Author: Jayson Larson

SBTC No. 2 in CP allocation budget for first time ever

The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention made history recently, and kingdom causes will be the beneficiaries of it.

For the first time in its 23-year history, SBTC rose to No. 2 in total Cooperative Program allocation budget with receipts totaling $15,620,847.92 (October 2020-September 2021). That represents a nearly 8 percent increase from the previous year’s giving of roughly $14.5 million.

As they did in 2019-2020, Alabama Baptists again led the way in CP allocation budget this past year with $19,115,014.76 in receipts. Georgia ($15,430,284.18), Florida ($15,184,241.21) and Tennessee ($14,190,756.48) round out the top five giving states, respectively.

SBTC Associate Executive Director Tony Wolfe pointed to the biblical examples highlighted by the Apostle Paul of joyful, sacrificial investments on the part of churches in Macedonia and Philippi as templates for the faithful giving of Southern Baptists in Texas today.

“Like the apostle, we stand with great pride in the churches of the SBTC to pass along their kingdom investments into national and international mission work, seminary education, advocacy for religious liberty in the public square, and so much more,” Wolfe said.

SBTC’s giving is significant because of what the dollars represent—increased support for cooperative gospel efforts. Of the $15,620,847 given through CP, nearly $11.5 million will go to the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board to extend the gospel reach and to plant churches across the continent and around the world.

When adding the $8.7 million given through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the $3 million given through the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering over the same time period over the past year, SBTC churches contributed more than $23 million to missions outside Texas.

“It is no small thing that SBTC churches gave so extravagantly in 2021,” Wolfe said.

NAMB re-asserts BF&M position regarding office of pastor

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) – The North American Mission Board issued a statement Thursday (Oct. 14) re-asserting its position that “only qualified men” will “serve as the communicator for teaching and preaching” in the main gatherings or worship services of church plants endorsed by the Southern Baptist entity.

In serving SBC churches, the statement began, NAMB seeks to “fulfill its mission in fidelity” to The Baptist Faith and Message. As part of that commitment, NAMB will endorse or fund church planters whose practices remain consistent with the BF&M. In this case, “consistent” refers to Article 6 of the BF&M, which includes, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastors is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”

“We recognize there are differing views on how best to interpret and apply Article VI,” the letter said. “… We will continue to partner with and assist any cooperating churches. We believe it best, however, to reserve endorsement and funding for planters who are willing to reflect the practice of most Southern Baptists in this issue.”

While the context and challenges of church planting may seemingly be in an ever-changing state of flux, NAMB President Kevin Ezell told Baptist Press that those endorsed by the agency are expected to adhere to Southern Baptist expectations.

“We are always walking with planters through the challenges of their missionary work and clarifying our guidance as they seek to serve God as He has called them,” he said. “NAMB reaffirmed again this week that we always have and always will only endorse Biblically qualified men as pastors, fulfilling those responsibilities unique to that of a pastor. We are committed to the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 and are complementarian by conviction. There should be no doubt about our expectations. We love and support our missionaries and our prayer is that every Southern Baptist will continue to confidently and enthusiastically support them as well.

“The challenge of church planting is as tough as it has ever been. The divisiveness we see in the media every day, the lingering impacts of the global pandemic and an increasing secularized world are all reminders of why taking the Gospel to every city and town is so important.”

The letter further reflected on NAMB’s history of encouraging church planters in harmony toward “the majority of Southern Baptist churches in belief and practice.” On this particular topic, only qualified men would hold the office or titles such as pastor, elder, bishop or overseer.

“Since culture, practice and methodology in the early years of a church plant set a foundation for future ministry, all endorsed Send Network planters will agree to abide by this guideline for the duration of their endorsement period,” it concluded.

The announcement comes after accusations earlier this year of women in some NAMB church plants having pastoral teaching roles or titles with “pastor” in them, though none were listed as the senior or lead pastor of the church. On Feb. 18, NAMB issued a statement on the matter. In a review of 1,200 endorsed church planters at that time, six listed a woman with the title of pastor or in a staff role.

“Those have been addressed,” it said. “We individually and appropriately address these situations as they come to our attention.” In those situations where a church planter insisted on keeping a woman in a pastoral teaching role or with the title on staff, the letter continued, NAMB would remove endorsement and funding.

