Author: Jayson Larson

Churchgoers are still tithing, more comfortable doing so outside of church

BRENTWOOD, Tenn.—Most churchgoers say tithing is a biblical command and give at least 10% of their income. But they have more diverse opinions on the “where” and “how” of tithing.

More than 3 in 4 American Protestant churchgoers say tithing is a biblical command that still applies today (77%), according to a Lifeway Research study. One in 10 (10%) say it is not. And 13% are uncertain about the matter. Compared to 2017, fewer churchgoers today believe tithing is a biblical command that still applies (77% vs. 83%) and more are not sure (13% vs. 10%).

“Giving 10% of your earnings to God is still a widespread standard among churchgoers,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “The small decline in considering tithing a command appears to be more from a lack of teaching on the subject than a rejection of such teaching.”

The youngest adult churchgoers, those 18-34, are the least likely to agree tithing is a biblical command that still applies today (66%). Denominationally, Lutherans are the least likely to agree (59%).

Those with evangelical beliefs are more likely than those without evangelical beliefs to say tithing is biblical and currently applicable (85% vs. 71%). And those who attend a worship service at least four times a month are more likely than those who attend one to three times a month (80% vs. 72%) to agree.

How much do churchgoers give?

By definition, a tithe is one-tenth. And while more than 3 in 4 churchgoers believe giving a tithe is biblical, only half (51%) give 10% or more of their income to the church they attend. Three in 10 (31%) say they give a tithe, and 19% give more. More than 1 in 5 (22%) say they try to give but aren’t always consistent. And 16% say they regularly give less than a tithe. Another 9% say their finances make it difficult to give, and 2% say they do not give.

Although fewer give 10% of their income to the church today compared to 2017 (31% vs. 37%), the percentage of churchgoers who give 10% or more has remained relatively steady (51% vs. 54%). Today, fewer churchgoers regularly give less than a tithe (16% vs. 20%). And more try to give but are not consistent (22% vs. 17%).

“Believing God wants you to tithe and doing it are two different things,” McConnell said. “Some who do not tithe are consistent with their giving at a lower threshold, and others give when they feel they are able. Like many exhortations in Scripture, giving your finances to God is not necessarily easy in practice.”

Several church-related factors impact a person’s likelihood of giving to the church they attend. Baptist (40%), Presbyterian/Reformed (34%) and non-denominational (34%) churchgoers are more likely to tithe 10% of their income than Lutheran (19%), Restorationist Movement (17%) and Methodist (12%) churchgoers. Additionally, those who attend worship services at least four times a month (34%) are more likely to tithe than those who attend one to three times a month (26%). And those with evangelical beliefs are more likely than those without evangelical beliefs to tithe (39% vs. 25%).

Where can you tithe?

Most churchgoers who say tithing is an applicable biblical command say tithe money can be given to their church (90%). Most also say tithes can be given to a Christian ministry (55%). Fewer say tithes can be given to an individual in need (42%) or to another church they don’t regularly attend (34%). One in 4 believe tithes can be given to a secular charity (25%). And 1% are not sure.

Today, fewer churchgoers than in 2017 say tithe money can be given to their church (90% vs. 98%). And more said tithes can be given to Christian ministries (55% vs. 48%), an individual in need (42% vs. 34%) or a secular charity (25% vs. 18%).

Denominationally, Lutheran (98%), Presbyterian/Reformed (96%), Baptist (93%) and non-denominational (92%) churchgoers are among the most likely to say tithe money can be given to their churches. Lutheran and Presbyterian/Reformed churchgoers are also among the most likely to say tithes can be given to another church they don’t regularly attend (58% and 53%, respectively) or a Christian ministry (72% and 68%). Lutherans are also among the most likely to say tithes can be given to a secular charity (45%), and Presbyterian/Reformed churchgoers are among the most likely to say they can be given to an individual in need (51%).

Conversely, Baptists are among the least likely to say tithes can be given to a Christian ministry (51%), individuals in need (37%), another church they don’t regularly attend (34%) or a secular charity (19%).

Those with evangelical beliefs are more likely than those without evangelical beliefs to say tithe money can be given to their churches (95% vs. 85%), while those without evangelical beliefs are more likely than those with such beliefs to say tithes can be given to a secular charity (29% vs. 20%).

Does method matter?

Although the past five years have seen a noticeable increase in online giving, most churchgoers still give cash at church (53%). Fewer give a check at church (30%) or mail one to the church (9%). Others give electronically on the church website (23%), through their bank (14%), through an app the church provided (7%) or via text (2%). And 8% of churchgoers have automated payments set up for their tithes.

Nearly half as many churchgoers today compared to 2017 give a check at church (30% v. 59%). But more churchgoers mail checks to the church today (9% v. 3%). And more are giving electronically through all formats—church website (23% v. 11%), banks (14% v. 5%), automated payments (8% v. 3%) or church app (7% v. 3%).

Those 18-34 are among the most likely to give cash at church (75%), on the church website (28%), through an app the church provided (10%) or via text (7%). Churchgoers 65 or older are the most likely to give a check (47%).

“While electronic giving has grown significantly in the last five years, 6 in 10 (62%) churchgoers who give do not yet utilize electronic giving methods to give to their church,” McConnell said. “Churches would likely be better served by emphasizing the motivation to give than the mode.”


Stone to be nominated in New Orleans for SBC president

BLACKSHEAR, Ga. (BP)—Mike Stone, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, announced in a video posted on Wednesday, April 26, that he has “prayerfully agreed to accept a nomination for the presidency of the SBC.”

Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention will gather in New Orleans June 11-14. The only other announced candidate is current president Bart Barber, who will be nominated by Steven James, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Lake Charles, La.

Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas, was first elected to the presidency last year at the annual meeting held in Anaheim, Calif.

In the video released by Alabama pastor Mac Brunson on Twitter, Stone pointed to two issues in the SBC he will address more in the coming weeks: sexual abuse and evangelism.

“In this critical hour, we need leaders who will guide us to care well for victims while at the same time embracing scriptural principals of due process in the handling and publishing of accusations [of sexual abuse],” he said.

In the video, Stone alluded to the fact that an investigation completed by Guidepost Solutions into the SBC Executive Committee’s handling of sexual abuse and resulting litigation caused SBC EC auditors to deem the EC to be on an “unsustainable financial trajectory.” Stone added: “[P]eople are infinitely more valuable than financial resources, but we can address this issue wisely in a way that doesn’t lead us to financial ruin.”

Stone also said Southern Baptist leaders should “honor biblical ecclesiology,” and when outside help is necessary to address sexual abuse, they should “only use those [organizations] driven by fact and informed by the truth.”

In Guidepost’s May 2022 report following its yearlong investigation, Stone was accused by former Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore of having “stonewalled” attempts at reform regarding sexual abuse.

Moore’s criticism of Stone was also part of a letter leaked just prior to the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting. Stone, who also ran for SBC president in 2021, called Moore’s allegations “ungodly” and “slanderous.” Stone filed suit against Moore in October 2021, saying Moore’s actions were an attempt to “discredit his campaign for the presidency of the SBC.” He withdrew the suit two months later.

He went on to add that the issues of addressing sexual abuse and evangelism “are not in conflict with one another. We can deal rightly with the abuse issue while staying on mission for Christ.”

Unity in the SBC can be found in a common passion for evangelism, he said. As such, his second focus as president would be a nationwide evangelism emphasis called Crossover America.

If Stone is nominated in New Orleans, it will be the first time since 2011 that a sitting SBC president has been challenged. That year, California pastor Wiley Drake nominated himself against president Bryant Wright.

Stone was one of four candidates seeking the SBC presidency in 2021, finishing second to Alabama pastor Ed Litton. Stone also served two terms on the SBC Executive Committee, including two years as chair.

According to Annual Church Profile information, Emmanuel Baptist Church reported 24 baptisms in 2022, averaged 975 in weekly worship and collected $2,433,397 in total undesignated receipts.

BP confirmed with David Melber, chief financial officer of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, that Emmanuel did not give through the Cooperative Program in 2022 but did give $36,000 directly to the International Mission Board.

Tate Springs’ Wellman to be nominated to lead SBC Executive Committee

NASHVILLE (BP)—The SBC Executive Committee (EC) has a candidate to consider for the entity’s leader. Jared Wellman will be nominated to serve as EC president/CEO in a special called meeting in Dallas on May 1 at noon.

Wellman, 39, is the pastor of Tate Springs Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. He served as a member of the EC from 2015-2023, serving as chairman from June 2022. He stepped down from the EC in a confidential letter to EC officers on April 17, according to newly named chairman David Sons. The full body was made aware in a confidential communication on April 19, Sons told Baptist Press.

It was also in that email that the full body was made aware of Wellman’s selection as the presidential candidate. Sons said it was kept confidential among EC trustees “to give Jared the opportunity to inform his church of his candidacy when he could do so in person.”

Wellman informed the church of his candidacy today (Apr. 30), according to Sons.

Wellman also served on the presidential search team as an ex-officio member until he recused himself on Jan. 26, Sons said.

Adron Robinson, search committee chairman, said the group was impressed by Wellman’s leadership of the EC since being voted chairman last June.

“Jared’s demeanor and experience fit with both the candidate profile of the search team and with much of what we had heard from those we surveyed,” he said.

Sons, who also served on the search team, said he believes Wellman can lead the EC forward. “The Executive Committee is not in need of a new vision or fresh direction, but instead a renewed commitment to the responsibilities it has already been given by our convention of churches,” he told Baptist Press.

Robinson said the group was “compelled by both his (Wellman’s) ideas for the present and future of the Executive Committee,” adding: “His humility, administrative skill, and pastoral sensibilities made him a strong candidate for the search team.”

In a statement to BP on Saturday (Apr. 29), Wellman said, “I don’t look at the Executive Committee opportunity as a job, but as a calling. I think that’s crucial. I’ve sensed a strong call that has been confirmed through prayer, fasting, the Scriptures and wise counsel. It’s the only reason I’ve kept my ‘yes’ on the table. I’m willing to follow through with this, regardless of the outcome, because I fear the Lord more than anything else.”

He has served in several denominational roles, including as a member of the SBC Committee on Resolutions in 2019, 2021 and 2022, an executive board member for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention from 2009-2013 and again from 2013-2017, a trustee at Criswell College from 2020-2021 and as a Land Center fellow at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS).

In addition to serving Tate Springs Baptist, Wellman has pastored Mission Dorado Church in Odessa, Texas, Carpenter’s Cross Church in Flint, Texas, and Powell Baptist in Powell, Texas.

Wellman has led Tate Springs to increase its Cooperative Program giving from 3.67 percent in 2017 to 6.7 percent ($102,000) in 2022, according to church data provided to Baptist Press. Wellman began serving at the church in 2017.

He was licensed in 2002 and ordained in 2005 at First Baptist Church Gun Barrel City in Gun Barrel City, Texas.

Wellman holds a Ph.D. from the South Africa Seminary, is a Ph.D. candidate at SWBTS, and holds master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Criswell College.

He is an adjunct professor at SWBTS, Criswell College and Grand Canyon University.

Wellman and his wife Amanda have been married since 2006. They have four children.

