Author: Jayson Larson

SBTC announces ministry partnership with Convention of Southern Baptist Churches of Puerto Rico

CORPUS CHRISTI—Puerto Rico is an island of 3.3 million people that has been ravaged by poverty and the nearly annual recurrence of tropical storms and hurricanes that leave death and destruction in their wake.

Even so, faithful Southern Baptist pastors in the territory continue to take the hope of the gospel on a daily basis to those who need it most.

On Wednesday, Nov. 16, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Executive Board voted unanimously to enter into a multiyear ministry partnership with the Puerto Rico Southern Baptist Convention (PRSBC) in an effort to support their pastors and churches. The ministry partnership will provide financial resources ($25,000 to be disbursed each year for three years with an option for another $25,000 to be given during the fourth year, and an additional $25,000 to help fund a pastors conference/retreat), as well as access to other resources aimed at strengthening existing churches, planting new ones, and raising up a new generation of pastors and leaders to reach the lost.

“Puerto Rico is a small convention … but the need is phenomenal,” SBTC Executive Director Nathan Lorick said to the board. “God is doing a very unique thing in Puerto Rico.”

In a September letter to the SBTC, PRSBC Executive Director Luis R. Soto said the ministry partnership with the SBTC will help his convention and its 52 affiliated churches “better equip pastors and churches on the island for the work of evangelism, discipleship, developing leaders, and pastoral care while revitalizing and planting churches.”

Said Soto: “We are extremely grateful for the interest the SBTC has shown to associate with our [convention].”

Ninety percent of the PRSBC’s pastors are bivocational, and many are nearing retirement age without a pipeline to equip the next generation of pastors, Soto said. At the same time, the PRSBC has worked with the North American Mission Board’s Send Puerto Rico initiative to plant 22 new churches over the past three years.

The Puerto Rico ministry partnership is part of a larger effort to support the ministries of smaller Southern Baptist state conventions. In August, the SBTC announced it would enter into a similar relationship with the Nevada Baptist Convention for the purposes of strengthening churches, planting new ones, reaching the lost, and developing leaders in the nation’s fifth-fastest growing state.

 

 

SBTC AM22: Kaunitz elected to second term as SBTC president

CORPUS CHRISTI—Todd Kaunitz, pastor of New Beginnings Baptist Church of Longview, was elected to a second term as president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention by messengers at the 2022 annual meeting Nov. 15 at the American Bank Center.

A second term is customary for SBTC presidents.

In nominating Kaunitz, Caleb Turner, co-pastor of Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church, called his friend a man of humility: “intentional” in prayer, leadership, and discipleship; “irrefutable” in character; “impactful” in ministry; and “insufficient” in that Kaunitz realizes he “cannot do it on his own.”

“He will seek the Father first and foremost in everything he does as he leads this convention as he has done this past year,” Turner said.

Richard Lewis, SBTC vice president and pastor of Unity Baptist Church in Copperas Cove, called for further nominations for the office. None were submitted and Kaunitz was elected by acclamation.

During the president’s message Monday night, Kaunitz called on the Lord to “spark a passion in our heart for His presence like never before.” Kaunitz said revival is the “only hope for the church in America,” noting such a movement of God only comes through “desperate prayer.” He preached from Jeremiah 29:11 (the foundational verse on which this year’s annual theme, “Pursuing Presence,” is rooted) and led the time of corporate prayer at the close of the general session.

Following his unanimous election Tuesday morning, he expressed gratitude to messengers and asked for prayer.

 

 

SBTC AM22: Messengers cry out in united voice: ‘God, we need you’

CORPUS CHRISTI—Throughout the weekend, hundreds of messengers made their way to this gulf city on the southeastern edge of Texas to do the business of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention at its 25th annual meeting.

But as knees hit the floor during a prayer service to punctuate the meeting’s first day on Monday, the most important business—crying out to God—was being transacted.

This year’s annual meeting held a form similar to its predecessors, taking an intentional glance backward to celebrate all that God has done among SBTC churches over the previous 12 months. But this year, convention leadership made a pronounced effort to exhort God’s people to look ahead in an effort to make 2023 a year defined not by social upheaval or deep political division, but by prayer, revival, and a spiritual awakening that could sweep across not only the Lone Star State, but the entire nation and world.

