Author: Jayson Larson

The power of the doctrine of inerrancy

Each week during worship, just before the sermon, our congregation sings a portion of the song “Speak O Lord” written by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend. It is one of my favorite parts of our liturgy. Week after week, through the ups and downs that accompany pastoral ministry, I look forward to this moment when I will hear a multi-generational and diverse congregation join with one voice and sing:

“… Cause our faith to rise; cause our eyes to see
Your majestic love and authority.

Words of pow’r that can never fail—
Let their truth prevail over unbelief.”

As we prepare for the preaching of God’s Word, I sometimes listen to those around me and take in the fact that all of us in that moment are desiring the same thing. From the oldest to the youngest member, we want to be found in a spirit of humility, submission, and belief concerning the Scripture about to be shared. In these moments, we are training our congregation to recall that the entirety of the Scripture is without error or fault and is 100% trustworthy in all that it presents.

When the beauty of the doctrine of inerrancy is held fast and guarded by the pastors and leaders of the body of Christ, the implications can echo through the entire congregation. Here are a few practical areas where the doctrine of inerrancy can have an impact:

In the pulpit

The doctrine of inerrancy brings great humility to our sermon prep. On more than one occasion, I have gotten down the road with an idea about how I wanted to preach an upcoming sermon only to realize something I was seeing was not correct or needed further study. The inerrancy of Scripture guides and guards our sermons and allows us to train those in our care to study deeper than they may believe they can. The doctrine of inerrancy, together with exegetical and expository preaching, allows us to train our churches to know God more fully and trust Him more deeply so they can speak about Him most truly.

In our public discourse

Believers today need to reclaim what it means to be a people of the book. I have watched tearfully as friends have deconstructed their faith and, in many cases, it started with an abandoning of their belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. The beauty of this doctrine is that it does not find its roots in man’s understanding of God’s Word or in the development of the canon, but in the person of our triune God. God does not lie and there is no deceit found in Him. Therefore, His Word as the revelation of Himself to us cannot contain falsehood. The Chicago Statement on Inerrancy is helpful and clear, and I encourage you to consider making it a core document in your statement of beliefs. Two other resources to help train your church members how to confidently defend the validity of Scripture with their lost family and friends are Greg Gilbert’s book, Why Trust The Bible, and the documentary, “The God Who Speaks.”

In family discipleship

A father once approached me in our church because his teenager was questioning the Bible. He shared with me that in a moment of feeling defeated by the questions he could not answer, he told his kid, “Well, the Bible would be different if it was written today.” I quickly rebuked him and told him to never say that again. If I had left the conversation with just those harsh words, neither he nor his teenager would have a right understanding of Scripture. Instead, we carefully began to walk together through the beauty of the inerrancy and infallibility of God’s Word. We looked at passages like 2 Samuel 7:28, Psalm 119, and Proverbs 30:5-6. We started to draw lines in the sand with verses like Psalm 12:6 and Numbers 23:19. What began to take shape was a renewed and robust understanding of God’s nature. When God was understood more fully, the confidence in His Word was trusted more deeply. All the questions the student had were not answered, but his source of truth had been reclaimed to its rightful place in God. The doctrine of inerrancy can help families in your church live out the biblical mandate to make disciples of their children.

In our gospel proclamation

Salvation shines brightest in a church that holds fast to the doctrine of inerrancy. Because God’s Word is truth, His gospel can be believed, offering hope and rest for every weary and burdened sinner and every questioning skeptic. The doctrine of inerrancy propels followers of Christ to be bold, confident, and urgent proclaimers of the good news far and wide. Proverbs 25:25 says, “Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.” The best news has come to us from the shores of heaven itself through the person and work of Jesus Christ, and the doctrine of inerrancy keeps us building the church until its completion.

Brother pastor, we need the perfect truth of God’s Word to be exalted above our leadership doubts, our worries for God’s people, and our own self-righteousness that too easily creeps into the corners of our heart. I pray the doctrine of inerrancy will echo through your congregation and be used by you to carry many into the halls of eternity.

Effectively preaching to all generations

Most pastors know there is not a target audience when it comes to preaching God’s Word. It is our job to preach to all our brothers and sisters in Christ. Even so, preaching in ways that feed all our sheep, regardless of age, takes intentionality and effort. So how can we, as pastors, accomplish this? Here are a handful of things to keep in mind as you plan and prepare your sermons:

God’s Word is living and active.