Debate over the subject peaked in early May when Saddleback Community Church in California, the SBC’s largest congregation, ordained three women into teaching roles that included the title of pastor or a variation thereof. Various SBC leaders, including then-President J.D. Greear and Southern Seminary President Al Mohler, issued statements disagreeing with Saddleback’s decision.

Tragedy opens door for ministry to single moms at FBC Dallas

DALLAS  April 27, 1990 began as a normal Friday for Shea Lowery, a mom of two small children in northwest Alabama. Shea’s husband, Jeff, left early for a construction job and the young mother busied herself tending to the needs of a two- and a three-year-old.

Later that day, Shea and the kids headed out to tell neighbors about their church’s weeklong revival. Friday was Friendship Night. In the days before cell phones and COVID, one knocked on doors and issued in-person invites.

When a nagging pain turned into a “sick headache,” Shea and the kids detoured by her sister’s house so she could rest.

Then the phone rang.

“There’s been an accident. Keep Shea there till I can come for her,” Shea’s mom told the sister.

Lowery’s memories remain vivid more than three decades later: Her mother’s face while speaking to the doctor as Shea paused at hospital information. Family members walking through the door of a small room where the doctor had taken Shea to deliver the bad news. A moment alone in a hospital restroom after viewing her husband’s body when she looked in the mirror and asked, “God, what am I going to do?”

“I thought Jeff had just been hurt,” Shea recalled. Instead, he had been killed instantly in an electrical accident on the construction site.

Shea Lowery’s world was upended.

A new journey

“I was a 24-year-old stay-at-home mom with no college education. I had awakened that morning a married woman and I [went] to bed that night a single mom,” she recalled.

“The funeral comes and goes,” she mused. “Life got to going again for our family. A new journey was appointed.”

Part of that new journey, Lowery knew, would someday involve a calling into fulltime Christian ministry. But first she had children to raise.

“I prayed a Hannah’s prayer,” she told the TEXAN: “Lord, if you will allow me to raise my family near family, I will go to seminary.” He did, and when the kids were grown, the Lord “came calling.”

Meanwhile, Lowery finished her undergraduate education at Blue Mountain College in Mississippi.

Remarriage never appeared on the horizon, but seminary did. Lowery started postgraduate work at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary before accepting a scholarship to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary where she earned a Master of Arts in biblical counseling and a Doctor of Educational Ministry in family ministries.

Entrusted Hope begins

In 2017, while at Southwestern, Lowery started Entrusted Hope Ministries, a 501 c3 speaking and writing outreach. Ensuing years found her speaking at numerous Christian events.

Lowery joined First Baptist Dallas soon after beginning studies at Southwestern. Then singles pastor Michael Perron (now at Prestonwood) asked her to teach a Sunday school class for single moms. After praying, Lowery said yes and agreed to attend a planning meeting on April 27, 2017.

Only Shea knew it was the anniversary of her husband’s death.

Sporting “big black sunglasses” to hide her tears, she remembered God’s goodness. “What a faithful God you are. You allowed me to live out the life of a single mom, and now you are allowing me to use what you entrusted to me to entrust to others,” she recalled telling the Lord.

“People who are going through trials have no idea how God will use the trial,” Lowery said. “They made it to the other side, but not without the storm in the middle.”

Lowery named the new class “Strong & Courageous” and started teaching. She soon saw the need to broaden the outreach.

She discussed possibilities with Perron and Pam Brewer, First Dallas women’s ministries director, who encouraged her. In addition to preparing materials for the Sunday school class, she began working on ideas for a single moms ministry model that churches could adopt. This formed the basis of her doctoral project at Southwestern.

She named the new ministry as she had the class: Strong & Courageous, an outreach of Entrusted Hope. The name evoked Joshua 1:9, where the Lord urges Joshua to be “strong and courageous.” Since Lowery’s full first name is O’Shea, the original version of Joshua, the link to the Old Testament hero seemed apt.

Word got out. Pastors started contacting Lowery, telling her that when the material was finished, they wanted access. Some inquired about translating the content into other languages.

