love and serve no matter what.

I tell my church family often that one of the most important times to gather with God’s people is when we don’t feel like gathering with God’s people. The same is true for us as pastors. One of the most important times to love and serve God’s people is when we don’t feel like loving and serving God’s people. And this includes the people who may not be very happy with you.

This may all seem simple. It is. It’s simple to understand, but at times very difficult to implement. Too often, however, our immediate response to criticism is, “Well, I don’t care what people think.” I’m all for caring more about what God thinks than what people think, but let’s not forget: we’re to care for the people in our flock. This means we should care what they think, at least to an extent.

A book that has helped me greatly with leading when people don’t like me is When People are Big and God is Small by Ed Welch. If you are deeply bothered by opinions others may have of you, I encourage you to read this book. It will challenge you in making sure your fear of God always trumps your fear of man.

We should be glad they love Jesus (assuming they do). We should empathize when they disagree or are upset. We should love and serve no matter what. After all, Jesus loved us while we were yet sinners. We can do the same for God’s people.

Solidifying and streamlining your membership process

When I was in high school, all I needed to begin a dating relationship was to know a girl liked me. I didn’t consider other important factors, such as the girl’s character or relationship history. As a result, these relationships always ended badly.

Church membership is often treated this way. Many issues in our churches occur because we are often not clear with those seeking membership about what we believe and what we expect from them. Why? Because sometimes—like I was in high school—we’re just happy someone likes us. As a result, these relationships can often end badly.

That is why your membership process matters. At our church, we use a membership class to ensure people understand our expectations, what we believe, and how we operate. Here are a few best practices to consider if you are thinking about implementing a membership class or want to improve your existing membership process:

Be doctrinally firm

Doctrine is critical to maintaining unity in the church. Some doctrines are first-tier issues; others are second- or third-tier. A membership class is a great venue to be very frank about how your church views doctrine. Helping prospective members understand clearly what church leadership believes could save you much unnecessary heartache in the future.

Invite current members to the class

We ask our members to be table leaders in our membership classes. Table leaders interview incoming members, try to answer their questions, and ask them to dinner at their house. Church leaders and elders often conduct further interviews with prospective members when needed. Once the interview process is over, the table leaders present the prospective members to the congregation, share their testimonies, and recommend them for membership. We vote, we celebrate, and we welcome.

Careful in, beautiful out 

One of our deacons leads an exit care ministry. His job is to follow up with members who are moving to other churches. We love these people and often cry as our deacon reads letters at our member meetings from these departing brothers or sisters telling us of the church they are moving on to and how they still love our church. These departures are both beautiful and hard. We always say, “If leaving wasn’t hard, then it wasn’t good.” This healthy attitude starts at our membership class.

Following these practices creates a huge win for our church. Not only are we helping prospective members clearly understand where our church stands on important doctrinal issues, but our current members get a refresher course on what it means to be a church member and take ownership in that process. At the same time, relationships are formed between existing members and new members.

We typically have at least one prospective member decide to not join the church each time we have a class. Some want to wait and pray before joining; others move on to other churches that agree with them on issues that are personally important to them.

I praise the Lord for all of this. I am glad for these people. I am grateful that the unity in our church has been protected, and I am thankful that our current members get to see—and participate—in this important process.

Ministry with roots in SBTC church helps missionaries with a set of wheels while home on furlough

HOUSTON—Upon returning stateside on furlough from two different assignments while serving the International Mission Board as overseas missionaries, Nate and Barbi Sprinkle found themselves with several essential needs.

The first occasion was in 2006-2007, when the young family was returning from serving in Nepal. The second occurred after they served nearly seven years in Northern India. On both occasions, they needed a vehicle to help them get around while back in the states.

And on both occasions, they turned to the Macedonian Call Foundation (MCF) for help.

Founded in 1980 by Harvey and Charlene Kneisel, MCF is a Houston-based non-profit organization that provides vehicles to missionaries furloughed in the U.S. Missionaries pay $250 per month, which includes use of the vehicle and full insurance coverage. They are also responsible for fuel costs, oil changes, and minor repairs while they are driving an MCF vehicle, which can be loaned for up to a year.

“[The fact] we were able to borrow a car from MCF both times was a Godsend,” said Nate, who now serves as senior pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Rosenberg.