Preacher, we can take great comfort in the fact our message does not originate with us. We have all preached a clunker of a sermon and been beyond surprised when someone approaches us and says, “Pastor, the Lord used that in a mighty way in my life.” I am always grateful for moments like this, as they remind me God’s Word is living and active. As we craft sermons for all ages, take comfort in knowing God can use all of it. Be faithful to the text and watch what He does.

Stages and ages do not always match.

We recently baptized a 72-year-old man who came to know the Lord out of agnosticism. The man knows very little of Christianity, but he knows the Lord. In the same congregation, we have a 15-year-old student who could teach deep theological truths to some of our adult classes. What does that tell us? Many of our older members need to hear simple truth, and many of our children need theological depth.

You or we?

Seminary professor Greg Wills once told a pastor friend of mine he could tell he only thought about his own generation when he preached and that he was missing a chance to communicate to the older generation. Wills explained that older generations respond more to preaching delivered in the second person (“You need to do better” or “Jesus loves you”). Younger generations—millennials and Gen Z—are more responsive when addressed in first person (“We need to do better” or “We are loved by God”). As a result, I will alternate point of view based on which age I want to communicate to in any particular moment.

Hide a few ‘Easter eggs’ in your sermon.

I have four kids under age 10. We also have 1.2 million kids at our church each week (or so it seems). It is not only hard for parents to keep their elementary kids quiet (I thank the Lord for these kids every time I hear them, by the way), but to keep them engaged. So I started hiding word Easter eggs in the sermon and telling kids about it. I will tell the kids something like, “Hey I am going to say ‘booger’ in the sermon today. See if you can find it.” This has worked really well. Kids victoriously come up to me all the time to tell me they heard my word, and when I ask them what part of the sermon it was in, they can usually tell me.

Provide varied application for the same point.

Demonstrate how truth affects different generations. For example, when talking about trying to find hope in the wrong things, you might say, “Teens, we may think that sitting at that other lunch table will fix us. Parents, we may think that if we just had a little more cushion in the savings account, that will fix things. Older brothers and sisters, you may think, ‘Things will be better if all my grandkids come home for Christmas.’ But Christians know the hope and fulfillment we are all seeking can only be found in Jesus.” Changing perspectives like this does two things. First, it provides specific application for each generation. Secondly—and this is powerful—it allows each generation to realize it must depend on Jesus Christ at every stage of life and reminds each generation about what the other generations might be thinking. Parents and grandparents are reminded how hard it is to be a teen. Kids hear that parents struggle as well. Our older generation is reminded how stressful it is to be a parent.

As ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are called to serve and preach to all people. As we craft our sermons, we should consider how the text can best be heard and applied by all generations in our church.

Great Hills’ Forshee to be nominated for SBTC president

Gregg Matte, senior pastor of Houston’s First Baptist Church, has announced his intention to nominate Danny Forshee, lead pastor of Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin, as president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention at its 25th annual meeting in November.

Forshee has served as lead pastor at Great Hills for more than 13 years and as president of the Danny Forshee Evangelistic Association for nearly 20 years. From 2018-2020, he served as chairman of the SBTC’s Executive Committee.

Forshee said he would be honored to serve as SBTC president “if God so wills. … I believe in the SBTC and the tremendous good we are able to accomplish as we work together. I am grateful to God for the impact our convention makes for the glory of God and the expansion of the gospel.”

Matte describes Forshee as “a visionary leader with tremendous energy,” adding that his hard work and commitment to his family and church exemplify qualities the convention needs in a president.

“I’m excited to nominate Dr. Danny Forshee as the next SBTC president because Dr. Forshee has a passion for the Lord and for the work of the church,” Matte said. “He has served faithfully in our state convention and his church for years. He has the grit and grace to lead us well. As an author, former professor, amazing pastor, and gifted leader, along with SBTC experience and a generous heart, Danny is the right man for this role in this time.”

Great Hills gave $233,730.08 through the Cooperative Program in 2022 and $244,799.41 in 2021.

If elected, Forshee said he would look forward to the opportunity to serve with SBTC Executive Director Nathan Lorick and his staff. Forshee added that he loves the convention’s emphasis on evangelism, church planting, leadership training, and pastoral health.