Charla Vinyard, Entrusted Hope board member since its inception, affirmed the ministry’s importance since “the single mother is the fastest growing segment of our society.”

“Instead of walking up to a single mom and patting her on the back and telling her, ‘You can do this,’ why not teach her how to biblically?” Lowery noted.

First Dallas has embraced Strong & Courageous. Lowery now also teaches a Sunday evening course as part of the church’s Discipleship University. Through First Dallas, S&C offers fellowship and discipleship opportunities for single moms, including outings with the kids.

For DU this fall, Lowery is teaching a seven-week Bible study she wrote based on Joshua and other Scripture. Attendees will also learn such practical life skills as resume building and financial management.

Program basics

For the broader Christian community, S&C offers a four-phase model for congregations wishing to do single moms ministry:

Phase I: Launch: A seven-week study on spiritual disciplines written by professors and their wives from Blue Mountain College, Southwestern and New Orleans seminaries

Phase II: Living it out: The Entrusted Lessons for the Journey Bible study written by Lowery

Phase III: Going deeper: A discipleship program encouraging the mentoring of younger women by older ones

Phase IV: Equip: A series focusing on life skills for single moms including workplace and interview tips and counsel in money and time management

Lowery said she is currently exploring options for publishing the model for churches to use.

A ministry opportunity

Churches are already signing on and Lowery finds herself in meetings frequently these days.

More than 40 women from Hillcrest Baptist Church in New Albany, Mississippi are now going through the Entrusted study with Lowery via Zoom. Instead of waiting on a published version, the church has printed the material for attendees.

First Baptist Tuscaloosa has scheduled Lowery to teach Entrusted Lessons in person in January 2022 and will film the series for distribution.

Lifeway has asked her to write two blogs: one on the loss of her husband and the other with tips for churches doing single moms ministry.

For single moms such as Nikki Lopez, who serves as the Sunday school class director and administrator for S&C activities at First Dallas, the heart of the ministry is friendship.

“When I became a single mom, I didn’t have friends or support outside my family,” Lopez said. Now her S&C friends provide encouragement, support, spiritual counsel and even babysitting for one another.

“I love that Shea was a single mom herself. She is somebody we can come to. She understands what we are really going through. She has lived it as a single mom,” Lopez said.

Churches and moms designing more information should visit to find daily Scriptures, lessons, mom tips, links to podcasts, blogs, prayer support and other resources.

Baptists respond with compassion, prayer and peacemaking to Nigerian conflicts

Nigeria is increasingly in the news, and not for its tourist attractions. Headlines amplify the spiral of hatred, civil unrest, violence, kidnapping and destruction that is “spinning out of control” in many parts of the African nation, according to some observers.

IMB missionaries serving in West Africa are aware of how complicated the news-making situations seem to others. Deron Thomas*, who serves in the region, says that the events are complex and built on long-standing distrust of people who are different — different tribes, different religions, from different parts of the country. And sometimes, it’s just violence against innocent victims.

The situation is complex, but the ministry doesn’t have to be. Thomas says that through Send Relief, missionaries and national Nigerian partners are offering assistance to Christian brothers and sisters — including converts from predominantly Muslim people groups — who have been targets of violence.

“We want to help those communities of believers heal from the trauma and attacks and be restored,” Thomas said.

That includes rebuilding homes and churches that have been burned down, providing seeds to replant farms, and offering psychological and spiritual healing.

But the ministry isn’t reserved for Christians alone.

“We’re actually working on our first project to extend a kind of olive branch to the community that has sponsored some recent attacks,” Thomas shared.

Christians have formally approached those who attacked them, asking, “What is something we can do to serve your community?”

The community leaders were taken aback at the offer. They said they need a medical clinic and a veterinary clinic for their cattle.

“There is going to be this component of tangibly turning the other cheek because one of the big problems here is this endless cycle of violence and retaliation,” Thomas explained.

“Turning the other cheek is something that no one can do apart from the power of the Holy Spirit working in them, especially when things as devastating as these attacks happen.”

As missionaries and national believers direct people to how Christ would respond, Thomas and his local Baptist partners hope that the violent cycle might be interrupted, and that peace will be seen as a true option.

“We’re hopeful that this Send Relief project will be a small step in the right direction.”