“I want to ask you to wrestle with this question: do you want to see revival?” SBTC President Todd Kaunitz asked those gathered at Monday night’s prayer service. “Do you want to see revival in your own life? Do you want to see revival in your church? Revival … in our state and in our nation? Is that something that is the true core of your heart?”

Kaunitz, who pastors New Beginnings Baptist Church in Longview, led the gathering through a handful of prayer emphases. What started with prayers of confession and repentance gave way to a time of thanksgiving, and then to a unified appeal for God to reveal His glory. Those gathered then spent several minutes asking the Lord to give a fresh outpouring of His Spirit—the sole catalyst for any and every revival in history.

“In the Scriptures, specifically in the book of Acts, we see that when God’s people were desperate for Him to move, they cried out to the Lord,” Kaunitz said. “They didn’t just pray safe prayers. Moved and stirred by the Holy Spirit, they cried out to the Lord. What if we began to pray like that?”

The prayer service, which included worship led by Matt Boswell, pastor of The Trails Church in North Texas, ended with those gathered praying for others who publicly expressed a need for personal prayer, and finally, with prayers for those who are lost and in need of Jesus.

Unified prayer continued to be a theme on the second and final day of the meeting. SBTC Executive Director Nathan Lorick used the final portion of his annual report on Tuesday to call prayer “one of the pillars of who we’re going to be and what we’re going to do” as a state convention. He said it would be a “dream” if the SBTC could see 500 churches holding a regular prayer gathering in 2023.

“I just believe if we had that many churches on their faces like we were last night together, crying out to God, Texas could see a move of God like we’ve never experienced before,” Lorick said. “May we be known as the network of churches who are on our faces pleading for the hand of God to be on our churches, pleading for a move of God to be in our cities and across our state to the glory of God.”

SBTC AM22: Lopez calls for ‘renewed commitment’ to pursuing God’s presence at Spanish session

CORPUS CHRISTI—They worshipped through song and proclaimed the Word of God. They commissioned. They recognized faithful ministry service. They prayed.

The statewide call for Southern Baptists of Texas Convention churches to pursue the presence of God began here at the American Bank Center Sunday night during the Spanish session preceding the beginning of the 2022 annual meeting.

In his exposition of Deuteronomy 13:4, Luis Lopez—director of Hispanic relations and mobilization for the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee—brought a revitalizing and challenging message to the Hispanic pastors and church leaders present.

Lopez called for a renewed commitment to pursue God’s presence “until He calls us into His presence.” Pursuing His presence, Lopez said, assures followers of Jesus they are going in the right direction. He added that there is much work left for the church to do and that it cannot get there without being connected to God. That connection will naturally drive the church toward reaching the lost and having compassion for others, he said.

“I am here to encourage you to seek God’s presence and consecrate ourselves as we have never done,” Lopez said, “[so] that in our last days on Earth, Jesus will find us praying, serving others, and longing to serve the Lord.”

Celebrating what God has done through the Cooperative Program

Among the accomplishments celebrated during the first session, Chuy Ávila, SBTC en Español lead associate, and Jesse Contreras, SBTC en Español associate, reported that more than 500 lay leaders and pastors were trained in discipleship, leadership, and other ministries through the regional “Capacitarte” conference in 2022. Ávila also noted that for the first time, a session was held entirely in Spanish at the Equip Conference, drawing capacity crowds. The annual “Florece” (Flourish) retreat for women and the “Hombres de Impacto” (Men of Impact) men’s retreat drew around 600 people each. The SBTC provided training and enrichment to women around Texas through the “She Stands” conferences and fellowship meetings for pastors’ wives.

Youth Week had a victory, seeing 450 students attend—of which about 50 gave their lives to Christ or reaffirmed their faith. They also celebrated victories in evangelism, led by Bruno Molina, who testified that more than 1,000 people have been trained to evangelize and in excess of 100 people have come to Christ.

Luis Lopez preaches about pursuing the presence of God during the Spanish session prior to the 2022 Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Annual Meeting in Corpus Christi. SBTC PHOTO

SBTC partnership with Send Network bearing fruit

This year, the SBTC and Send Network started a partnership that led to the most Hispanic churches being planted since 2005. The first combined national English and Spanish evaluation retreat was held, and the first class of Spanish planter residency graduates is already planting. Planters and their spouses from the southern region of the U.S. were taken to a retreat with Send Network in Miami for a time of encouragement and training.