“I also want to help our convention continue to be a truth and grace convention,” he said. “I would love to see us expand and bring in more churches that will help us speak the truth in love and assist us in being known more for what we stand for rather than what we stand against. I believe God has great plans for our convention. These are challenging and also very exciting days in which to be a Southern Baptist.”

Forshee holds a doctoral degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, where he has served as a professor. He also served as a professor of evangelism at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.

He has written four books: For the One, Modern Family Vintage Values, Jesus and the Church, and Winning the Battle in Your Mind. He writes a daily devotional and records a weekly podcast called REvangelical: Rethinking Christian Living.

Forshee and his wife, Ashley, have three grown children and four granddaughters.

The SBTC annual meeting will be held Nov. 13-14 at Cross City Church in Euless.


Know their names

As a freshman member of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Corps of Cadets, I had the same rank designation as every one of my peers, a fish with only a last name. As “Fish Philley,” one of my many daily responsibilities included greeting upperclassmen as our paths crossed on campus.

The acceptable greeting was to quickly stand at attention and sound off with a traditional Aggie “Howdy!” followed by the upperclassman’s title and last name. In order to successfully address higher-ranking cadets, knowing the actual names of each upperclassman was imperative.

By the end of fish year, I knew nearly a thousand names. That same concept continues to benefit my ministry today.

While describing Himself as the Good Shepherd, Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27). Even though Jesus didn’t have a 100% retention rate, a strong connection exists between the sheep who are known by their Shepherd and the ones who follow Him. Jesus’ sheep were not just a number. They were fully known.

The pastor’s role as under-shepherd within the local church should reflect the same. As the Good Shepherd, Jesus knows His sheep by name. As an under-shepherd, I should know my sheep by name as well. I strive to know the names of every single church member because I believe it’s indicative of how well I truly know them. I also believe it’s an indicator of how well they may follow me in carrying out the Great Commission.

Knowing the names of our sheep is part of our calling as pastors. It’s a required discipline. It took a disciplined effort for me to know the names of nearly a thousand upperclassmen, and the same is true in ministry. This has nothing to do with a gift of memorization, but everything to do with praying for the souls I am called to care for and watch over (Acts 20:28, Hebrews 13:17).

Praying for my families cultivates a heart connection that rote memorization can never achieve. I can’t remember a season of ministry that has not included membership list printouts postered on a wall in my office. These lists help me put names with faces while also serving as a guide for intentionally praying through our member families. They include pictures with names of every adult member and have ranged from dozens to hundreds.

I then systematically pray for each member after sending a weekly email to a set number of households asking if there is anything I may pray for them about. This is a way for me to get to know my sheep while also being welcomed into their lives in a unique way. If you have 52 families, that’s only one per week. Even if you have 624 households, that’s only 12 per week. You can realistically know their names and pray for your entire congregation every calendar year.

If you’re new to an area of ministry, this can be overwhelming. So set clear expectations at the outset. Share with your people that you are going to do everything you can to get to know them, but let them know it will take time and that you will be depending on their gracious patience. Remind them you will probably need them to reintroduce themselves at every interaction until you learn their names. There’s a sweet spirit of unity that results from this type of mutual humility.

What if you’ve been at your church awhile and still don’t know the names of some of your people? Initiate a conversation and ask for a gracious reset. Commit it to the Lord in prayer, then sincerely share with your people that you’ve loved serving them, but you’ve been convicted that you don’t know them as a shepherd should. This type of vulnerability will be refreshing and it should encourage them to lean in closer as you get to know them.

I want to encourage you to know their names. The better you know your sheep, the better shepherd you can be.


SBTC en Español organiza por primera vez retiros para adultos mayores y la esposa del pastor

CEDAR HILL—El departamento en español de la Convención de los Bautistas del Sur de Texas (SBTC, por sus siglas en inglés) marcó algunas primicias en abril cuando organizó retiros separados para adultos mayores y para la esposa del pastor. Los retiros tenían como objetivo proporcionar recursos y ministrar a la salud física y espiritual de los asistentes.

“Tenemos la visión de apoyar el desarrollo de las iglesias hispanas en Texas de una manera sana y eficaz, por lo que estamos constantemente buscando maneras de impactar los diferentes segmentos de liderazgo en estas iglesias,” dijo Chuy Ávila, asociado principal de la SBTC en Español. “Decidimos hacer estos eventos porque [los adultos mayores y la esposa del pastor] son dos de los grupos más descuidados, sin embargo, son valiosos para el cuerpo de Cristo.”