The position became vacant following the resignation of Ronnie Floyd in October 2021 when EC members waived attorney-client privilege at the direction of messengers to the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting.

Messengers voted at that meeting to form a task force to investigate the EC’s alleged mishandling of sexual abuse claims. Newly elected SBC President Ed Litton named the Sexual Abuse Task Force, which was led by North Carolina pastor Bruce Frank.

Wellman was the first EC member to make a motion for the group to waive attorney-client privilege. His motion was defeated but members voted to waive privilege weeks later.

Floyd resigned 11 days after that vote, citing his fiduciary responsibilities as president and CEO. In a statement he said, “Due to my personal integrity and the leadership responsibility entrusted to me, I will not and cannot any longer fulfill the duties placed upon me as the leader of the executive, fiscal, and fiduciary entity of the SBC.”

Willie McLaurin was named the interim president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee on Feb. 1, 2022. McLaurin joined the EC as vice president for Great Commission relations and mobilization in 2020.

The Presidential Search Team was formed by the EC during its February 2022 meeting in Nashville. Members include Mollie Duddleston (Springdale, Ark.), Mike Keahbone (Lawton, Okla.), Jeremy Morton (Woodstock, Ga.), Philip Robertson (Pineville, La.), Adron Robinson (Country Club Hills, Ill.) and David Sons (Lexington, S.C.).

The May 1 special called meeting of the EC was announced on April 4.

In that announcement, Robinson said, “Over the last 14 months, the search team has diligently prayed, discussed, and worked to identify the person to best lead the SBC Executive Committee through its present challenges and into a brighter future for our Committee and Convention.

“As a search team, we are confident the candidate we are presenting represents the humility, wisdom, administrative skill and Christlikeness necessary to fulfill the responsibilities of president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee.”

The meeting will take place under executive session at the Grand Hyatt DFW.

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

Dockery elected 10th president of SWBTS; Hawkins elected chancellor

FORT WORTH—Christian higher education leader David S. Dockery was elected 10th president and Southern Baptist leader O.S. Hawkins was elected to the new role of chancellor during the spring meeting of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary board of trustees on April 19.

The unanimous elections of Dockery and Hawkins to their new roles come nearly seven months after their elections as interim president and senior advisor and ambassador-at-large, respectively, in a special-called trustee meeting, September 27, 2022, following the resignation of Adam W. Greenway.

“Dr. David Dockery is God’s man for Southwestern Seminary in this hour,” Chairman Danny Roberts told trustees. “Our seminary’s at a critical juncture in [its] 115-year history, and in God’s providence, He has already provided the man to lead our seminary during this time.”

Roberts said trustees did not need to “look further for our next president” based on Dockery’s “impressive performance as interim [president] providing stability and healing, his long track record of outstanding Christian leadership in higher education, with the current needs of the institution.”

Although a presidential search committee would be typical, “Southwestern’s current challenges are best faced with clarity in the Office of the President as soon as possible and for the future,” he said, noting that it’s not the first time a president of Southwestern was elected without a search process, referring to the seminary’s second president, L.R. Scarborough.

“We have settled today who our leader is, and we may move forward as we continue to seek God’s favor on Seminary Hill as we equip men and women of the next generation of ministers to the calling that God has given them,” Roberts said.

Dockery said he was “deeply humbled and genuinely grateful for the privilege and responsibility to serve” as Southwestern’s 10th president. “I am truly thankful for the overwhelming support from the board of trustees as well as for the faithful encouragement and prayerful support from the faculty, staff, colleagues, and students. What an honor it will be to continue to serve side-by-side with O.S. Hawkins, a dear friend and person that I greatly admire and from whom I have learned much in recent months.”

He added, “We recognize that we stand on the shoulders of so many who’ve gone before us. I love this institution and the best aspects of its history. We will, with God’s help, seek to carry forward in the future the best of Southwestern’s heritage and the Southwestern spirit.”

Dockery said he trusts in the “Lord’s favor and blessings to rest on Southwestern Seminary and Texas Baptist College in the days to come. We invite Southwesterners representing various generations to join us in this shared effort to advance the Southwestern mission for the good of this institution and for the glory of our great God as we seek to prepare well the next generation of students to take the gospel to the nations.”

Roberts expressed gratitude for Hawkins’s willingness to accept the new role of chancellor in which he “will continue to offer his experience as statesman and influence in this seminary and in this community. There are really few leaders in Southern Baptist Convention life who have the impeccable leadership credentials of Dr. Hawkins has with the sterling track record of 25 years as president of GuideStone Financial Resources, among other places of service.”

Roberts said Hawkins would continue to serve as a volunteer and will report to Dockery by providing “counsel, offer support and guidance, develop contacts, raise funds, and bring his influence, credibility, good will, and gravitas to our seminary community. This change in title will greatly aid his efforts in supporting the seminary. And we are blessed that this Southwesterner is willing to serve our seminary at this strategic moment in our history.”

As a two-time graduate, Hawkins said his service to the seminary is in gratitude for what the institution has meant to him.

“I have loved Southwestern since the first day I attended classes in January 1970, and I feel a sense of indebtedness to all those who invested so much in my own journey to the M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees on this hill,” Hawkins said. “While I will be serving alongside Dr. Dockery in the new role of chancellor, I will be volunteering my time and whatever gifts and talents God has given me to prayerfully advance the school into what we hope and prayerfully expect to be a brighter tomorrow. We are calling on all Southwesterners to join us on this journey.”