Thomas says he still sees the beauty in Nigeria and its people. He encourages churches to pray by offering the following requests:

Pray for comfort, healing and restoration for those who have been attacked.
Pray those who have been attacked will be so filled with the love of Christ that love would flow out of them back onto their attackers.
Pray those involved in the attacks would be receptive to the gospel and would turn and leave their hatred behind and follow Christ.
Pray for Nigerian Baptists to remain strong in the truth of the gospel and be willing to be used by God in their own country as instruments of peace with each other and peace with God.

Support the work to bring compassion and peace to Nigeria by giving now to Send Relief.

*Name changed for security

Leslie Peacock Caldwell is managing editor for the IMB.

The post Baptists respond with compassion, prayer and peacemaking to Nigerian conflicts appeared first on IMB.

Zoom info meeting for Israel pastor trip set for Monday

Are you a pastor interested in walking where Jesus walked next summer?

Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Executive Director Dr. Nathan Lorick will lead an “Experiencing the Holy Land” clergy familiarization tour of Israel from July 12-21, 2022. An informational Zoom meeting with Lorick is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 18, from 7-8 p.m.

You must register to participate in the informational Zoom meeting.

Lorick said the trip will be an opportunity for pastors to “experience the word of God like never before.” The cost of the trip is $2,195, but a $1,000 grant is being made available for any SBTC pastor who has never before been on a trip to Israel.

“I promise it will change the way you read scripture,” Lorick said. “It will change the way you preach the word of God to your church.”

The 10-day tour will include a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee and visits to popular historical sites including the Mount of Olives, Capernaum and Bethlehem. Cost of the trip includes roundtrip airfare; deluxe motor coaches; first-class/superior first-class hotels; guided sightseeing; entrance fees to sites visited; daily breakfast and dinner; tips and taxes.

For more information about the trip or the informational Zoom meeting, e-mail

SBTC’s Wolfe: Heartbeat Act a matter of ‘great rejoicing’

NEW ORLEANS (BP) – The Texas law to protect the life of an unborn baby whose heartbeat can be detected is back in effect – at least for now.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans temporarily stayed late Oct. 8 a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the Texas Heartbeat Act (S.B. 8). A three-judge panel instructed the U.S. Department of Justice to reply by 5 p.m. Tuesday (Oct. 12) to an emergency motion to halt the injunction.

The Fifth Circuit Court’s action reinstated the ban only two days after a federal court granted the injunction requested by the Biden administration. The judges will determine whether the ban will remain in effect while it is challenged in court. The law, which took effect Sept. 1, prohibits abortions as early as five to six weeks into pregnancy.

Tony Wolfe, associate executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC), expressed gratitude for the temporary stay.

“And we pray that as ‘God’s servant for good’ (Romans 13:4), those entrusted by the Texan and American people with the great responsibility of making, interpreting and enforcing law in the days ahead will rise to this opportunity to protect unborn life,” Wolfe said in a written statement.

“The signing of the Texas Heartbeat Act into law was a matter of great rejoicing for those who celebrate human life as a gift from God. It brought a measure of victory in the fight for life that was long worked for. The SBTC will always advocate in favor of laws that preserve life for those who are among the most vulnerable of Texan Americans – those yet in the womb.”

Brent Leatherwood, acting president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), said in written comments, “While the Fifth Circuit is stepping in here to reinstate the law, it is a shame that courts have to intervene to stop the advance of the predatory abortion industry. It shouldn’t be this difficult to save preborn lives.”

At least six clinics in Texas resumed providing abortions banned by the law or were preparing to provide them after federal judge Robert Pitman halted enforcement of the heartbeat ban, according to The Associated Press. The Fifth Circuit’s stay only two days later again brought an end to the legality of such abortions.

Some of the clinics of abortion provider Whole Woman’s Health were among those that performed the procedure while the law was barred from enforcement.

“Frankly, we knew this would happen and that is why we provided abortions beyond six weeks the moment it was a possibility,” according to a tweet from Whole Woman’s Health after the court’s order Oct. 8.

On Oct. 9, Whole Woman’s Health tweeted, “Every abortion we performed in Texas during the injunction was a (say it if you know it!) win.”