Ambos eventos se llevaron a cabo en el Centro de Retiro Bautista Mt. Lebanon, comenzando con el Retiro para Adultos Mayores realizado el 17 y 18 de abril. El objetivo del retiro era animar a los adultos mayores a servir en sus iglesias compartiendo sus vidas y discipulando a las generaciones más jóvenes.

Los asistentes al retiro fueron animados por Jorge E. Díaz, quien pastorea Semilla de Mostaza Centro Familiar Internacional en El Paso y es también un autor y conferencista que sirvió en la Casa Bautista de Publicaciones durante 35 años. Díaz invitó a sus oyentes a aceptar el reto de elegir ser felices a través de la renovación por medio del Espíritu Santo. También dirigió la sesión final del evento, desafiando a los adultos mayores a hacer discípulos al invertir en la vida de otros.

Fernando de Luna, pastor de la Primera Iglesia Bautista Mexicana de Odessa, dirigió las alabanzas, y Teodoro Pérez, pastor y humorista, dirigió una velada de humor y actividades dinámicas para los asistentes.

El retiro de adultos mayores también incluyó a:

— David Galván, quien se retiró luego de 40 años como pastor principal de la Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida en Dallas y fue el primer hispano en servir como vicepresidente de la Convención Bautista del Sur. Galván enseñó el taller “Manejando tu vida espiritual” (Proverbios 4:23), que incluyó temas como la seguridad de la salvación, aprender doctrina cristiana, vivir una vida ejemplar y establecer un tiempo sistemático para la Palabra de Dios, la oración y el evangelismo.

— Roland Johnson, pastor principal de la Primera Iglesia Bautista de Keller, habló sobre la enfermedad de Alzheimer y animó a los asistentes a hacer cambios, tomar precauciones y llevar una vida más sana mediante el ejercicio y la nutrición.

— Hervin Antonio, que lleva 50 años en el ministerio y es pastor de la Iglesia Bautista Maranata de Arlington. Habló de cómo los adultos mayores pueden hacer frente a la pérdida de un cónyuge apoyándose en las promesas del Señor. Les instó a continuar en la obra del Señor y a rodearse de familiares, amigos y hermanos.

Asistentes al retiro de adultos mayores de SBTC en Español en un tiempo en adoración. FOTO COMPARTIDA

Retiro para la esposa del pastor “Ven y reposa”

El retiro para la esposa del pastor principal se celebró durante tres días, del 30 de marzo al 1 de abril. El objetivo era ofrecer a las mujeres un tiempo de descanso, compañerismo y formación.

“Las esposas de los pastores son… las más incomprendidas debido a la gran carga que se ha puesto sobre sus espaldas y que no están obligadas a llevar. … Hay muy pocos miembros de la iglesia que realmente entienden y comprenden su rol en el ministerio,” dijo Ávila. “Como resultado, [muchas] se aíslan y se encierran en sí mismas a causa de sus frustraciones y decepciones.”

El retiro comenzó con un concierto de oración dirigido por Irma Ramos, que ha servido junto a su esposo, Marcos, pastor de la PIB de Galena Park, durante más de 40 años. La Sra. Ramos dirigió a las mujeres en un tiempo de adoración, oración y confesión basado en Nehemías 9:3, que muestra que adorar a un Dios santo va de la mano con confesar el pecado.

La Sra. Ramos también estuvo a cargo de la fogata del viernes, donde presentó un estudio sobre “El Llamado de Una” basado en Nehemías y centrado en cómo Dios nos llama individualmente.

“Fue un privilegio y una bendición para mí compartir estos días con mis hermanas,” dijo Ramos. “Fue bueno ver a algunas que ya conocía y me alegró mucho ver a tantas jóvenes esposas de pastores.”

Clara Molina, profesora retirada, conferenciante y autora de varios libros, entre ellos “¡Oh, no! mi esposo es el pastor,” compartió varios versículos de las Escrituras para recordar a la esposa del pastor la importancia del descanso. También ofreció herramientas para que las mujeres compartan el Evangelio.

Otras oradoras fueron:

— Zoricelis Dávila, psicoterapeuta y autora de varios libros, entre ellos “No sé qué me pasa.” Dirigió una sesión dinámica sobre “El reflejo de tu interior”, cuyo objetivo era ayudar a las esposas de los pastores a analizar sus emociones con el fin de crear equilibrio y establecer límites.