New planter commissioned

Ávila said it is his prayer—and something SBTC en Español hopes can become a tradition—to commission a new church planter to start a Hispanic work in each location where the SBTC Annual Meeting is held. On this occasion, God has called Ruben de Rus, along with his wife, Azucena, and their children, to plant a Hispanic work in Corpus Christi. The de Rus family was commissioned and prayed for as part of the Spanish session Sunday evening.

“The Hispanic community here is very large, and we didn’t have a Hispanic work in this city,” Ávila said. Through the SBTC and North American Mission Board, de Rus and his family have been mentored and equipped to start the first Hispanic Baptist church in Corpus Christi. Ávila encouraged all those present, and as many churches as possible, to support the new work in some way, either by committing to pray for them, supporting them financially, or by doing short-term missionary work to support the new church.

Ministerial legacy recognition

Mike Gonzales, former director of SBTC’s en Español department, recognized and presented a plaque to Pastor Marcos Ramos and his wife, Irma, for their ministerial faithfulness in Texas and at First Baptist Church of Galena Park for the last 20 years.

 

SBTC Sexual Abuse Advisory Committee ready to present report to messengers

GRAPEVINE—At the 2021 Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Annual Meeting, messengers approved the formation of a Sexual Abuse Advisory Committee (SAAC) to research the convention’s practices and future opportunities to resource affiliated churches in preventing, responding to, and reporting sexual abuse.

As this year’s annual meeting in Corpus Christi approaches, that committee is prepared to share its findings with messengers.

“Our team approached this incredibly important task prayerfully and seriously,” SBTC President Todd Kaunitz said in a statement being released with the report. “As a network of churches, we have the responsibility to assist local churches by providing resources and training opportunities to protect their most vulnerable members from abuse and, in the event that abuse occurs, to provide resources to help the church respond both spiritually and lawfully in a way that gives proper physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual care to everyone affected.”

Said SBTC Executive Director Nathan Lorick: “I am grateful for the many hours of work the advisory committee has invested in helping the SBTC be better prepared to assist local churches in dealing with sexual abuse. Our desire is to be a valuable resource for churches as they seek to protect the vulnerable and minister to those who have experienced abuse.”

The full text of Kaunitz’s statement, the motion authored by Michael Criner (senior pastor, Rock Hill Baptist Church, Brownsboro) and approved by last year’s messengers, and the findings and recommendations of the SAAC can be found below:

SBTC Sexual Abuse Advisory Committee Report

At our 2021 SBTC Annual Meeting I was given the assignment by our messengers to assemble an advisory committee for the purpose of having the Convention research and provide critical resources to affiliated churches as they work to prevent, respond to, and report sexual abuse. Our team approached this incredibly important task prayerfully and seriously.

As a network of churches, we have the responsibility to assist local churches by providing resources and training opportunities to protect their most vulnerable members from abuse and, in the event that abuse occurs, to provide resources to help the church respond both spiritually and lawfully in a way that gives proper physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual care to everyone affected.

In addition, the committee has also reviewed the Convention’s internal policies and procedures for handling reports of abuse. We were encouraged that as an entity, the SBTC has historically strived to operate with the utmost integrity, intentionality, and godliness; this was exemplified in how the staff cooperated and assisted throughout the work of the committee. Through our research and study of the Convention’s internal policies and practices, we have identified some recommendations that we believe will make churches and the ministries those churches accomplish through the Convention even stronger and more effective moving forward.

Todd Kaunitz
President, Southern Baptists
of Texas Convention

Motion approved by messengers at the 2021 SBTC Annual Meeting in Flint, TX

My name is Michael Criner a messenger from Rock Hill Baptist Church in Brownsboro. In light of the recent conversations happening within the SBC in regard to sexual abuse, and because the SBTC has been proactive and strategic in her efforts toward righteousness and holiness. After consultation with the leadership of the SBTC…

I, therefore, in the interest of protecting the vulnerable populations among the churches of the SBTC, I move that the newly elected convention president form an advisory committee which will gather information regarding the convention’s efforts to assist churches in matters related to sexual abuse.