Clinics that performed abortions while the injunction was in effect, however, apparently could be held liable for violating the law if Pitman’s order is vacated.

The Texas law has been the target of criticism not only because of its early prohibition on abortion but because of its means of enforcement. In an unusual move, the law prohibits any government official from enforcing the ban but authorizes a private citizen to bring a civil lawsuit against someone who performs a prohibited abortion or assists in the performance of such a procedure. Under the law, a court is to award at least $10,000 to a successful plaintiff.

Estimates by pro-life organizations of the number of unborn children saved in the five weeks the law was in effect before Pitman’s injunction vary from more than 3,000 (National Right to Life) to more than 4,700 (Susan B. Anthony List).

The Texas law is the only ban on abortion after a fetal heartbeat to be in effect in the United States. About 85 to 90 percent of abortions in Texas are performed on women who are six weeks or more pregnant. At least 10 other states have enacted fetal heartbeat bans, but courts have blocked the others from going into effect.

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a Sept. 1 order that permitted the Texas law to go into effect. In a 5-4 split, the justices in the majority said their action “is not based on any conclusion about the constitutionality of Texas’s law” and does not restrict “other procedurally proper challenges” to the measure.

The Supreme Court already has agreed to rule in its current term on a Mississippi law that prohibits the abortion of an unborn child whose gestational age is more than 15 weeks. The court will hear oral arguments Dec. 1 in that case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health.

The ERLC, other pro-life organizations and the state of Mississippi have filed briefs in the Dobbs case that urged the Supreme Court to reverse the 1973 Roe v. Wade opinion that legalized abortion and the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision, which affirmed Roe but permitted some state regulation of the procedure.

“We remain hopeful that, with the upcoming Dobbs case before the justices, the court will decide that the disastrous Roe v. Wade decision must be overturned,” Leatherwood said.

The Texas ban, which was enacted in May, includes an exception for a medical emergency in a mother but none for a pregnancy that is the result of rape or incest.

Southern Gospel hall of fame and museum seeking new home

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (BP) — The Blackwood Brothers Quartet promoted its 37-passenger, refurbished 1939 Aerocoach bus, air-conditioned with bunk beds and recliners, as providing the “utmost riding comfort.”

Typically at that time in the 1950s, Southern gospel music groups traveled the sometimes hundreds of miles by car to perform in rural towns, with singers in the seats and musical instruments in the trunks, said Arthur Rice, lead singer for the Kingdom Heirs and president of the Southern Gospel Music Association’s (SGMA) Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Arthur Rice, second row third from left, is lead singer of the Kingdom Heirs and president of the Southern Gospel Music Association’s Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame and Museum. (Kingdom Heirs photo)

“And so J. D. Sumner decided that, you know, it would be a whole lot more comfortable to travel in something that was a little bit bigger,” Rice said. “J.D. Sumner was the very first one to actually come across” using tour buses for singing groups.

A replica of the bus is among the thousands of Southern gospel music artifacts displayed by the Southern Gospel Hall of Fame and Museum. The SGMA is looking for a new home for its collections after more than 20 years at Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s amusement park and entertainment complex in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. The SGMA lease for its 15,000-square-feet facility at Dollywood was not renewed in 2021 because of constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic and a Dollywood expansion plan, Rice said.

Between performances of the Kingdom Heirs Friday (Oct. 8) at Dollywood, where the group is in its 36th year as resident gospel artists, Rice updated Baptist Press on the search for a new museum home. He said SGMA plans to remain in the Pigeon Forge area, and is currently blessed to store its hall of fame and museum artifacts in space donated by an area businessman. Several possibilities are being considered for new sites.

“When we opened at Dollywood that was just a godsend, to have a public platform to present our music and the message,” Rice said. “That was right for the time. “When we closed, I was sad because it was an end of an era, but I believe that God has … got His hand on what’s next. He’s given us this time, while the museum is closed, to prepare for that time. I don’t know exactly what it is. My vision really is to have a place where we could not only have the plaques and the artifacts, but also have a theater-type venue to where we could have groups come in (and) do a performance.” Attendees could then view the history.

“I think we can educate more people in a year’s time than we could in a lifetime,” Rice said.