— Natalie Arzate, esposa del pastor José Arzate de la Iglesia Bridge en Richardson. Además de dirigir las alabanzas, impartió un taller sobre cómo utilizar la tecnología en el ministerio.

— Diana Puente, profesora adjunta de la Universidad Bautista de Luisiana y esposa del pastor Juan Puente, que sirve como plantador de Send Network en la Iglesia Lakes de Florida. Ella presentó a las mujeres varios recursos de la Convención Bautista del Sur disponibles para la iglesia. También enseñó la última sesión, “Vive el llamado,” donde habló sobre el llamado de la esposa del pastor.

— Carla Arriola, esposa del director de Send Network SBTC, Julio Arriola, dirigió un conversatorio sobre la siguiente generación y tener amistades sanas.

El retiro concluyó con un panel de discusión compuesto por Ramos, Arzate y Puente quienes compartieron su experiencia como esposa de pastor y respondieron a las preguntas de las asistentes.


Allen church hosts prayer vigil after 8 killed during outlet mall shooting

ALLEN—Mayor-elect Baine Brooks stood at the pulpit at Cottonwood Creek Church, where he is a member and sings on the worship team, and addressed the hundreds of people who gathered for a prayer vigil on Sunday evening (May 7).

As he walked onto the stage, Brooks folded up a piece of paper on which he had prepared his remarks, put it in his breast pocket, and said, “I think I’m going to put my script up and I’m just going to speak from the heart.”

A day earlier and just a couple of miles from the church, a 33-year-old man parked his car outside the Allen Premium Outlets, at the time bustling with Saturday afternoon shoppers, and opened fire. Eight people—including children—were killed and at least seven others were wounded. The gunman was shot and killed by a police officer at the mall on an unrelated call.

“Jesus, just please take the wheel,” Brooks said. “Our community has just been hit and it hurts. … I think prayer is going to be what we’re going to need going forward.”

Among those attending were some of the victims’ families, first responders, and elected officials, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Attorney General Ken Paxton. The vigil was led by Cottonwood Creek Senior Pastor John Mark Caton and several members of his staff, who took turns leading guided prayer sessions that included words of encouragement from Scripture. Referencing Psalm 34, which teaches that the Lord is set against those who do evil and that He is near the brokenhearted, Cottonwood Creek Elementary Minister Kelly Kitch said, “I want you to know that God is near, and it’s OK to cry out to Him.”

Caton said all of humanity longs to exist in a better place, but instead lives “in the in-between”—the place between God’s good and perfect creation found in Genesis 1 and the new heaven and earth promised in Revelation 21 where there is no longer “dying, crying, or pain.” As followers of Christ wait for the fulfillment of that promise while living in a world broken by sin, he said it is good for people to remember the words of Isaiah 61, which describes Jesus as the Messiah who will bring good news to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, and comfort all who mourn.

“Let us be a people who comfort those who mourn, who pray for those who grieve, who bring the oil of joy into spaces of sadness,” Caton said.

In closing the vigil, he prayed, “God, as we leave here tonight, we leave here corporately—willing to comfort and not hate, willing to love and bring others together instead of [letting] differences tear us apart. God, we trust that you … will comfort all who mourn.”

Retreats for senior adults, pastors’ wives mark a first for SBTC en Español

CEDAR HILL—The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s en Español department marked a pair of firsts in April when it hosted separate retreats for senior adults and the wives of senior pastors. The retreats aimed to provide resources and minister to the physical and spiritual health of those attending.

“We have a vision to support the development of Hispanic churches in Texas in a healthy and effective way, so we are constantly looking for ways we can impact the different segments of leadership in these churches,” said Chuy Ávila, SBTC en Español lead associate. “We decided to do these events because [senior adults and pastors’ wives] are two of the most neglected groups, yet they are valuable to the body of Christ.”

Both events were held at the Mt. Lebanon Baptist Retreat Center, beginning with the Senior Adult Retreat held April 17-18. The focus of the retreat was to encourage senior adults to serve in their churches by sharing their lives and discipling younger generations.

Retreat attendees were encouraged by Jorge E. Díaz, who pastors Semilla de Mostaza Centro Familiar Internacional in El Paso and is also an author and lecturer who served at Casa Bautista de Publicaciones for 35 years. Diaz invited his listeners to accept the challenge of choosing to be happy through the renewal of the Holy Spirit. He also led the final session of the event, challenging senior adults to make disciples as they invest in the lives of others.