Dockery, who earned a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Seminary in 1981, joined the seminary faculty in 2019 when he was named distinguished professor of theology and theologian-in-residence for the B.H. Carroll Center for Baptist Heritage and Mission. He also served as special consultant to the president. Later, he was named editor of the Southwestern Journal of Theology, the seminary’s historic academic journal. From December 2020 to February 2022, he also served as interim provost at Southwestern. Additionally, he serves as the inaugural director of the Dockery Center for Global Evangelical Theology, which was named in his honor by the board of trustees at their spring 2022 meeting.

After a lengthy career in Christian higher educational leadership at Trinity International University, Union University, and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in 2019 Dockery was invited to assist with the founding of the International Alliance for Christian Education. He has also served as president of the Evangelical Theological Society and board chair of Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, Christian College Consortium, and Consortium for Global Education.

A native of Tuscaloosa, Ala., Dockery has had a distinguished career as a theologian and educator. In addition to his degree from Southwestern Seminary, he holds degrees from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (B.S.), Grace Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Texas Christian University (M.A.), and the University of Texas at Arlington (Ph.D.). Dockery was named a distinguished alumnus by Southwestern Seminary in 2002.

In 1995, Dockery was elected president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn. Under his transformational leadership, enrollment more than doubled, net assets more than tripled, and Union sprang to a place of national leadership in Christian higher education. In September 2022, he was among the first honorees to be inducted into the university’s hall of honor.

In 2014, he was installed as Trinity’s 15th president and served in that role for five years, then transitioned to the role of chancellor. At Trinity, he brought guidance to an institution that had previously experienced more than a decade of significant enrollment decline and an array of institutional challenges. He led processes to strengthen the Trinity board and enhance denominational relationships. New academic programs were introduced, and four new academic centers were established.

Dockery is a sought-after speaker and lecturer and former consulting editor for Christianity Today, and has authored, edited, or contributed to nearly 100 books, including Renewing Minds: Serving Church and Society Through Christian Higher EducationSouthern Baptist Consensus and Renewal, and Theologians of the Baptist Tradition. As an author, he is best known for his works in the areas of Baptist studies, biblical interpretation, and Christian higher education. He served as the New Testament editor for the 40-volume New American Commentary Series, as general editor of the 15-volume Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition Series, and is co-editor of the multi-volume Theology for the People of God series. He is general editor of the forthcoming New English Translation Study Bible.

Dockery has received numerous awards, including the Herschel H. Hobbs Distinguished Service Award from Oklahoma Baptist University, M.E. Dodd Denominational Service Award from Union University, Holman Christian Standard Service Award from Lifeway Christian Resources, the Land Distinguished Service Award from the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and the John R. Dellenback Global Leadership Award from the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.

Dockery has spoken on more than 80 campuses. He served churches in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Birmingham, Ala.; and Dallas, as well as serving as interim pastor for several congregations in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Texas.

He has been married to Lanese for more than 47 years, and they have three married sons and eight grandchildren. Their travels have taken them to the various regions of the United States and Canada, as well as to Europe, Latin America, Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Middle East.

Hawkins, who retired in March 2022 as president and CEO of GuideStone after leading the Southern Baptist entity for 25 years, is a two-time alumnus of Southwestern Seminary, holding Master of Divinity (1974) and Doctor of Philosophy (2020) degrees from the institution. Additionally, the Fort Worth native holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Texas Christian University and honorary doctorates from Liberty University, Dallas Baptist University, Southwest Baptist University, and Criswell College. Hawkins received the distinguished alumni award from Southwestern Seminary in 2000.

Immediately prior to assuming the presidency at GuideStone, Hawkins was the senior pastor of the historic First Baptist Church of Dallas, leading the downtown Dallas church from 1993-1997. Hawkins also served as pastor of First Baptist Church of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (1978-1993), First Baptist Church of Ada, Okla. (1974-1978), and First Baptist Church of Hobart, Okla. (1972-1974).

Hawkins has authored more than 40 books, including the 2021 B&H Academic release, In the Name of God, which details the relationship between George W. Truett, who pastored the First Baptist Church of Dallas (1897-1944), and J. Frank Norris, who pastored the First Baptist Church of Fort Worth (1909-1952). Hawkins is also the author of the best-selling Code Series books, with the proceeds and royalties benefitting Mission:Dignity, a ministry of GuideStone started under Hawkins’s tenure that assists retired ministers and their widows who are in need.

Hawkins has been married to his wife, Susie, since 1970. They have two married daughters and six grandchildren.

Charles Stanley, pivotal SBC president and TV preacher, dies at 90

ATLANTA—Charles Stanley, a former Southern Baptist Convention president and one of the nation’s foremost television and radio preachers, passed away peacefully at his home on Tuesday, April 18, at age 90.

Stanley presided over the two largest annual meetings in SBC history — 45,531 messengers in 1985 in Dallas and 40,987 in 1986 in Atlanta — when conservatives faced the most pronounced opposition to anchoring the convention in biblical authority.

As senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta, Stanley was elected in 1984 in the sixth year of the conservative advance toward majorities on the trustee boards of the convention’s seminaries and other entities. Conservatives rose to the challenge in 1985 and 1986, with Stanley receiving 52.18 percent of messengers’ vote in Dallas over two nominees and 55.3 percent of the tally in Atlanta over a single nominee.

Stanley transitioned to pastor emeritus in September 2020 at age 87, having led First Baptist for nearly 50 years. Anthony George, senior associate pastor since 2012, succeeded Stanley.

“My election [in 1984 in Kansas City, Mo.] infuriated the opposition,” Stanley wrote in his 2016 autobiography, “Courageous Faith,” “and ultimately revealed many of the underlying problems that had existed in the convention for a long time but had either been ignored or denied. … All the liberal and moderate political forces of the Southern Baptist Convention were against me, which included seminary presidents and state convention newspapers.”