The plaques Rice references depict inductees into the SGMA Hall of Fame spanning 25 years. 2021 inductees, announced Sept. 28 at the National Quartet Convention in Pigeon Forge, are prolific musician and songwriter Jack Clark of Cleveland, Tenn.; award-winning singer and songwriter Karen Peck Gooch of Karen Peck and New River; gospel music broadcaster Marlin Raymond Taylor; and the late Aaron Wilburn, a noted gospel songwriter, musician and comedian who died in 2020.

They join such noted honorees as Fanny Crosby, inducted posthumously in 2014; Thomas A. Dorsey, inducted posthumously in 2013; Carl Stuart Hamblen, inducted posthumously in 2012; Bill and Gloria Gaither (inducted in 1997 and 2005, respectively); and several members of The Happy Goodman family group.

In addition to the plaques, among the many museum artifacts awaiting display are historical songbooks, clothing worn by singers, and priceless musical instruments on loan from owners. Many of the priceless pieces are in safe-keeping with the owners until a new site is found.

Rice sees preserving the history of Southern gospel as important.

“You don’t know where you’ve gone if you don’t know where you’ve come from,” Rice said. “It’s a very interesting story and we want to share that with people. For me, it is a map of how God has used our music through the years to encourage, to draw people to Christ, to lift them up.

“There’s nothing more encouraging than a gospel song when you’re in a low place. I want people to see how God’s hand has been on this music and on our people. We’re all flawed and we all are going through things, but God still chooses to use us as vessels. Yes, there’s been some characters through the years, but you know what, God still uses them.”

Christians can support the SGMA through prayers for the association’s faithfulness and obedience to God’s Word, and by becoming a member of the association, Rice said, which includes opportunities to nominate Hall of Fame inductees. There are about 2,000 members to date, Rice said.

Census reveals future for Hispanics, Latinos in SBC

Pete Ramirez is associate executive director for the California Southern Baptist Convention.

FRESNO, Calif. (BP) – As the Hispanic population continues to grow nationwide and in the Southern Baptist Convention, its impact will be observed not only culturally but in strengthening the SBC’s efforts to fulfill the Great Commission, said a California denominational leader.

Pete Ramirez, associate executive director for the California Southern Baptist Convention, has seen that take shape during more than two decades in the state. For 17 years he was pastor of three different churches before joining the CSBC staff, first as Evangelism and Missions team leader and then a year-and-a-half ago in his current role.

“I think we’re going to continue to see Hispanics rise in leadership in our Convention and our churches as the second generation and those who were born here – like myself – see the value of it,” Ramirez said.

His point is supported by the growing number of those identifying as Hispanic or Latino. 2020 census data shows that Latinos accounted for more than half of the country’s growth, with 62.1 million making up 18.7 percent of the U.S. population.

California remains the most populous state by far, with 39.4 million residents, as well as the most diverse. No race or ethnic group is in the majority. However, Latinos make up the largest group with 39 percent while whites constitute 36 percent. Now is the first time in the state’s history when whites are not the largest ethnic community.

The census reporting came shortly before Hispanic Heritage Month, recognized from Sept. 15-Oct. 15. Southern Baptists will gather June 12-15, 2022, for their annual meeting in Anaheim, Calif. The number of hotel reservations, which opened Oct. 1, has already outpaced those of previous years at a record rate.

Tweaks to the census questions have led to debates over its results as well as over how to determine who is Hispanic. For those who may also identify as white, for example, their Hispanic heritage also places them in the Hispanic category. On the other hand, around 11 percent of adults with Hispanic heritage nonetheless choose not to identify as Hispanic or Latino, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey.

Ethnic Baptist History, a 1992 compilation by Southern Baptist pastor and Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board) appointee Joshua Grijalva, cites SBC Hispanic work as starting with an 1821 Spanish Bible study at First Baptist Church in San Antonio. That Bible study grew into First (Mexican) Baptist Church in 1861 and led to approximately 3,500 Hispanic and Latino Southern Baptist congregations today. Texas is home to the overwhelming majority of those churches with approximately 1,200, followed by Florida and California at around 350 each.

Being intentional about providing opportunities and leading more Hispanics into Convention leadership roles will result in significant gains, Ramirez said.