Fernando de Luna, pastor of First Mexican Baptist Church of Odessa, led worship, and Teodoro Perez, a pastor and humorist, led an evening of humor and dynamic activities for attendees.

The senior adult retreat also included:

  • David Galvan, who retired after 40 years as senior pastor of New Life Baptist Church in Dallas and was the first Hispanic to serve as vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Galvan taught about “Managing Your Spiritual Life” (Proverbs 4:23), which included topics such as assurance of salvation, learning Christian doctrine, living an exemplary life, and establishing a systematic time for God’s Word, prayer, and evangelism.
  • Frank Palos, who has an extensive background in stewardship and administration. He provided adults with information on how to be financially secure in retirement.
  • Roland Johnson, senior pastor at Primera Iglesia Bautista in Keller, who spoke about Alzheimer’s disease and encouraged the audience to make changes, take precautions, and live healthier lives through exercise and nutrition.
  • Hervin Antonio, who has been in ministry for 50 years and pastors Iglesia Bautista Maranata in Arlington. He talked about how senior adults can cope with the loss of a spouse by leaning on the promises of the Lord. He urged them to continue in the Lord’s work and surround themselves with family, friends, and siblings.
Asistentes al retiro de adultos mayores de SBTC en Español en un tiempo en adoración. FOTO COMPARTIDA

Come Away Pastor Wives Retreat

The retreat for the wives of senior pastors was held over three days, from March 30 to April 1. It was designed to provide a time of rest, fellowship, and training for the women.

“Pastors’ wives are … the most misunderstood because of the great burden that has been placed on their backs that they are not obligated to carry. … There are very few church members who really understand and comprehend their role in ministry,” Ávila said. “As a result, [many] isolate themselves and shut down because of their frustrations and disappointments.”

The retreat began with a concert of prayer led by Irma Ramos, who has served alongside her husband, Marcos, pastor of FBC Galena Park, for more than 40 years. Mrs. Ramos led the women in a time of worship, prayer, and confession based on Nehemiah 9:3, which shows that worshipping a holy God goes hand-in-hand with confessing sin.

Mrs. Ramos was also in charge of Friday’s campfire time, where she presented a study on “The Calling of One” based on Nehemiah and focusing on how God calls us individually.

“It was a privilege and a blessing for me to share these days with my sisters,” Mrs. Ramos said. “It was good to see some I already knew, and I was so happy to see so many young pastors’ wives.”

Clara Molina, retired teacher, speaker, and author of several books including Oh No! I Married the Pastor! shared several verses from Scripture to remind the pastors’ wives of the importance of rest. She also offered tools for the women to share the gospel.

Other speakers included:

  • Zoricelis Dávila, a psychotherapist and author of several books, including I Don’t Know What’s Wrong With Me. She led a dynamic session on “Reflection of the Inner Self,” which aimed to help the pastors’ wives analyze their emotions for the purposes of creating balance and setting boundaries.
  • Natalie Arzate, wife of Pastor Jose Arzate of Bridge Church in Richardson. In addition to leading worship, she taught a workshop on how to use technology in ministry.
  • Diana Puente, adjunct professor at Louisiana Baptist University and wife of Pastor Juan Puente, who serves as a Send Network planter at Lakes Church in Florida. She introduced the women to various Southern Baptist Convention resources available to them. She also taught the last session, “Live the Calling,” where she talked about the calling of pastors’ wives.
  • Carla Arriola, wife of Send Network SBTC Director Julio Arriola, who led conversations about the next generation and having healthy friendships.

The retreat concluded with a panel discussion featuring Ramos, Arzate, and Puente, who shared their experience as pastors’ wives and answered questions from attendees.


Florida first responder sees career as spiritual calling

FORT PIERCE, Fla. (BP)—For Tommy Neiman, an award-winning firefighter and paramedic, the theme for his vocational calling has become about challenging first responders to be believers, and believers to be first responders.

Neiman described being fascinated with the lights and sirens of emergency vehicles as he was growing up. His curiosity would soon lead him to this spiritual calling.