Doug Miller and his wife, Cathy—longtime members at Sugar Creek Baptist Church in Sugar Land—took the helm of MCF in 2013. They became aware of the ministry through an article printed in the Southern Baptist Texan, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s newspaper.

“Here, you like cars,” Cathy told Doug as she showed him the article. “You should do this.”

That was the beginning of a now decade-long relationship that has seen the Millers volunteer their time to minister to missionaries.

In the past year and a half, MCF has loaned vehicles to missionaries serving in 48 countries. Mr. Miller, MCF’s president, said the organization works hard to add a personal touch to those it serves. For example, MCF board members often assist with picking up missionaries at the airport so they are welcomed home by a smiling face. There’s a fringe benefit to such service, as those MCF servants often get firsthand accounts of the work God is doing around the globe.

MCF loans vehicles to missionaries and their families an average of 50-70 times per year. While sending agencies, including the IMB, frequently send referrals to MCF, Miller said it can still be a challenge letting missionaries around the world know the ministry exists.

“The challenge we have is to get the word to churches who sponsor missionaries and to the sending agencies so that they can spread the word to the people coming and going every year and every day,” Mr. Miller said. “There are so many missionaries who could use the service if they just knew about it.”

Another challenge? Keeping MCF’s fleet of donated vehicles on the road. The ministry owns 31 vehicles, 26 of which are currently operational (two are undergoing maintenance and three are scheduled to go out soon). The average age of an MCF vehicle is 13.5 years old and donations of vehicles have slowed since COVID began.

With stacks of cards and letters of support as reminders, the Millers say they are confident God will continue to provide and use the ministry for years to come.

“This ministry that we’re involved in is a huge blessing to many, many people who don’t have any other alternatives,” Mr. Miller said. “The foundation makes transportation one less thing [for missionaries] to worry about when they’re coming home.”

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SBTC Executive Board hears reports on partnerships, student ministry

GRAPEVINE—The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Executive Board heard a pair of encouraging reports regarding a growing network of partnerships outside the state, as well as a summer full of activity in student ministry that led to hundreds of decisions for Christ, at its regularly scheduled triannual meeting on Aug. 15.

Missions Mobilization Associate Colin Rayburn spoke about the strategic partnerships that have been developed with the Convention of Southern Baptist Churches of Puerto Rico and the Nevada Baptist Convention. Through those partnerships, the SBTC has provided strategic vision opportunities for four of its churches in Puerto Rico, while also helping resource a retreat for pastors and their wives on the island—the first such event that had been offered to them in many years.

Rayburn also reported the Nevada Baptist Convention recently hosted an Equip Conference similar to what the SBTC hosts in Texas annually. Additionally, a vision trip which will aim to con­nect SBTC churches with strategic partnerships with Southern Baptist churches in Nevada is scheduled for Sept. 11-13.

Student Ministry Associate Brandon Bales gave a report on what turned out to be an incredible summer for M3 and Youth Week camps. Bales said attendance at the camps totaled 4,582 students. Of those, 394 students made a profession of faith in Je­sus Christ, 240 were baptized, and 316 answered a call to minis­try. Additionally, Bales reported the SBTC Student App has been downloaded more than 1,400 times since being launched in Au­gust 2022, with more than 133,000 engagements this year alone.

CP receipts down after giving slows in June, July

SBTC Chief Financial Officer Joe Davis reported to the board that Cooperative Program giving was significantly lower in June and July, resulting in a 5% year-to-date budget short­fall and a 5% reduction from the same time last year.

“We’re continuing to manage expenses and watch the budget closely as we steward Coopera­tive Program dollars,” Davis said after the meeting.

Board to ask messengers for extension on constitutional interpretation at AM

Messengers to the 2023 Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Annual Meeting in No­vember will be asked to consider extending the effective date of a constitutional interpretation referring to the office of pastor for currently af­filiated churches.

At the 2022 Annual Meeting in Corpus Christi, messengers approved a motion requir­ing the convention to interpret its constitution­al requirement that the “office of pastor be lim­ited to men” be applied “not only to the titles of senior pastor or lead pastor, but to any role designated by the noun ‘pastor’” beginning Jan. 1, 2024. At the Aug. 15 meeting, the Executive Board voted in favor of the Executive Commit­tee’s recommendation to request the messen­gers at November’s Annual Meeting to consider extending the effective date to Jan. 1, 2025.*

The SBTC Credentials Committee is already operating under the new interpretation for churches being newly considered for affiliation.