“I think it’s a matter of vision. If they’re given the vision [of leadership], they’ll excel to it,” he said.

Julio Arriola, executive director of Hispanic relations and mobilization for the SBC Executive Committee, said community values regarding family, hard work and faith prime the group to be a significant part of the Convention’s future.

“America is blessed by the growth in the Latino population,” he said. “We are more open to Gospel conversations than other groups and more prompt to respond positively to the call to become believers and disciples of Jesus. For that reason, evangelism and discipleship among Hispanics is a must.”

Arriola further stated that evangelism and church-planting efforts must continue “considering the exponential growth of the Hispanic population.” In terms of mission work, he added, Hispanics are able to open doors in areas of the world others can’t.

That opinion is shared by San Diego-based North American Mission Board church planting catalyst David Godoy. Last year, NAMB committed to an emphasis on Hispanic church planting in light of projected needs.

“Latinos bring passion to whatever cause they commit to embracing,” he said. “Therefore, their passion for evangelism, missions and kingdom-related activities must be leveraged for the completion of the Great Commission.

“From a missional perspective, Latinos tend to blend more easily in different cultural and ethnic settings. Those who are bilingual already are more likely to learn a third language, and thus, reach people from other nationalities for Christ both here in the U.S. and overseas.”

It is important for Southern Baptists to understand the history of Latinos and Hispanics in the Convention, he added.

“Latinos are used to doing more with less. This principle is key for Southern Baptists to maximize kingdom resources to fund missionary work, plant new churches, reach the next generation and equip future Christian leaders,” Godoy said.

Cooperative Program giving tops $192 million, exceeds budget projections for the year

NASHVILLE (BP) – SBC Executive Committee president Ronnie Floyd announced Wednesday (Oct. 6) that giving through the National Cooperative Program Budget Allocation topped $192.2 million for the 2020-21 fiscal year. In doing so, budget estimates for the year were exceeded by nearly $5.4 million.

“What a tremendous testimony of God’s grace given to us and God’s people extending generosity together to reach the world for Jesus Christ,” Floyd said. “This is the power and influence of what happens when we believe in the vision, work together, and partner together for the advancement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.

As our Southern Baptist churches across the nation have been navigating and leading through a global pandemic for the past 18 months, we can testify that God is using them to keep on sending new missionaries on the field, by keeping our present missionary force on the field, by launching new church planters across our nation, by keeping those on the field who are planting new churches, and at the same time, by preparing the called through our seminaries. This work is being accomplished because of your church’s giving through the Cooperative Program.”

The total amount given through the national Cooperative Program Allocation Budget in September 2021 totaled $13,355,428.46, which was $1,467,881.53 (9.90 percent) less than the $14,823,309.99 received in September 2020 and $2,217,488.21 (14.24 percent) less than the monthly budgeted amount of $15,572,916.67.

For the 2020-21 fiscal year, gifts received by the EC for distribution through the CP Allocation Budget total $192,271,436.28. This is $629,414.90 or 0.33 percent less than last year’s budget contribution of $192,900,851.18 and ahead of the $186,875,000.04 budgeted projection to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America by $5,396,436.24 or 2.89 percent.

“I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the sacrificial giving of Southern Baptists,” SBC President Ed Litton said. “Every dollar that is given by these saints is intended to advance the Gospel and accomplish the Great Commission. I am especially grateful to God for their generous giving through the Cooperative Program during a season of economic uncertainty due to the many challenges brought on by the pandemic. May God use all of these funds to equip his church to reach the world for Christ.”

Willie McLaurin, SBC EC vice president for Great Commission relations and mobilization, expressed his gratitude for the “steadfast and sacrificial giving of churches through the Cooperative program.” He added that “the local and global reach of every gift is a testimony to the strong cooperative spirit of every church. The churches of the SBC have demonstrated obedient resolved and have trusted God with their resources.”

Total Cooperative Program giving includes all monies given by churches through state conventions to be used for Great Commission ministry and missions within the respective states, across North America and around the world. Begun in 1925, the Cooperative Program is the financial fuel to fund the SBC mission and vision of reaching every person for Jesus Christ in every town, every city, every state, and every nation. Monies are distributed according to the 2020-2021 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.