Even so, “I knew I was in the center of His will, so I never felt anxious or angry even when the conflicts were at their very worst.”

Beyond what became known as the Conservative Resurgence in the SBC, Stanley developed an extensive television and radio audience through his In Touch Ministries and was inducted into the National Religious Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame in 1988.

Stanley’s broadcast ministry began in 1972 as “The Chapel Hour” on two Atlanta TV stations and a radio station, subsequently expanding to TBS (Turner Broadcasting System) and to CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network). He renamed the outreach In Touch Ministries in 1977, stirred by the title of a devotional book in his office, “to get as many people as possible in touch with Jesus Christ and His way of living.”

Today, Stanley’s In Touch messages are broadcast on a myriad of TV and radio stations and satellite networks as well as via shortwave in more than 100 languages across 150 countries. In 2007, the ministry also began distributing pocket-size In Touch Messenger solar-powered audio devices that contain the New Testament, Psalms, Proverbs and several dozen of Stanley’s sermons in a variety of languages. In addition to distributing hundreds of thousands of the units to U.S. soldiers and to missions efforts worldwide, the devices have been adapted for placement at refugee camps and on water towers in various parts of the world for listening by cellphone.

More than any other SBC president, Stanley’s personal life had been on public display, beginning when his wife Anna filed for divorce in 1993. After a period of reconciliation, a divorce ensued in 2000, after 44 years of marriage. Anna Stanley died in 2014 of pneumonia and other health issues at age 83.

In SBC life prior to his presidency, Charles Stanley was the 1984 president of the Pastors’ Conference that precedes the convention’s annual meeting, and he was the 1983 chairman of the Committee on Nominations (then called the Committee on Boards), which was pivotal for the Conservative Resurgence in nominating trustees for the SBC’s seminaries, mission boards, and other entities.

As SBC president, Stanley served on the 22-member Peace Committee that was established and named by a motion approved at the 1985 annual meeting. The committee was tasked with identifying “the sources of the controversies” within the SBC and making recommendations for reconciliation and cooperation in “evangelism, missions, Christian education and other causes … all to the glory of God.” In its 6,450-word report, issued in 1987 after 15 meetings, the Peace Committee stated that “the great number of Southern Baptists” believe the Bible “speaks truth in all realms of reality and to all fields of knowledge. The Bible, when properly interpreted, is authoritative to all of life.”

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

How can pastors stress the importance of church attendance?

Every church ministers in seasons: Christmas season, Easter season, VBS and church camp season, fall ministry launch season, hunting season, travel baseball season, and snowbird season, to name a few.

You might be wondering, “Is he serious? Christmas and Easter are not the same as hunting and youth sports.” If you think this, know that I wholeheartedly agree with you. But sadly, many members of our churches see this very differently. They might not ever say they believe this is true with their words, but their church attendance declares it from the rooftops: “My hobbies and kids’ activities are as important as my church!”

As pastors and leaders, this declaration—whether spoken or not—causes frustration, hurt, confusion, and even anger sometimes. We know church membership and attendance are non-negotiable. We know the body must gather on the Lord’s Day and no season is more important than God’s commands about this. When our members do not take church attendance as seriously as God’s Word instructs, there is a temptation for pastors to take it personally.

The truth is, every church deals with these kinds of issues. So how do we respond as church leaders? Should we throw up our hands, sigh loudly, and declare, “It is what it is”? I believe we should respond by showing our members why church attendance is different than anything in the world and why it is worthy of being a regular part of their week.

Respond through thanking

Every pastor and leader is thankful when people show up on Sunday. But do you ever actually thank them for coming? This can be done individually, through writing them a note, or shooting them a quick text. I would challenge you to say it from the pulpit—often. Let people know you see their obedience to the Lord and appreciate their regular attendance.

Respond through teaching

I am a book-by-book, verse-by-verse preacher. I like long preaching runs and plugging in to a book for months and sometimes years so our people will know the depths of the riches of God’s Word. When you preach one-off sermons, that steady rhythm is interrupted. Sometimes you struggle with dealing with important issues like church attendance because it doesn’t fit your rhythms. Consider these ways to teach these important lessons in the life of the church:

  • Once a year, preach a monthlong series on a theological topic and start with ecclesiology.
  • Teach your leaders and teachers about the importance of church membership and attendance and then encourage them to pass those truths along to those in their spheres of influence.
  • This is a big one—teach these truths to kids. When children know what God expects, that information forms in them in a different way than in adults. God designed kids this way for a reason, so they can know Him and know how to follow Him well. Preach it and teach it at all levels and see how it becomes part of your church DNA.

Respond through talking

If you find that thanking and teaching aren’t enough, go to your members struggling to attend consistently and talk to them. Do it in a way that is not heavy handed, but as a shepherd or friend. Don’t use cliche’s like, “You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian, but Christians should want to go to church.” Instead, let them know you miss them and that you care for them and their family’s souls. Tell them you desire for them to be obedient to all of God’s Word and want what is best for them. This conversation might be hard, but it is worth it.

When pastors thank, teach, and talk about the importance of church attendance, we will help our people see the importance of the church body in their lives and watch them respond with obedience that will lead to fruitfulness through God’s grace.

SBTC DR crews serve tornado survivors in Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.—Easter weekend is a time for family, friends, and worship. For Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief workers, it was a time to serve survivors of the tornados that devastated parts of Central Arkansas on March 31.

Relief teams worshiped on Resurrection Day and found opportunities to pray with survivors and share the gospel—even seeing some trust Christ as Savior.

A rapid response

SBDR groups, along with other first responders and disaster relief groups, headed to Arkansas within days of the tornados. SBTC DR volunteers set up their main headquarters at Immanuel Baptist Church, just off Interstate 430 on the west side of Little Rock, while other SBDR teams deployed to two other sites across the capital city.