In August, Baptist Press reported a similar request made by Southern Baptist Convention President Bart Barber, pastor of the SBTC-af­filiated First Baptist Church of Farmersville. Barber asked state conventions and local asso­ciations to “press pause on any ongoing work they may be conducting or motions they may be considering that involve the nature of what it means to be a church in friendly cooperation with sister Southern Baptist churches.”

Such a pause, Barber said, would allow a newly seated “cooperation group” to engage in “high-quality research, dialogue, prayer, and contemplation about the nature of coopera­tion among Southern Baptist churches and our needs going forward.”

The 2023 SBTC Annual Meeting is scheduled for Nov. 13-14 at Cross City Church in Euless.

* Editor’s note: This article constitutes first notice of this motion.


First Dallas anuncia el lanzamiento de First Dallas en Español

DALLAS— Por primera vez, en los más de 150 años de la historia de la iglesia, First Baptist Dallas anunció durante un almuerzo el 6 de agosto que lanzará un ministerio completamente en español, First Dallas en Español.

El almuerzo atrajo a 350 hispanos de más de 18 países hispanoparlantes, los cuales expresaron interés en ser parte de este nuevo ministerio.

Hay alrededor de 64 millones de hispanos en los EE. UU., de los cuales alrededor de 12 millones viven en Texas. El cuarenta y dos por ciento de la población de Dallas es hispana.

“En First Baptist Dallas, creemos que la iglesia debe parecerse al cielo, llena de personas de todas las razas, etnias y orígenes adorando a nuestro Señor Jesucristo juntos”, dijo el Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor principal de First Dallas. “Hoy, First Dallas ya es una de las congregaciones más diversas en el Metroplex de Dallas/Fort Worth, y estamos emocionados de ver cómo Dios usará a First Dallas en Español para ministrar a la comunidad hispana en Dallas y alrededor de todo el mundo”.

El almuerzo de lanzamiento comenzó con un tiempo de oración, seguido por la introducción del ministerio por parte de Ryland Whitehorn, pastor ejecutivo de ministerios en First Dallas. Él se dirigió a los participantes y dio una cariñosa bienvenida al pastor de First Dallas en Español, al Dr. Humberto González, y su familia.

“Estoy muy entusiasmado con este ministerio. Este es el resultado de muchos años de oración. Queremos que esta iglesia esté en el corazón de First Dallas”, dijo Whitehorn. El agregó que First Dallas ha estado orando por un ministerio completamente en español y, al llamar a González, en el “encontró a un hombre con la misma pasión y visión”.

“Apoyamos completamente la misión y visión de Humberto, proporcionaremos recursos, dinero, etc., para este ministerio”, dijo Whitehorn. “Somos una sola familia y vamos a alcanzar a ésta ciudad para Cristo. First Dallas se compromete a hacer lo que sea necesario para alcanzar a nuestra comunidad hispana”.

First Dallas en Español ofrecerá escuela dominical completamente en español para niños y adultos de todas las edades. El ministerio se centrará en cumplir la Gran Comisión al alcanzar a los hispanos de primera, segunda y tercera generación, incluyendo a aquellos hispanos que solo hablan inglés, y todo lo lograrán a través de usar las cuatro estrategias clave de la iglesia: adorar, equipar, servir e influir.

“Estamos haciendo historia en First Dallas”, dijo González. “Este será su hogar para la verdad bíblica en comunidad. First Baptist Dallas sirve en el corazón del centro de Dallas y ahora también servirá y será un hogar para hispanos de todas partes del mundo”.


First Dallas announces launch of First Dallas en Español

DALLAS—First Baptist Dallas announced during an Aug. 6 luncheon that it is launching an all-Spanish ministry, First Dallas en Español, for the first time in the church’s more than 150-year history.

The luncheon attracted 350 Hispanics from more than 18 Spanish-speaking countries who expressed an interest in being part of the new ministry.