Specifically, the committee will focus on three areas:

  1. the convention’s best practices in helping churches prevent sexual abuse;
  2. the convention’s best practices in training churches regarding reporting requirements along with an effort to review the convention’s policies and procedures when abuse cases are reported at the convention level or to convention personnel; and
  3. the convention’s best practices in equipping churches to honor, care for, and minister to those affected by sexual abuse, including but not limited to survivors and families of survivors.

The committee will also study the various partner relationships the convention currently has with

organizations who work in the arena of sexual abuse and sexual abuse prevention, gathering information on how best practices among these organizations compare and contrast with approaches of other organizations who do similar work.

The size of the committee will be determined by the newly elected president but should include at least one trauma-informed counselor and one SBTC church member who has worked as a survivor advocate.

The advisory committee shall bring its report, along with any recommendations, to the 2022 annual meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

COMMITTEE REPORT

The Theological Foundations

This sexual abuse advisory committee was appointed by the President at the direction of the 2021 messengers to the SBTC Annual Meeting. Because the SBTC is a confessional family of churches, the committee’s recommendations were shaped by four doctrinal convictions expressed in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. It is our desire that beginning with these four guiding convictions will promote unity in our SBTC family regarding how our shared theological commitments shape this important issue.

  1. Humanity. Humanity “is the special creation of God, made in His own image” (Article III) with inherent dignity and respect. Key Implications: Both survivors and offenders are God’s image bearers. Survivors are to be loved, nurtured, and cared for toward healing. Offenders are to be biblically confronted and called to repentance.
  2. Sin. Human beings have inherited “a nature and an environment inclined toward sin” (Article III) leaving them capable of unspeakable evil. Key Implications: Both the abused and the abuser have been deeply impacted by sin and need ongoing ministry. Churches should not quickly dismiss an accusation and should take allegations seriously.
  3. Salvation. Salvation “is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.” It includes sanctification, a work of the Holy Spirit, by which progress is enabled “toward moral and spiritual maturity,” continuing “throughout the regenerate person’s life” (Article IV). Key Implications: Those who commit sexual sin in any form, including sexual abuse, should repent and pursue holiness in Christ.
  4. The Church. Churches are “associated by covenant in faith and fellowship of the gospel” who exist as the Body of Christ (Article VI). Key Implications: Churches must be a refuge of grace and truth to the hurting and broken. Churches exemplify this by reserving the offices of pastor and deacon to the scripturally qualified (“above reproach”), implementing clear protocols for repentant and unrepentant offenders, and acknowledging the biblical role of government as a God-ordained servant for good and for the restraint of evil (Article XVII).

The Research

The Advisory Committee’s work focused on five areas of attention derived from the motion. The below statements are summaries of the research findings and influenced the committee’s recommendations. Recommendations can be found [below].

  1. Prevention. Churches should be vigilant in regularly training all their people – leaders, employees, volunteers, members, adults, adolescents, and children (in age-appropriate ways) – to recognize unsafe practices, grooming behaviors, and warning signs and to take appropriate action. Churches should also develop appropriate, open lines of communication for both children and adults who suspect sexual abuse.
  2. Ministry. Churches should work to create a culture of care for survivors of sexual abuse. Policies should include those that help leaders and volunteers recognize signs of abuse. Churches should consider sharing resource lists of vetted counselors, care ministries, and support groups. Practices should include connecting with local agencies to provide resources for survivors and their families. Clear and appropriate boundaries for sex offenders must be established and maintained.
  3. Training. Churches should establish clear policies regarding response to sexual abuse allegations including the Texas mandatory reporting responsibility of all people. Churches should educate their employees, members, and volunteers that every person has the obligation to report abuse or neglect, even if only suspected, to appropriate authorities in accordance with Texas Family Code Sec. 261.101. Churches should establish annual reviews of their reporting and responding procedures. Parents and legal guardians should be educated on and regularly reminded of the church’s policies and procedures. Churches must cooperate with local law enforcement and Child Protective Services.
  4. SBTC Policies and Practices. Convention employees should regularly be trained on mandatory reporting protocols and reminded of internal policies and practices. The SBTC should consider adding a protocol to existing policies that demonstrates appropriate care for employees who are survivors of sexual abuse. Staff should also continue and strengthen their practice of reporting, recording, and following up with claims of sexual abuse.
  5. SBTC Ministry Partnerships. The SBTC works with MinistrySafe to provide training for SBTC employees and volunteers, as well as church leaders and volunteers, in the area of abuse prevention and awareness. While the committee is thankful for the work of MinistrySafe, it recognizes its limitations as a stand-alone training resource in the area of sexual abuse. The SBTC should consider establishing working relationships with other organizations that it can recommend to assist churches in the areas of peer-to-peer abuse prevention and awareness training, caring well for the abused, trauma-informed care, addressing pornography addiction, and establishing relationships with local law enforcement and legal representation.

