Author: Russell Lightner

5 minutes with Scottie Stice

Scottie Stice has headed Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief since 2014, when he became interim director. In January 2015, he assumed the position permanently. Previously, Stice served as an SBTC DR volunteer, a senior pastor, missions pastor at First Baptist Dallas, an International Mission Board missionary in El Salvador, and director of missions for the Del Rio-Uvalde Baptist Association. A graduate of Criswell College, he has earned a Master of Arts in Missions and a Master of Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Stice and his wife, Judy, have four adult children and five grandchildren.

Where has SBTC DR deployed this year?

We have had a relatively slow year with 19 deployments. Among these, volunteers have served in migrant ministry in Brownsville, responded to Hurricane Idalia in Perry, Fla., assisted storm survivors in Millington, Tenn., and served tornado survivors in the Texas communities of Perryton, Winnsboro, Bloomburg, and the Gulf Coast, plus Little Rock, Ark., and Shawnee, Okla. Volunteers have ministered to the homeless in Texarkana, responded to fires in Jasper County, assisted victims of storm and wind events in Spring and Kountze (Jefferson and Hardin counties), and ice storms in Round Rock and Austin. They have removed mold from a flooded church in Sheffield and participated with the Salvation Army in a training event in Grand Prairie. 

What has been the most meaningful moment for you as DR director in 2023?

It is hard to choose a single event. What is meaningful to me is when SBTC DR volunteers go to a disaster-stricken community and meet the needs of the survivors. The tornado near Little Rock does stand out this year, as SBTC DR teams responded at the request of Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief. The Arkansas teams were busy serving in Mississippi when the storm hit Little Rock. Our teams deployed very quickly, traveled to Little Rock, and went operational within 24-36 hours.  

What are some of the blessings of involvement in DR ministry?

Ministry to survivors of storms. We minister to many believers who grow stronger in their faith after a disaster. We are also able to share the gospel with and minister to many unbelievers.   

What are the most pressing needs of SBTC DR?  

We always need more volunteers who will deploy and the resources to support them while they are in the field. Transportation, food, and equipment are expensive. God has been faithful to provide what we need just as we need it.  

How can the churches of the SBTC pray for SBTC DR this coming year? 

Pray for more workers for the harvest. We are perpetually shorthanded. Pray for the resources to send the teams of volunteers that make a difference in disaster-stricken communities.  

Ennis family prepares to spend Christmas with adopted daughter they’d always prayed for

Brent and Michelle Bratcher love their two sons, but they also wanted a daughter … or two. 

So the Bratchers turned to the foster system, seeing God grow their family through a whole lot of prayer and the assistance of the Texas Baptist Home for Children. 

Michelle and Brent’s journey to faith is as inspiring as their willingness to help children. Both grew up in Ennis, although Michelle moved there from Duncanville before sixth grade. 

“I was not allowed to attend church as a child,” Michelle said. Friends kept inviting her to church, which finally led to her salvation at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Ennis as a high school senior. Shortly after, Brent rededicated his life to Christ. 

The pair began dating as high school sophomores and married in June 2001. They were blessed with two sons: Andrew, now 15, and Nathan, 13. Life was good. They longed for more children, yet Michelle’s health precluded this. 

“Coming from a big family myself, I knew I wanted four kids,” Michelle said, explaining that she had undergone five hip surgeries. The couple considered adoption, but a financial crisis hit.

“We were scammed by a builder and lost over $100,000 [trying to build] a home in Ennis,” Michelle said. “We knew we’d never have the funds to adopt.” 

Discouraged, they learned from friends about fostering to adopt, which can often be a lower-cost alternative to traditional adoption.

“We gave all glory to God, that even in the tenuous waiting, insane stress, constant prayers, He still came through like our knight in shining armor! It wasn’t in our timing; it was in His.”

A battle to adopt

The Bratchers became certified to foster in 2021 and had their first placements—including Isabel, the daughter they would eventually adopt—in July of that year. For a short time, they also fostered Isabel’s biological sister.

Counselors warned the family the sisters would fare better if they were split up and that separation might help with healing, but because the Bratchers were “adoption-minded,” both sisters were allowed to stay with the family. For a variety of reasons, Isabel’s biological sister eventually went to live with another family.

Meanwhile, the Bratchers started the process of adopting Isabel—who is lovingly also called Izzy. “This began our fight,” Michelle said. The process stalled in court. The couple’s attorneys eventually sought a trial, hoping a jury might see the “common sense” behind allowing the adoption of a girl who was already so loved.

“The system refused to listen to what was best for Izzy, until one month prior to trial,” when the district attorney intervened and allowed the adoption petition to proceed, Michelle said.

“We gave all glory to God, that even in the tenuous waiting, insane stress, constant prayers, He still came through like our knight in shining armor! It wasn’t in our timing; it was in His,” Michelle said. 

“TBHC was right there with us the entire time, holding our hands, and staying steadfast in prayer. We waited over two years to adopt Izzy,” Michelle said. The adoption was formalized in September 2023.