The Immanuel site fell under the purview of SBTC DR incident management, led initially by Debra Britt of Flint who, with her team, coordinated the movements and work of 45 SBTC DR volunteers (as of Good Friday) and numerous Arkansas Baptist DR workers, too. This included feeding teams, shower teams, chainsaw and recovery crews, chaplains, and assessors.

Volunteers stayed at Immanuel Baptist’s large City Center, a former grocery store purchased by the church and converted into a massive classroom and community space that became a distribution center for food and supplies for tornado survivors. Residents drove up for diapers, water, toiletries, non-perishable food items, and clothing. The large complex offered plenty of room for representatives from FEMA and other emergency response agencies.

Britt arrived at Immanuel on Monday, April 3, and stayed until April 10, when SBTC DR’s Mike Jansen rotated in. Jansen supervised the hand-off of the response to Arkansas DR, which will establish a headquarters at a nearby location, said Scottie Stice, SBTC DR director.

Volunteers manning an SBTC DR quick response mobile kitchen prepared meals for disaster relief workers and first responders, while a mass-feeding kitchen cranked out 2,000 meals per day distributed by another aid organization to survivors in the area.

SBTC DR mass-feeding crews produced 2,000 meals per day while serving in Arkansas. SBTC DR PHOTO

Meeting spiritual needs

Recovery teams, chaplains, and assessors found numerous opportunities to pray with survivors during the one-week deployment, Britt said. Those workers often didn’t have to leave the parking lot or the City Center building to minister to those with spiritual and physical needs.

Chaplain David Mehl of Tyler said listening in such situations is key: “You have to listen to people’s stories.” On the rainy evening of April 5, when work had paused for the day, Mehl found himself with fellow SBTC DR chaplain Jim Carsten in the City Center after dinner when a church volunteer brought a woman to them to talk.

“She told us she was looking for help to remove trees from her yards,” Mehl said. Carsten helped the woman fill out the request for assistance. The men noticed she seemed tense.

“I explained that we were not only assessing her need for physical help, but assessing her emotional and spiritual needs,” Mehl said. “I told her that people with a faith story seem to do better in disasters.”

The woman explained that she had a religious background, so Carsten asked her if she would be confident of her eternal destination if she were to die.

“Yes,” she replied hesitantly, adding that she had “tried to live a good life.”

“We presented John 3:16 to her,” Mehl said. After further conversation, and at her request, the chaplains led the woman in a prayer of salvation.

“She said she felt so much better. She said she had never heard about Jesus that way, not heard a prayer like that,” Mehl said. The tension was gone. The woman wanted to see the chaplains again. They reconnected via text the following day and she said she was at work telling her friends what the chaplains had told her.

As of Good Friday, teams had seen three salvations. “We’ve seen hundreds of ministry contacts and passed out a lot of Bibles,” Britt said. “Because City Center is a distribution point, we have been able to establish chaplains at drive-thru lines. They talk and pray with people coming for food and miscellaneous things. It’s really beginning to hit home how bad things are. People are very receptive to hearing the gospel.”

Operations cease mid-deployment

SBTC DR operations halted abruptly on Monday, April 10, following two reported cases of COVID-19 among Texas volunteers, necessitating shutdown protocols.

“One case may be an anomaly, but when two or more cases pop up, we have to cease [operations],” Stice said, adding that both individuals reporting illness are experiencing mild symptoms. Teams had activated enhanced COVID safety procedures after the first reported case. The second case prompted the stoppage.

Of the unexpected shutdown, Stice said, “We had a plan in place and activated it immediately. This is the first time we have had to stop operations mid-deployment because of COVID, although other state DR teams have had to do this over the course of the pandemic.

“We shut down our feeding operations per protocol and handed off to Arkansas Baptist DR. They mobilized and set up a kitchen the same day and were cooking by April 11. There was no gap in meal service. Commonly, meals would stop for 24 hours while we made such a shift. We did a rapid shutdown. They did a rapid setup. No meals were missed.”

Some 45 SBTC DR volunteers teamed with Arkansas Baptist DR crews to serve tornado survivors in Little Rock in early April. SBTC DR PHOTO

The worship song is theologically sound … but what about the artist singing it?

A friend of mine recently shared a great quote from a worship leader: “When you preach, you’re putting words in people’s ears. When I sing, I’m putting words in people’s mouths.” What a profound statement on the weight of the words we sing! As I’ve sat beside a dear saint on their death bed, I find that they rarely quote their favorite theologians, but they do sing their favorite hymn or worship song.

I’ve seen calls for pastors to exclude songs from ministries and artists who hold theological stances that many evangelicals might disagree with. While I don’t have the space here to dig into the theology or practice of each of these artists, it’s worth simply asking the question: should we, as pastors, narrow the spectrum of artists whose songs we sing corporately?

My elder team and I recently discussed this question in-depth. My hope is to present both sides fairly. We’ll start with three brief arguments for including songs from artists like those I just mentioned, then move to three brief arguments for exclusion of some artists. I’ll conclude by sharing what my elders and I decided for our church.

Three arguments for inclusion

1. Is the song is theologically accurate?

The most important thing is that the songs we use in corporate worship are theologically sound. Horatio Spafford, author of the hymn “It Is Well,” held theological views that many would take issue with. Yet there aren’t calls (yet) for boycotting this well-known hymn. As long as the words we’re singing are theologically accurate, we need not forbid certain artists from our repertoire.