The Recommendations

Recognizing that each church is autonomous and controls its own ministry, activities and staff, the Advisory Committee recommends these steps in connection with their assignment from the 2021 Annual Meeting messenger body.

  1. We recommend the SBTC contract with a designated consultant(s) and/or organization(s) to aid the convention and its member churches regarding matters of sexual abuse.
  2. We recommend the SBTC, in consultation with experts in the field, develop a church resource guide for (a) assisting churches in training their congregations for sexual abuse prevention, (b) ministering to sexual abuse survivors and their families, (c) protocols for sexual abusers and accused sexual abusers in the church, and (d) appropriate reporting of suspected sexual abuse in accordance with state law.
  3. We recommend affiliated churches and SBTC staff cooperate with the Southern Baptist Convention’s “Ministry Check” effort.
  4. We recommend the SBTC strengthen its internal policies and practices regarding reporting sexual abuse, accessibility of resources to affiliated churches, and informing staff of available resources and services.

Todd Kaunitz, SBTC President
Justin Arnold, Chairman
Michael Criner
Adam Mason
Joyce McKinley
Christy Piles
Spencer Plumlee
Tamera Turner

FBC Forney’s Lopez, Emmaus Church’s Cooper join list of SBTC officer nominees

CORPUS CHRISTI—Eddie Lopez, pastor of First Baptist Church of Forney en Español, will be nominated to serve as vice president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention at its 2022 annual meeting Nov. 14-15 at American Bank Center in Corpus Christi. Lopez will be nominated by Ed Hancock, FBC Forney’s executive pastor who also serves on the SBTC Executive Board.

Sharonda Cooper, a member of Emmaus Church of Georgetown (a new SBTC church plant), will be nominated as convention secretary. Cooper, who has previously served with the Texas Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee, will be nominated by her pastor, Marshall Canales—who previously served with pastor and former SBTC President Juan Sanchez at High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin.

Lopez and Cooper will join Todd Kaunitz, pastor of New Beginnings Baptist Church in Longview, in rounding out the slate of officers to be nominated in Corpus Christi. Kaunitz will be nominated for SBTC president by Caleb Turner, co-pastor of Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church. Kaunitz was first elected to serve as SBTC president on Nov. 9, 2021, at the convention’s annual meeting in Flint.

Former SBTC president Bowman stepping down from longtime Austin pastorate in 2023

AUSTIN—J. Kie Bowman, senior pastor of Hyde Park Baptist Church and The Quarries Church, announced plans to transition from his pastoral role in March of 2023, following 25 years at the Austin church.

Bowman told congregants in a special video announcement that being called as senior pastor of Hyde Park in 1997 was “the greatest privilege” he had ever been offered.

“I have loved every minute of this journey, and I still love it today,” the pastor said.

He explained that his decision had been in process for a few years, beginning during the COVID lockdowns, and was the product of “diligent prayer.”

Bowman described the church’s upcoming process of transition, noting that a pastoral search committee would be assembled, a rarity in the congregation’s history, as the 126-year-old Austin church has had only two senior pastors during the past 62 years.

Referencing current cultural challenges, Bowman said, “This is not a time for delay or a season to retreat. Times like these make us realize there is an urgency about fulfilling the Great Commission of Jesus Christ,” exhorting the church to seize the “God-sized” opportunities ahead.

“We must continue to do all we can to share Christ with our city and beyond,” he urged.

Bowman’s pastoral vision for Hyde Park in 1997 was threefold: lead as many people to Christ as possible, faithfully teach the Bible, and lead the church to become a praying church. Almost 10,000 people became members of HPBC during his tenure—with half of those coming by baptism. In 2007, Hyde Park became a multi-site church when Bowman led it to launch a second campus at The Quarries, the church’s 57-acre recreational park in North Austin.