The Bratchers finally formally adopted their former foster child Isabel on Sept. 29, 2023. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

Love of a family

The Bratchers also currently foster another girl, age 11. 

“We adore [our foster daughter] and will adopt her if … it’s God’s will. Our human nature thought we would adopt sisters, but the love of a family, no matter what it looks like, will always win,” Michelle said.

Isabel’s biological sisters—the older one fostered by the Bratchers and a baby sister—have fared well, adopted by other families in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Michelle said the families will keep in contact and the girls will see one another regularly.

Challenges remain. The stresses of regular family life and too little time are to be expected. But Isabel and her foster sister have suffered past trauma and need plenty of rest. The family frequently declines invitations and curtails plans because Izzy, in particular, must be in bed by 7:30 p.m.

Andrew and Nathan also have made adjustments to the changes in their family dynamic. The Bratchers seek help when needed and keep the doors open for honest conversation.

A family friend recently presented Isabel and the Bratchers with a Christmas ornament commemorating her adoption.

They have run into criticism from some people advising them to quit fostering, as many families do, after a year. “We have to remind ourselves that we aren’t living for those people, even though we love them dearly,” Michelle said. “We are living for God. He has called us to this, and He calls all His children to spread the gospel to the world.” To date, they have fostered four children, including Isabel. They have seen two trust Christ as Savior.

Tabernacle Baptist and fellow parents have been a great source of comfort and help, Michelle said. Likewise, she credits TBHC as an integral part of their successful adoption.

 “They never judged,” Michelle said. “They provided support with books, groups, and training to help us. Our case manager checked on us all the time. If it weren’t for TBHC, we most likely would have quit.”

This Christmas promises to be “amazing,” Michelle said. “We have an official daughter to celebrate His birth with. Izzy is so thankful to be a Bratcher at last. She doesn’t have to fear moving anymore. We get to spoil and love on our foster daughter this year, too. We will help her see her family as she wishes for the holidays and support her in any way we can.

“Life is so full,” she added. “We are so thankful for God’s love and His expanding His kingdom. Our house is full, our hearts are full.”

Looking back at what was, dreaming of what is to come

I’ve made it a practice to use the end of each year to look back on the stories we’ve told in the Texan about all that God has done over the previous 12 months. They are different in so many ways, but the same in one main aspect: They all tell the stories of how God is moving through our family of churches. 

As we say goodbye to 2023 and begin to look ahead to what God will do in the year to come, here are just a few of our favorite stories from the past year:

A long journey, paved with steps of faith (April)

What comes to mind when you think of the first day of school? Back-to-school shopping? School buses? High school football? Misael Rodríguez, Hispanic pastor of Hillcrest Español in Cedar Hill, described his upbringing in Cuba in our April issue and presented a different back-to-school routine with which he became familiar. 

At the beginning of each school year, the principal of his school would walk past every classroom, identify the Christians, and ask them to stand up so they could be teased and taunted by their classmates. “I remember one time we were put in front of 500 students on campus so they could boo all the religious kids,” Rodríguez recalled, “but I didn’t give up my faith.”

Rodríguez’s brave tale provided a sad-but-powerful reminder we often take for granted: There are countless people in this world who are truly persecuted for their faith in Christ. 

‘God’s moving on campus’ (June)

The collegiate ministry of Fredonia Hill Baptist Church in Nacogdoches took a spring break mission trip to New York City to participate in community outreach and a vacation Bible school. One of the young women on the trip—who would later admit her motive for going had more to do with experiencing New York and less to do with service­­—ended up giving her life to Christ.

Now on fire for Jesus, the young woman returned home and shared with her small group what God had done for her on the trip. As a result of her testimony, two people were saved. Another trip participant led someone to the Lord via text message. The gospel continued to spread and, before long, 17 students at nearby Stephen F. Austin State University were baptized. God can take something so small and turn it into something truly great. 

‘Not defective, but effective’ (June)

I rarely read something that freezes me in my tracks, which is why the story of Whick Turner, pastor of First Baptist Church in Christine (about an hour south of San Antonio), was so memorable for me. In our monthly What’s Your Story feature in June, Turner’s testimony began with him describing how he went from temporarily filling the pulpit at the church to becoming its full-time pastor. Then old Whick drops the following bomb out of nowhere: “Some church members say they can hardly tell I’m blind.”

Wait … what? 

The article filled my mind with wonder (“How difficult must his sermon prep be?”), but it challenged me. We can be so good at coming up with excuses not to serve the Lord. Instead of using his blindness as an excuse, Turner not only serves faithfully, but uses his circumstances to encourage others to do the same.

Our prayer is that these stories—and the ones to come—not only encourage you, but bless you as you consider the work of our mighty God during this holiday season. 

From Christmas robbery to redemption

Austin pastor’s book chronicles tale of bank robber who later turned to Christ

Many Central Texas natives know the story of the infamous Santa Claus Robbery that took place two days before Christmas 1927 in the Eastland County town of Cisco. 