2. The vast majority of congregants won’t be led astray by artists.

Through our teaching and discipleship of the congregation, our church should be able to separate between the truths we sing and possible error artists espouse in their churches. In fact, by singing and discussing these songs openly with our congregation, it can help them grow in their discernment when they ask about the artists who composed them.

3. It’s virtually impossible to draw a line consistently.

With the increasing collaboration between artists today, it is extremely difficult to police which artists are theologically sound and which are not. Where do we draw the line? Or is it really even possible to draw these lines? And how much time would it take to try and keep up with all these collaborations between artists as they constantly change?

Three arguments for exclusion

1. In our digital age of accessibility, members can be led astray.

When artists have clearly questionable teaching and practice, singing their songs can inadvertently lead people astray. Admittedly, there are plenty of artists whose teaching and/or practice are not known to us. It’s virtually impossible to implement these limitations with perfect consistency. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, especially for artists and groups who have such large platforms and influence. We’re not just singing songs our church members will remember; they will go home and Google artists they hear and like.

2. By singing their songs, we are supporting these artists and their ministries.

Even though it’s not a verbal endorsement of all their ministries, using songs from questionable (or straight-up heretical) artists not only supports them, but spreads their influence. Churches are required to pay license fees through organizations like CCLI when they sing copywritten songs, so there are financial implications every time you report usage of a worship song you sing corporately. That alone should cause us pause.

3. There are so many great worship artists we align with theologically.

We’re not going to run out of great worship songs to sing in our congregations. It doesn’t put us in a bind to limit which artists we use. Perhaps expanding our repertoire can be a good thing, especially if it points congregants to artists with whom we have no hesitation on their theology and influence. With so many great songs from great artists, why not focus on and support theologically solid artists?

Where our church landed

There could be many more arguments and nuances given here on both sides of the issue. For us, we decided to steer all church ministries away from using songs written by theologically questionable artists who have an active influence on Christians.

We don’t have a problem with our congregants listening to these songs on their own; in fact, some of our own favorite songs come from these artists. However, for the shepherding of our church, for the support of orthodox and faithful Christian worship artists across the world, and due to the biblical mandate to have nothing to do with the “fruitless deeds of darkness” (Ephesians 5:11), we’ve decided it is best to avoid these artists in all corporate gatherings and ministries.

With so much confusion in our world about biblical truth and what it means to be a Christian, we need to take seriously our task of shepherding our flocks in the truth. No matter where you land on this important question, I would encourage you to do your research and ask the hard questions. No matter what you decide, this is a weighty task. Why? Because we’re not only putting words in people’s ears when we preach. We’re putting words in people’s mouths when we sing.

SWBTS hosts inaugural World Missions Center Sending Church Conference

FORT WORTH—Ian Buntain, director of the World Missions Center and associate professor of missions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), said the idea behind the inaugural Sending Church Conference was sparked by a conversation he had with his grandson.

During a discussion about Romans 10:14-15, which says, in part, “How then are they to call on Him in whom they have not believed? How are they to believe in Him whom they have not heard?” the grandson asked a simple, yet convicting question: Why doesn’t everybody know about Jesus?

That question, and those verses, provided the inspiration for the conference, held March 16 at the seminary’s Riley Center.

“The purpose for this conference is to be a bit subversive, a bit disruptive, to reverse the current flow of church culture, and to remind us again that we began as a people of God, as Southern Baptists, for the sake of sending missionaries,” said Buntain, a former missionary to Asia who organized the conference and served as its keynote speaker. “I want to offer this conference to encourage believers to become full-time missionaries and to offer resources to those interested in missions.”

Stu Cocanougher, who serves as the share strategy pastor at Southcliff Baptist Church in Fort Worth— spoke at the conference and said most Christians Americans do not regularly engage in cross-cultural ministry even though all Christians are called to engage in such efforts. “As Christians, we love global missions, but we don’t practice it,” he said. “We are great fans of missionaries, but we think that we can never be that.

“For every one Southern Baptist that goes to the nations as [a missionary], 3,879 choose to stay. Going and sending is in the very nature of God,” Cocanougher added. In addition to speaking, he taught a workshop called “Leading Your Church to Create Effective Cross-Cultural Ministries” and gave participants numerous ideas about how to minister to their communities through their church.

Barry Calhoun, a church mobilization strategist for the International Mission Board (IMB) and missions director at North Garland Baptist Fellowship in Garland, spoke on the topic of “Creating a Mission Culture Within the Church.” He said his desire is to help churches prioritize missions “because missions is part of the fabric of the church, not just an activity of the church.”

April Ott, who has been serving with IMB for the last 17 years, taught on the topic of “Leading Your Church in Short-Term Missions.” On of the workshop attendants told her his church was “a going church, but not a sending church.” In response, Ott said, “Short-term missions lead people to become full time missionaries, because they can see the need first-hand. We need to help those who go on short-term missions to discover their calling to full-time mission work.”

Bruno Molina, language and interfaith evangelism associate for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and CEO of the National Hispanic Baptist Network, taught a workshop on “Sharing Christ Among Cultures and Religions.”

“My focus is to enable churches to develop cross-cultural interfaith knowledge and discernment, to be able to share the gospel effectively,” he said. Molina, who is of Hispanic descent, knows first-hand the importance of cross-cultural evangelism and diversity.

SWBTS celebra la primera conferencia de la iglesia de envío del centro de misiones mundiales

El 16 de marzo, el Director del Centro Mundial de Misiones y Profesor Asociado de Misiones en el Seminario Teológico Bautista del Suroeste (SWBTS), Dr. Ian Buntain, llevó a cabo la primera Conferencia de la Iglesia que envía en el Centro Riley del seminario. El evento comenzó con alabanza y adoración dirigida por estudiantes de la escuela de música y adoración de la iglesia de SWBTS, oración y una bienvenida del Dr. Buntain.