“I remember following firetrucks and any vehicle with lights and sirens going as best as I could to find out where they were going,” Neiman said. “That intrigue led to me going into that kind of work full-time after college. I really felt that God’s calling in my life was to see the Lord work through my responses, and He certainly gives us the desires of our hearts.

“God is still using me in a very powerful, spiritual way to share His Word and to encourage others, even despite the tragedies and the emergencies that they’re going through.”

Although no longer working full time “on the line” as a firefighter and paramedic, Neiman still occasionally responds to calls if needed and helps with the training division of the St. Lucie County Fire Department.

Additionally, he has been ministering as a chaplain since his ordination in 1997 and currently serves as a staff associate at the South Beach Campus of Westside Church in Fort Pierce, Fla.

His decorated 30-year career includes being named 2003 Firefighter of the Year in Florida and doing chaplaincy ministry at Ground Zero in the wake of 9/11.

Neiman explained the numerous emergency calls throughout his career have provided clarity that spiritual opportunities could happen at any time.

One example came when an emergency call resulted in Neiman visiting the house next door to his childhood home.

As his old neighbor was dying of cancer, Neiman would have the chance to pray with and minister to this neighbor, with whom he’d had a negative relationship years before.

“[This emergency call] kind of made me look at my career in a new light in seeing that any call I go on, I didn’t want to take for granted and just go through the call,” Neiman said.

“I would always really have a consciousness that God could be doing something or I could be used some way spiritually on the call.

“It just seems like a lot of calls that I had you could just clearly see God’s presence on the scenes in one way or another or His divine appointments by the impact that it had.”

This realization would launch Neiman into his next stage of ministry as a writer. In 2000, Neiman compiled several noteworthy emergency calls from his career into a book titled “Sirens for the Cross.”

The book has since been updated several times. The latest version, published in 2019, features more than 15 stories from Neiman’s career.

The book’s website features endorsements from former SBC presidents Adrian Rogers (former pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church near Memphis), Jack Graham (senior pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church near Dallas) as well as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and famous Southern Baptist cartoonist Joe McKeever.

Neiman eventually started his own ministry organization based around encouraging first responders also titled “Sirens for the Cross.” He has spoken at more than 400 churches, often on nights when the church would be recognizing the first responders in their congregation.

His latest project is a children’s academic workbook titled “Rookie Rescuer: Learning about God and ‘First Responder’ work through real calls!”

The fill-in-the-blank book is designed for second- to sixth-grade students. Neiman hopes it can be used to help them learn about and be inspired by first responding to work like he was as a child.

“I could take children on the scenes with me and not only share with them those spiritual truths and encouragement but also give them practical information and knowledge about actual first-responder work,” Neiman said.

Through the “Sirens for the Cross” ministry, Neiman developed the theme of challenging first responders to be believers, and believers to be first responders.

Much like a first responder should be sensitive to spiritual opportunities on the scenes they respond to, all Christians should be sensitive to spiritual opportunities which may be around them each day.

“I really felt like God had placed me in this role and because He fulfilled my desire to be a career first responder, then I would serve Him through it,” he said.

Arab Southern Baptist pastors find rest, rejuvenation at conference

GRAPEVINE—Many Texans have a general understanding they live in one of the most diverse states in the nation. What they may be less aware of is how many Arabic-speaking Southern Baptist churches exist in the Lone Star State.

Suffice to say, an even smaller number understand the difficulties Southern Baptist Arab pastors and their families face: disconnect from their native communities, adjusting to a new culture, the struggles inherent to a minority immigrant population—not to mention the burden of shepherding their churches and finding opportunities to share the gospel with the half-million Muslims who call Texas home.

Lack of a support system to face those challenges is what drove Ra’id Al Safadi, pastor of Arabic Baptist Church in San Antonio, to form the Arab Pastors Network, which held its third-annual conference in April at the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s offices.

Al Safadi said the purpose of the conference was multi-faceted: to help build community among Arab pastors who often struggle to connect, to provide training and resources to equip and encourage them to focus on their calling as they face countless challenges, and, simply, to give them time to rest. One pastor and wife at this year’s conference, Al Safadi said, had not had a vacation in 15 years.

Ra’id Al Safadi, pastor of Arabic Baptist Church in San Antonio, said his own experiences of isolation and struggle in the ministry led him to form the Arab Pastors Network. SBTC PHOTO

“The idea is really just to be together with like-minded pastors, to hug each other, and to tell each other we understand each other’s challenges,” Al Safadi said. “It’s a big deal because they’ve never had anything like this before.”

