Author: Jayson Larson

Reach Texas giving for 2022-23 campaign sets record

GRAPEVINE—With the 2023-2024 Reach Texas State Missions Offering in full swing, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention is celebrating the generosity of its churches stemming from last year’s campaign.

SBTC churches gave $1,673,560 to Reach Texas—the most ever collected in a single year for the offering. The offering period covers September 2022 to August 2023. It marked the second time in three years a record Reach Texas offering was collected. The second-highest offering came during the 2020-2021 campaign, when $1,527,969 was given by SBTC churches.

SBTC Executive Director Nathan Lorick said giving to Reach Texas is critical for the advancement of missions and evangelism strategies across the state and expressed gratitude for yet another year of sacrificial giving on the part of convention churches.

“I am so grateful for the generosity of SBTC churches and their common desire to reach Texas and impact the world together,” Lorick said.

Reach Texas funds a variety of gospel-fueled efforts, including church planting, disaster relief, missions mobilization, and the annual Empower Conference, which emphasizes evangelism. Data indicates that an estimated 20 million of Texas’ 28 million residents are lost.

The 2023-2024 statewide challenge goal is $1.6 million. For more information or to give, visit

SBTC DR relieves Baptist teams to serve Florida hurricane survivors

PERRY, Fla.—Though national media attention regarding Hurricane Idalia has ceased, recovery from the disaster continues. The category 4 storm slammed into Florida’s Big Bend region on Aug. 30. Southern Baptists of Texas Disaster Relief teams answered the state’s call for assistance in late September and remained working in Taylor County in early October.

“We were on alert status even before Idalia hit,” SBTC DR Director Scottie Stice said. “On out-of-state deployments, we don’t respond until the host state requests us. Our deployment was put on hold until Florida and Southeast Baptist DR teams cycled through. We came in and relieved them the last week of September.”

The Big Bend—also known as Florida’s Nature Coast, where the panhandle meets the peninsula—is an eight-county area densely forested and rural, far removed from big cities and popular tourist attractions, according to

Taylor County, the southernmost county in the Big Bend, has a population of about 22,000, ranking it 54th in population out of the state’s 67 counties. In 2021, about 18% of the residents lived below the poverty line, USA Today reported.

Serving disaster survivors in rural areas such as Taylor County presents challenges. Homes are far apart and rural roads sometimes difficult to clear.

An SBTC DR chainsaw team under the direction of Monte Furrh of Bonham arrived in the Perry area first. Six volunteers worked 10-hour days for a week and completed seven time-consuming chainsaw jobs. That task included removing large limbs—known as widow-makers due to their dangerous potential to harm if left in place—from damaged trees or helping homeowners with downed trees.

“The work is with massive live oaks. It takes time,” Stice said.

Furrh’s team was relieved by another North Texas team directed by Jesse Hauptrief of Anna on Oct. 1. The team is scheduled to work through week’s end, Stice said. SBTC DR team volunteers come from across Texas, he added.

Florida homeowner Randy Newman posted his thanks for the SBTC DR team’s help on Facebook. “Them showing up to our house was a godsend,” Newman wrote. “They worked all day cutting trees, most of them ‘widow-makers.’ They started the day with a prayer for safety, our community, and for me and [my wife] personally. I can’t explain the true compassion they have for all of us involved in the storm.”

Thus far, SBTC DR teams have recorded one salvation, many spiritual contacts, and many Bibles distributed, Stice said.


Allowing God to preach to us so we can preach to others

Paul’s exhortation in 2 Timothy 4:2—“Preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season”—is an urgent call for pastoral readiness. We are called to be ready to preach God’s Word regardless of circumstantial convenience. Having walked with chronic daily migraines the past two years, my recent sermon in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 provided me an opportunity to live out this truth and boast in my weakness in the midst of difficult circumstances.

Preaching is cathartic for me. I can meditate on a passage, memorize it, and apply it to the biggest struggles of my life, but when I am forced to process and share those reflections with our local church, the Scriptures pierces the depths of my heart in a different way. My recent sermon taught me three valuable lessons:

1. Preaching is open heart surgery.

The preaching event is a unique act of worship in which we depend on God’s Spirit to empower us as we proclaim His Word. Preaching takes the goal of teaching a step further, from informing minds to transforming hearts. We must not neglect faithful exegesis and understandable explanation, but we should pray and work to the end of our sermon for heart transformation. God is the divine physician who uses His Word to pierce our hearts and remove the cancerous sin within (Psalm 147:3; Matthew 9:12; Hebrews 4:12). Although a scalpel may cut painfully deep, in the hands of a skillful surgeon it can save our lives. But before we prayerfully seek to preach to the hearts of others, our hearts must be worked on first.

2. Go under the knife first.

Colossians 3:16 provides the aim of each local church gathering: “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts.” As a pastor, my eyes are drawn to “teaching and admonishing one another,” but out of the four verbs in this verse, only one is an imperative—and it is stated first.

The order and emphasis of this sentence commands us to let the Word of Christ dwell in our hearts before we even think about teaching or admonishing others in it. The worst mistake a preacher can make is to approach a passage exegetically and homiletically but not devotionally and prayerfully. As John Piper writes in Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching as Worship, “[Worship] is why the universe exists, why the church exists, why corporate worship exists, and why preaching exists.”

We must approach God’s Word as worshipers primarily (and as preachers secondarily) and ask God’s Spirit to let it work on and dwell in our hearts. Only then, as a former pastor told me, after we plunge the sword of the Spirit into our own hearts and wrench it around will we then be able to pull it out and implore others to do the same.

3. Lay yourself on the operating table.

Worshipful preaching is vulnerable: in expositing God’s Word, my heart is exposed. While this is of great benefit for the preacher, it is also of great benefit for others. This is why the Bible is filled with examples of various saints’ shortcomings, from Peter’s fickleness to Paul’s weakness.

However, there is a prideful propensity to present a polished product. This is why for years I manuscripted my sermons, rehearsed them multiple times, asked pastors for feedback, and watched my own sermon videos each week. But in my experience, the sermons that connect most with people (either in a challenging or encouraging way) are not the ones where I was the most technically sound, but the ones where I was the most human.

It’s difficult to invite your church into the operating room, but when the pulpit becomes the operating table in which God’s people witness Him using His Word to work in our hearts, it compels others to bring their hearts to our great surgeon.

Pastors, lay yourself bare before God’s Word and ask Him to work in your heart for the sake of your soul (before the sake of your sermons). Then and only then will we be able to preach to the hearts of others so that they, too, might find great healing under the scalpel of our great physician. “He has torn us, that He may heal us; He has struck us down, and He will bind us up” (Hosea 6:1).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Bailey and his wife, Leah. SUBMITTED PHOTO

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

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

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

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

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

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


Young adults pack BT Church’s growing Move Conference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to lead people who may not always like you

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

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

1. Be glad they love Jesus.

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

2. Empathize with them.

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

3. Love and serve no matter what.

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

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

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

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

Solidifying and streamlining your membership process

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

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

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

Be doctrinally firm

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

Invite current members to the class

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

Careful in, beautiful out 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, visit or email

SBTC Executive Board hears reports on partnerships, student ministry

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

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

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

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

CP receipts down after giving slows in June, July

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

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

Board to ask messengers for extension on constitutional interpretation at AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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