There are about 64 million Hispanics in the U.S., of which about 12 million live in Texas. Forty-two percent of Dallas’ population is Hispanic.

“At First Baptist Dallas, we believe the church should resemble heaven—filled with people of all different races, ethnicities, and backgrounds worshipping our Lord Jesus Christ together,” said Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Dallas. “Today, First Dallas is already one of the most diverse congregations in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, and we are excited to see how God will use First Dallas en Español to minister to the Hispanic community in Dallas and around the world.”

The kickoff luncheon started with a time of prayer, followed by an introduction of the ministry by Ryland Whitehorn, executive pastor of ministries at First Dallas. He addressed participants and gave a warm welcome to the pastor of First Dallas en Español, Humberto González, and his family.

“I am really excited about this ministry. This is the result of many years of prayer. We want this church to be at the heart of First Dallas,” Whitehorn said. He added that First Dallas has been praying for a complete ministry in Spanish and, in calling González, “found a man with the same passion and vision.”

“We fully support Humberto’s mission and vision, will provide resources, money, etc., for this ministry,” Whitehorn said. “We are one family and we are going to reach this city for Christ. First Dallas is committed to doing what it takes to reach our Hispanic community.”

First Dallas en Español will offer Sunday school completely in Spanish for children and adults of all ages. The ministry will be focused on accomplishing the Great Commission by reaching first-, second-, and third-generation Hispanics, including those who only speak English, through the church’s four key strategies: worship, equip, serve, and influence.

“We are making history at First Dallas,” González said. “This will be your home for biblical truth in community. First Baptist Dallas serves at the heart of downtown Dallas and now it will also serve and be the home for Hispanics from all over the world.”

Mandrell to Equip crowd: Pour into others and you’ll always be filled

HOUSTON—Ben Mandrell, president and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources, challenged ministry leaders to remember the importance of caring about people during his keynote address at the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s Equip Conference held Saturday, Aug. 5, at Sagemont Church.

“Ministry is nothing short of showing people a visible picture of who God is,” Mandrell said.

Exegetical preaching is only half the job of a pastor, he added. Relationships with those to whom one ministers is equally important. Those called to ministry must love the sheep.

“If you are called to ministry, you’ve got to love shepherding,” Mandrell said. “And to shepherd means you’ve got to smell like sheep, which means you’ve got to be close to them all the time, not locked away in some room developing homiletical schemes. You’ve got to love people.”

Mandrell admitted the message he delivered at Equip was not the one he had originally prepared. Instead, he said he awakened that morning with another text “burning in his chest”—Romans 1. He called on ministry leaders and teachers to show human beings “what God looks like in a relationship.”

“If you’re going to go the distance in ministry, number one, you have to love seeing people. … Your eyes have to light up when people come into the room,” said Ben Mandrell, president and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources. SBTC PHOTO

Seeing, strengthening, and celebrating

Mandrell focused on Romans 1:10-12, where the apostle Paul expresses an urgent desire to “see” the Roman Christians: to be physically among them, to know them, and to be known by them.

“If you’re going to go the distance in ministry, number one, you have to love seeing people. … Your eyes have to light up when people come into the room,” he said. “If you don’t love being with people, you shouldn’t be in people work.”

Pastors and teachers must not only see, but strengthen, people, Mandrell said, referencing biblical principles in a secular book, Chip Heath and Dan Heath’s The Power of Moments, to encourage a ministry of presence.

Ministry leaders must “show up and celebrate the highs” in the lives of those they shepherd. They must also “mourn with those who mourn” and be there for what Mandrell called the “grind,” encouraging the flock during trying life circumstances.

“Pastoring is not something that you do. Pastoring is something that you are,” he said.

A true shepherd not only sees and strengthens people, but also “selfishly longs for that moment when [people] get a spiritual win,” like a coach who is more excited about the game-winning touchdown than the quarterback who threw it.

Noting his own shortcomings when he had been called to change pastoral roles or initiated the exits of others, Mandrell stressed the importance of “leaving well,” challenging listeners to encourage—or “pour courage” into—other people, investing in their spiritual well-being and success.

Noting the examples of Jesus and Paul, who taught that true humility involves considering others greater than oneself, Mandrell said, “When you pour your life into other people, you’ll always be filled.”