The conference drew 19 pastors and their wives (a total of 36 people) who came not only from across Texas, but from 10 states and Canada. Six countries were represented: Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Eritrea, and Lebanon.

Bruno Molina, SBTC language and interfaith evangelism associate, delivered a message from John 17 on the opening day of the three-day conference. The theme of his message, he said, was that “the prosperity of our unity is for the purpose of partnership to the glory of God.” He explained that Christ is the basis of our unity and that the purpose of that unity is fruitfulness that leads to personal transformation as believers grow into the likeness of Christ. Those factors combine to lead followers of Jesus to partner with one another to share the gospel with those who are lost—bringing glory to God.

Molina noted that all coins manufactured for monetary use in the U.S. have inscribed on them the Latin phrase, “E pluribus unum,” which means, “Out of many, one.”

“Though many countries are represented here today, we are one in Christ,” Molina said. “No matter what our ethnicity, no matter what our language … our culture should express the love and character of Christ.”

Echoing the theme of unity, SBTC Executive Director Nathan Lorick encouraged the pastors and their wives and said he prayed they would experience the presence of God at the conference so they could continue to have gospel influence in the places the Lord has called them.

“Here at the SBTC, we live by the phrase: ‘Reaching Texas and Impacting the World Together,’” Lorick said. “You being here is an extension of reaching the world together from your cities and communities all around the globe.”

SBC Executive Committee declines Wellman recommendation, forms new search committee

DALLAS (BP)—In an unprecedented move, the SBC Executive Committee (EC) did not affirm the candidate nominated by the group’s Presidential Search Committee. Jared Wellman, the EC’s former chairman, did not receive the votes needed to become its next president and CEO.

“It’s been one of the greatest honors of my life to serve the Southern Baptist Convention through the Executive Committee,” Wellman told the group after the vote total was announced.

He said his “heart is with” the EC as it serves in the days ahead.

Calling it an honor to lead the search committee, Adron Robinson said, “The committee worked hard to serve the Executive Committee by presenting the candidate that we felt was qualified to lead the Executive Committee in these turbulent times.”

“We respect the decision of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we commit to praying for the new search committee as they begin their work,” he told Baptist Press in a written statement.

Tensions surrounding the vote included the fact that Wellman was a member of the search committee until he recused himself Jan. 26. He had served as an ex-officio member of the search team since June 2022 when he was elected EC chairman. He had served on the EC since 2015 before stepping down in mid-April.

EC members met that Grand Hyatt DFW in executive session as mandated by EC bylaws. The meeting was held in a hybrid format with 11 members joining by Zoom.

The vote total was 50 voting against the recommendation of Wellman and 31 voting in favor. There were 81 members present in the meeting.

“Obviously, I’m disappointed about the outcome of today but I’m hopeful for the future as the new committee begins their work,” said David Sons, EC chairman and member of the previous president search committee.

Sons pledged to do all he could to help ensure the EC can find its new president.

“I am incredibly thankful for the eight years that Dr. Wellman served as an SBC EC Trustee,” said Willie McLaurin who will continue to serve as EC interim president/CEO.

“It was my joy to serve alongside him as he chaired the Executive Committee this past year. I will be praying for Jared and his family.”

SBC President Bart Barber told Baptist Press, “The sentiment of the Executive Committee was unanimous that Jared Wellman is a godly man, a good Southern Baptist, and a strong leader. Whatever the outcome was going to be today, there were going to be some people who celebrated it and some people who mourned it.

“Everyone can see now that the Executive Committee is not a rubber stamp. It is a collection of people who take seriously our polity and who vote their conscience.”

The EC elected a new presidential search committee, according to EC bylaws.

Search committee members are:

  • Corey Cain (Tennessee)
  • Neal Hughes (Alabama)
  • Drew Landry (Virginia)
  • Sarah Rogers (South Carolina)
  • Nick Sandefur (Kentucky)
  • Nancy Spalding (Michigan)
  • David Sons (South Carolina), ex-officio

McLaurin called on Southern Baptists to pray for the newly-elected search committee members.

“Now is the time for Southern Baptists to unite around living out the great commandment and fulfilling the Great Commission,” he said.

The next meeting of the Executive Committee is scheduled for Monday, June 12, just before the kickoff of the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting in New Orleans.

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.