El Dr. Buntain basó la conferencia en Romanos 10:14-15, ¿Cómo, pues, invocarán a aquel en el cual no han creído? ¿Y cómo creerán en aquel de quien no han oído? ¿Y cómo oirán sin haber quien les predique?¿Y cómo predicarán si no fueren enviados? Como está escrito: ¡Cuán hermosos son los pies de los que anuncian la paz, de los que anuncian buenas nuevas! (RVR 1960) Buntain decidió usar estos versículos después de compartirlos con su nieto, quien quería saber por qué todas las personas no conocen a Jesús.

“El propósito de esta conferencia es ser un poco subversivo, un poco perturbador, para revertir el flujo actual de la cultura de la iglesia; y para recordarnos nuevamente que comenzamos como un pueblo de Dios, como bautistas del sur, por el bien de enviar misioneros”, compartió Buntain. Como ex misionero en Asia y nativo de Canadá, entiende el evangelismo transcultural, dijo: “Quiero ofrecer esta conferencia para alentar a los creyentes a convertirse en misioneros de tiempo completo y ofrecer recursos a aquellos interesados ​​en las misiones”, agregó Buntain.

Como organizador del evento y uno de los oradores principales, Buntain dijo: “Mi deseo es revertir el flujo de nuestra cultura bautista, a la que se le ha dado la plataforma a los pastores que son mejores para reunir, y luego moverlos de regreso a siendo una cultura emisora”, agregó el Dr. Buntain. También impartió un taller titulado,Misiones en casa e incluyó un tiempo de oración como parte de la conferencia.

El Dr. Stu Cocanougher, quien se desempeña como pastor de Share Strategy en la Iglesia Bautista de Southcliff, liderando los ministerios de alcance, evangelismo, misiones e interculturales de Southcliff y uno de los oradores en la conferencia dijo que, “La mayoría de los cristianos estadounidenses no se involucran regularmente en el ministerio transcultural y los ministerios transculturales son para todos los cristianos, no solo para los misioneros. Como cristianos, amamos las misiones globales, pero no las practicamos… Somos grandes admiradores de los misioneros, pero pensamos que nunca podremos serlo”. Cocanougher agregó que “la mayoría de los cristianos ven las misiones como algo que podemos elegir hacer pero no ser parte de ellas.

“Por cada bautista del sur que va a las naciones como misionero, 3.879 eligen quedarse en casa. Ir y enviar está en la naturaleza misma de Dios”, agregó Cocanougher. También impartió un taller llamado Dirigiendo a su iglesia para crear ministerios transculturales efectivos y les dio a los participantes en su taller numerosas ideas de cómo ministrar a sus comunidades a través de su iglesia. “Creo que este es el mejor momento para estar vivo en la historia del cristianismo”, dijo Cocanougher, autor de Reaching the World Across the Street (Llegar al mundo al otro lado de la calle).

Barry Calhoun, un estratega de movilización de iglesias para la IMB y director de misiones de North Garland Baptist Fellowship en Texas, fue el tercer orador principal y habló sobre Creando una cultura misionera dentro de la iglesia. Dijo que quiere que los participantes sepan, “cómo mover la misión de un segundo plano a un primer plano de la iglesia porque las misiones son parte de la estructura de la iglesia, no sólo una actividad de la iglesia”. Calhoun también proporcionó formas prácticas de cómo se vería eso dentro del contexto de la iglesia local.

April Ott, quien ha estado sirviendo en la IMB durante los últimos 17 años, impartió el taller Dirigiendo su iglesia en misiones a corto plazo, donde uno de los participantes compartió la razón por la que decidió asistir al taller: “Mi iglesia es una iglesia que va, pero no una iglesia que envía, quiero que seamos una iglesia que envía”. Ott lo animó cuando dijo: “Las misiones a corto plazo llevan a las personas a convertirse en misioneros de tiempo completo, porque pueden ver la necesidad de primera mano y necesitamos ayudar a aquellos que van a misiones de corto plazo a descubrir su llamado al trabajo misionero de tiempo completo”.

El Dr. Bruno Molina, Asociado de Lenguaje y Evangelismo Interreligioso para los Ministerios Misionales de la Convención de los Bautistas del Sur de Texas, y director ejecutivo de la Red Nacional Bautista Hispana, impartió un taller sobre Compartir a Cristo entre culturas y religiones. “Mi enfoque es permitir que las iglesias desarrollen conocimiento interreligioso transcultural y discernimiento para poder compartir el evangelio de manera efectiva”, agregó Molina. Molina, de ascendencia hispana, conoce de primera mano la importancia del evangelismo y la diversidad intercultural.

La conferencia también incluyó a otros oradores y líderes de talleres como Ron Bunyard, quien enseñó Ministerio de Estudiantes Internacionales; Garrett Pearson, quien enseñó Los desplazados y cómo se puede responder y dijo, “No puedes cambiar el mundo entero, pero puedes ayudar a cambiar a una persona”; el Dr. y la Sra. Ford quienes enseñaron Necesidades de atención de los miembros para nuestros misioneros; y el Dr. David Pagel, quien Misiones Interculturales. Varios ministerios apoyaron el evento con casetas ofreciendo información misional a los participantes: El Director de Admisiones del SWBTS, Armando Hernández y parte de su equipo de admisiones, SBTC Missions y SEND Network, IMB, el equipo de Deaf Catalyst de Converge International Ministries, World Relief , estudiante internacional de SWBTS, equipo de estudiantes de SWBTS, Texas Baptist College, Hope Literacy para enseñar ESL como una forma de compartir el evangelio, etc.