In addition to his time in the pulpit, Bowman has authored six books and contributed to 13 others. His prayer literature has been read by more than 1 million people. In 2018, he was chosen to preach the keynote sermon at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Dallas.

Additionally, he served more than a decade on the executive board of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, including two terms as president in 2020 and 2021. Jim Richards, SBTC executive director during Bowman’s presidency, said, “[A]s he completes his tenure as lead pastor of Hyde Park, I marvel at the work God has done through him. He is as passionate today about getting people to Jesus as he was 30 years ago. His commitment to prayer is an inspiration.”

While leaving the pastorate, Bowman is not retiring from ministry. He will continue his work as an author, speaker, and leader in the interdenominational Unceasing Prayer Movement in Austin (austinprays.org).

DR chaplaincy teams offer ‘spiritual counseling’ at FEMA request

FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla.—One Hurricane Ian survivor found dealing with the pressures of the storm and the storms of life almost unbearable … until she spoke with Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief chaplains at Fort Myers Beach.

Fort Myers Beach, an oceanfront community on Estero Island—an insular strip in the Gulf of Mexico some 16 miles south of the city of Fort Myers—was a thriving vacation spot before Ian hit in late September.

On Saturday morning, Oct. 22, SBTC DR chaplain Lowell Warren of Mexia, director of missions for the Bi-Stone Association, arrived to serve survivors. He learned from the county sheriff’s department that Estero Island would be closed to outsiders for two days, beginning Monday, Oct. 24, so that major cleanup operations could occur. Homeowners who elected to leave Sunday evening would not be permitted to cross the bridge from the mainland to access their damaged property until Oct. 26.

By order of local, state, and federal authorities, the only people allowed on the island for two days, besides residents already there, would be city contractors, first responders, health care workers, recovery workers, Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel, and representatives from other social service agencies, Warren said.

Then FEMA officials recognized needs among the survivors that even the most helpful social service providers could not meet.

A ‘high demand’ for prayer

“There was such a high demand for prayer. People were asking, ‘Is there anyone here who could pray with me?’” Warren said he learned from the FEMA representative, who asked the chaplain if the Southern Baptists would establish a spiritual counseling presence at Fort Myers Beach, both during the two-day restricted period and after.

It was a deal no chaplain could refuse.

“He asked us to be available to provide spiritual guidance to people who are struggling to make some sense of what life looks like for them after the storm. He asked us to be here to pray for those who come in seeking prayer and encouragement,” Warren said.

Five SBTC DR chaplains set up a table with Bibles and tracts in Spanish and English and began praying and talking with survivors at the FEMA site on Fort Myers Beach on Oct. 24.

“They aren’t handing out tracts and Bibles, but they are making them available for people to pick up,” said Sue Robinson, a SBTC DR administrative volunteer from Huntsville who is onsite at McGregor Baptist in Fort Myers.

“We expect to stay here as long as needed,” Warren said. “People are very receptive. The fields are white unto harvest,” he added, noting that the chaplains talked to 25 people on Oct. 24 and prayed with 15, supplying Bibles and tracts to all who asked.

They prayed with struggling first responders, survivors, and even agency personnel.

They also spoke with Paula (name changed), who came into the FEMA tent after speaking with chaplain Colin Hext, a retired firefighter. Another fireman had brought Paula to meet Hext, saying, “I need you to talk to this lady.”

At the FEMA site in Fort Myers Beach, SBTC DR chaplains prayed with survivors, like Paula, suffering in the wake of Hurricane Ian. SUBMITTED PHOTO

“[Paula] was ready to give up,” Warren said. “She had even thought about ending her life. She said she had stood on her fourth-floor balcony contemplating suicide.” Chaplains learned that Paula was a believer. “Life had just been dumping on her before the storm,” Warren said.

After visiting with several chaplains for a while, Paula recalled the joy of her salvation.

“I would start a Scripture and she would finish it,” Warren said. “The Lord started bringing it back. All of the stuff going on in her life she just couldn’t handle anymore. The Holy Spirit took control. She left with a sparkle in her eye and hope in her heart.”

Paula agreed to return to pray with the chaplains the following day and as often afterward as needed.

FEMA has requested chaplains in the past during other disasters, SBTC DR Director Scottie Stice said.