Designated gifts received in September amounted to $3,466,582.33. This total was $1,244,699.12, or 26.42 percent, less than gifts of $4,711,281.45 received last September. Also, this year’s designated gifts for the fiscal year amount to $192,351,656.08, which is $18,132,149.23, or 10.41 percent, more than the $174,219,506.85 given through same period in the previous fiscal year.

Designated totals include both Lottie Moon Christmas Offering gifts to the International Mission Board and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering gifts to the North American Mission Board. NAMB announced Monday (Oct. 4) a fiscal year total of $66.5 million for AAEO – the largest in history. IMB is expected to announce the LMCO total in the coming days.


PASTOR APPRECIATION MONTH: 25 ways to honor your shepherd

Thank You note image

This year has been a tough year for pastors and church leaders. The pandemic has changed almost everything we do, but pastors have pivoted quickly and worked hard to make adjustments. If ever they have earned appreciation, it’s this year. Here are some ways to show your gratitude during this Pastor Appreciation Month:

  1. Give your pastor and his family a weekend getaway. Give them a break on somebody else’s nickel – and make sure that time is not counted as vacation! These days, it may need to be a driving trip, of course.
  2. Do some tasks for him and his family. Rake the leaves. Cut the grass. Wash the cars. Paint a room. Power wash the deck or the house. Do something that helps him.
  3. Catalog his books. Computer tools allow you to catalog books quickly, but somebody has to do the labor. Save your pastor the work.
  4. Provide gifts for his wife and children. The church that loves a pastor’s family will have a pastor who loves them.
  5. Prepare a notebook of “thank you” notes. I still have and cherish a notebook of notes that folks wrote to me as their pastor.
  6. Give him an Amazon tree. The “tree” might be only a big twig or an artificial plant, but the leaves are Amazon gift cards. Every pastor I know wants more books.
  7. Make a personal commitment not to speak ill of him – or listen to those who do. Support him in front of others.
  8. Update and upgrade his office. Paint the walls. Provide new furniture. Replace outdated wall paintings.
  9. Give him a new computer. If he’s like the rest of us, he’s used his current one for many, many Zoom meetings and recordings this year!
  10. If you’ve been sitting a while in church, start serving. I assure you he’ll appreciate every believer who gets more committed to God and His work.
  11. Provide a framed picture of your church building. I have pictures of both churches I pastored hanging on my office wall, and I’m grateful for those congregations every time I look at the pictures.
  12. Offer five nights of childcare over the rest of the month. Give your pastor and spouse the opportunity to have several date nights this month.
  13. Give him time and funds to attend a conference he wants to attend. Even if he already receives a conference benefit, increase it for this year.
  14. Set aside a special day to honor his wife. If you really want to make your pastor happy, focus on his wife instead. A great day for her is a great day for him.
  15. Send him a video thank you note from your family. Take a few minutes, record a short video greeting and “thank you,” and send it.
  16. When travel allows again, give him a trip to Israel. Your pastor will never approach the Bible or the pulpit the same way after walking in the Holy Land.
  17. Make a commitment to pay his costs to earn a doctoral degree. Make a long-term commitment to help your shepherd get that degree he wants.
  18. Give him and his family a local gym membership. Because you appreciate them, help them live longer by staying in shape.
  19. Help him participate in his hobby. If his hobby is golf, give him several rounds of golf. If it’s reading, give him Amazon cards. Give him something you know he’ll enjoy.
  20. Detail his car. Clean it. Wax it. Change the oil. Fill it with gas. Give it back to him with a few restaurant gift cards in the front seat.
  21. Give him a commentary set, one or two volumes per month. That way, this year’s appreciation gift keeps on giving.
  22. Have the church’s children write him notes. Few things melt a pastor’s heart like the simple, honest words of children.
  23. Give him an extra week of vacation. Even if it’s only for this year, he’ll be appreciative.
  24. Commit to praying for him daily – and then be sure to do it. Let him know you’re doing it, too. He’ll be grateful.
  25. Ask him, “What can I do to most help you?” You might be surprised by his answer. He might have immediate needs.

What other ideas would you add to this list?

The article originally appeared on Baptist Press.