But DR chaplains were busy even before the FEMA request. Warren told of meeting Pat Marchan, a Fort Myers Beach resident and joyful Christian who proudly displayed a devotional book miraculously preserved from her flooded home. The book had comforted Marchan following the death of her son six years before. Its survival without any water damage reminded her that God had protected her family although all else was destroyed.

Recovery work goes on

Disaster relief work continues in Florida as Southern Baptist teams from across the nation serve.

After preparing more than 73,000 meals distributed by the Texas division of the Salvation Army, the SBTC DR mass feeding unit operating out of McGregor Baptist in Fort Myers ceased operations begun nearly three weeks ago, on Oct. 4.

“Yesterday [Oct. 23], the final meal count for the day was 1,950,” Stice said.

A quick response kitchen unit manned by Dee and Doug Cates of Pampa is serving DR workers housed at McGregor Baptist in Fort Myers, as are shower and laundry units from Calvary Baptist in Beaumont, Arkansas DR, and Florida DR, Robinson said.

Some 100 families from McGregor Baptist were directly impacted by Ian, Robinson said. “They’ve lost homes and roofs; some have been displaced. Even though it’s a large church, 100 families is a significant number.” Even so, “this church has just opened their arms to everybody. It’s just been amazing,” she added.

SBTC DR teams have joined other SBDR crews to help with the massive clean-up efforts needed after the storm. Volunteers are committing to two-week stints.

Among these, Mike Phillips led an SBTC DR chainsaw and recovery team from First Baptist Bellville. David Dean continues to direct a recovery team from First Baptist Pflugerville while a team from Spring Baptist Church under the leadership of Bill Zaffos is also working out of McGregor, Robinson said.

To date, SBTC DR volunteers served 754 volunteer days and contributed 7,054 hours of service, rotating in and out of Florida, doing a variety of tasks from feeding to mud out to chainsaw work to chaplaincy, Stice said.

Other state Baptist DR teams involved in Florida have included California, Arizona, New Mexico, Tennessee, and Texas Baptist Men, Stice confirmed, adding that additional teams from Hawaii, Mississippi, and Kansas/Nebraska are expected the week of Oct. 31.

Donations for Hurricane Ian relief efforts can be made here.

Let your Christian voice be heard

A couple weeks out from Election Day, the pundits and professional guessers are having a moment. Which issue will motivate voters? Which demographics will be most motivated? Which constituencies will abandon their party because they feel ignored?

It gets so that I know the questions and the answers offered before the discussion begins. It sounds as if our participation in our nation’s governance is fragile, contingent on everything from the weather to our mood to what TV ad enrages us the morning of the event. Christians should have a more stable motivation for voting than those governed by their feelings and tribal memberships.

Voting is a way that we can affect the implementation of neighborly love. One item on my ballot in Arkansas will be legalization of recreational marijuana. The well-funded ad campaign for this effort touts tax-funded cancer research, more money for law enforcement (which will be needed), and thousands of jobs. Maybe these positive things would occur, though they have been far less than promised in other boondoggles (gambling and lotteries come to mind), but my vote will have less to do with what’s promised to me than it will with the negative effects on my community—the individuals ruined by yet another state-sponsored bad habit.

And of course, there are positive things you might vote for, and leaders who you believe will stand for those positive things. You pay taxes and you pay the salaries of those who make decisions large and small. Voting is the best way to influence how that money is used.

Voting is a rare privilege in the history of the world. Factor in thousands of years of recorded history and then remove all the nations run by monarchs, tyrants, corrupt cabals, and tribal chaos. Now mark through every “democratic election” where the incumbent won by a nearly unanimous vote. What you have left shows grassroots ownership of government as a mostly modern phenomenon. And here we are, placed by God in this moment. If you have any sense that government, however limited, can benefit the common good, this is your shot. Many of us who came from another country came here for this. It’s a rare gift to be able to affirm or fire your leaders.

Voting can be, therefore, an act of optimism. Listen, I know that these guys will disappoint me in some way—they or I will be wrong on many occasions. I also believe that no leader except the Lord will “turn things around” in any lasting way. But our leaders have the power to occasionally help people who need it. They have the power to provide for public safety and justice. It is cynical and useless to say that your voice doesn’t matter because “they are all crooks.” It’s also not true. Steer between the delusion that a leader can return us to the good old days (which weren’t really), and the cynicism of believing that the game is so rigged that your participation doesn’t matter.

The vote of biblical Christians especially matters. You and I live in a culture in which the ascending worldview is as scientifically and spiritually false as that of our Druid ancestors. You know something else about the nature of truth and the significance of human life, something that can only be revealed by the one God who made everyone and everything. Our nation’s founding documents assume some Judeo-Christian truths that are necessary for our survival as a nation. So yes, it becomes very important for those who believe in the significance of marriage, of children, of gender, of life, and of the freedom of every person’s conscience, to speak into every public decision. You can consider your participation part of being salt—a healing, preservative influence—in an ailing and corrupt society.

I don’t believe this world is my eternal home—it is not all we have. I also don’t believe that we, who are limited and mortal, will turn this present darkness into the kingdom of God. But we do live here for now. We do know some important things because our lives are being transformed by God’s Spirit. And we are motivated by something far better than self-interest.

That’s why I’m going to vote for the best choices, as informed by my relationship with the God of everything, offered on my ballot this November.

Monroe seeks to mobilize Southwestern Seminary community for ‘polyphony’ of prayer

Motioning to the psalter she read to her father, T.W. Hunt, the day he passed away, Melana Hunt Monroe said the last thing she said to the longtime Southwestern Seminary professor was, “You have taught us how to pray and we will be faithful, and we will pray.” He died immediately afterward.

In the days following his Sept. 27 appointment as interim president, David S. Dockery issued a call for 40 days of prayer for God’s mercy and favor based on Psalm 90:17. Monroe, the only child of Hunt who served as professor of piano and organ at Southwestern Seminary from 1963-1987, contacted Dockery to ask if there was “anything already in the works for what prayer for Southwestern” during the 40 days “would look like” and volunteering “to help facilitate” anything the new leader wanted.

Monroe’s ties with the Fort Worth school are lifelong. She grew up on the campus beginning as a seven-year-old when her father began serving on the faculty. Her daughter, Katie Monroe Frugé earned both her Master of Divinity and Doctor of Philosophy degrees at the seminary. Monroe explained she “grew up praying for Southwestern.”

As part of her first steps in encouraging churches to pray for Southwestern Seminary, Monroe has “begun reaching out to people” who can put her “in contact with churches across Texas so that our people in Texas that are direct recipients of the work that God has done” at Southwestern who “can also pray” that God “would look with favor on us and carry us through this time.”

Monroe’s motivation to pray is based on Jesus’s words to His disciples in Matt. 6:10, recognizing that Jesus told His followers to “pray for the Kingdom to come.”

“My part in that is prayer – praying for the Kingdom to come through, in part, the work and people that Southwestern touches,” Monroe explained. She notes the “number one prayer” her father had in his prayer notebook was “the name of the Lord Jesus be glorified above everything else.”

Monroe (left) visits with David S. Dockery, one of the men who has been appointed to an interim leadership position at the seminary. SWBTS PHOTO

This was a prayer he prayed for their “family, for Southwestern, and for the SBC,” she remembered and said the glorification of Christ “will look very different in every life because the Lord glorifies His name differently in each one of us, but I think the common denominator is that we’re going to see Jesus and each person is part of the solution.”

Monroe, recalling Dockery’s request from Psalm 90:17 that the Lord would look with favor upon Southwestern Seminary, said “every face is going to reflect that favor.”

As she seeks to mobilize churches, associations, and ministers to pray for Southwestern, Monroe cites an example her dad gave when he preached in chapel service when Kenneth S. Hemphill was serving as president.

During the chapel service the retired music professor went to the piano on the platform and began to play “a little bit of a fugue,” a musical composition which includes the same melody played simultaneously at varying octaves but in such a way they “intertwine.” Hunt explained in the chapel service it is called “polyphony.” However, in the chapel service, Hunt played “Amazing Grace,” which Monroe said is an example of homophony because it is “one melody line and everybody supports that one melody line.”

Citing the words of her dad, Monroe recalled he told the chapel audience that day, “Folks, the Lord here is writing polyphony, not homophony. We all have a melody, and all the melodies work together to make this amazingly complex beautiful masterpiece.”

Monroe said the prayers of the Southwestern Seminary community are “polyphony” as each “blends together.”

“God isn’t using soloists; He is using a choir,” she concluded.

To commit to pray for Southwestern Seminary, whether as an individual or a church, please click here.

This article originally appeared on the SWBTS website.