Thomas Goodman, pastor of Hillcrest Church in Austin, was pastoring an Eastland church in the 1990s when he heard the tale of four bandits—one disguised as Santa—who robbed the First National Bank of Cisco, briefly escaping with two young female hostages.

The job was supposed to be “easy in, easy out,” Goodman tells congregations and audiences in a message called “The Parable of a Texas Crime.” The crime, however, became anything but easy. As word spread of the robbery, 1,000 armed citizens surrounded the bank—many hoping to claim the reward offered by the Texas Bankers Association promising $5,000 for a dead bank robber and “not one cent for a live one.” The controversial reward was a response to an epidemic of bank robberies in the 1920s. In today’s dollars, the amount would equal a staggering $85,000.

The manhunt was the largest in Texas history to date and the first to involve air reconnaissance, Goodman noted.

Of the four bandits, one would suffer fatal injuries during the getaway; one would die in the electric chair; one would be lynched by an Eastland mob. And one would serve 15 years of a life sentence and become a Christian whose life was so radically changed he would earn a conditional pardon from Gov. Coke Stevenson and later a full pardon in 1964 from Gov. John Connally.

It’s that last man who inspired the title of Goodman’s recently released novel, The Last Man: A Novel of the 1927 Santa Claus Bank Robbery.

Goodman has had the opportunity to speak and sign books at church and civic events, like Eastland’s fall festival. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Goodman is far from the first to chronicle the crime. Numerous nonfiction books and articles in Texas Monthly and Texas Highways, among other magazines, tell the tale. But all accounts stop at the violent lynching. Goodman found the rest of the story more compelling: a changed life thanks to the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

A prolific writer, the pastor decided to try his hand at fiction, running the idea past his deacons, who supported the venture.

“I get up at 6 a.m. and write till 8:30 when the church office opens and I feel I am on the clock,” Goodman said. “I write on my own time, whatever that means for a pastor.”

Writing the novel has given Goodman opportunities to speak not just in churches, but also at western festivals and for civic organizations, settings that are not explicitly religious. “It’s not a 300-page sermon, but it is overtly Christian,” he said of the book. “The story itself is fascinating, with a redemptive element. By the time the last man dies in his 90s, he has been a God-fearing, church-going man for 50 years.”

The pastor likens the story to Jesus’ parable of the sower and the seeds, noting parallels between the parable’s “four patches of ground” and the crime’s “four men.” Though the seed and the sower were the same, only one patch of ground yielded fruit. Similarly, although all the robbers had opportunities to respond to the gospel, only one did.

And that is a Christmas story worth telling.

The Last Man is available online and at
brick-and-mortar booksellers. For more information, visit

Winning the world for Christ together

What I have discovered in my life, and in the life of most Christians, is that prayer is often relegated to a mere routine, a preparatory exercise before the real action of our day begins. This is why prayer for many is powerless and meaningless. 

What is needed is a paradigm shift—acknowledging prayer as not just preparation for the battles of the day, but as a potent weapon and the key to spiritual victory. There are two important truths that reveal the essential nature of prayer, underscoring its urgent centrality in our individual and collective lives:

The Christian life is a spiritual war.

Paul paints a vivid picture of the spiritual battleground we live on every day. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual powers, cosmic forces, and the dark entities that lurk in heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:10-12). This isn’t a physical skirmish; it’s a spiritual war. The Scriptures acknowledge the existence of two kingdoms—the kingdom of darkness, ruled by Satan, and the kingdom of Jesus. Though Jesus secured victory through His death and resurrection, the full realization awaits His return. In the interim, the church serves as the vanguard, advancing against the kingdom of darkness.

The stark reality is that we face a tangible enemy, an adversary with a relentless agenda to destroy lives. Satan, the god of this world, strategically plants landmines in our paths, capitalizing on our weaknesses and sin tendencies. The Christian life is a perpetual confrontation with an unseen enemy whose schemes are as ancient as time itself.

"The urgency of prayer lies not in its ritualistic repetition but in its potential to transform lives, break strongholds, and secure victories in the spiritual war."

Prayer is the primary way we fight in this war. 

Paul presents the armor of God as our defense against the enemy, with one offensive weapon—the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Unfortunately, many are unfamiliar with how to wield this powerful weapon. The key lies in prayer—not a superficial knowledge of Scripture, but an active engagement with God’s Word through prayer. This is why Paul immediately instructs us in Ephesians 6:18 to pray “at all times in the Spirit ….” It is through prayer that we wield the sword of the Spirit against the attack of the enemy. 

The urgency of prayer lies not in its ritualistic repetition but in its potential to transform lives, break strongholds, and secure victories in the spiritual war. Stories of healing, reconciliation, deliverance from addiction, forgiveness, and salvation are all products of engaging in the spiritual battle through the formidable weapon of prayer.

R.A. Torrey said, “When the devil sees a man or woman who really believes in prayer … he trembles.” Why does the devil tremble at the sight of genuine prayer? Because prayer calls on the army of God to fight on our behalf. It is an acknowledgment of the invisible war raging in the unseen realm. When we pray, we invoke the power and presence of almighty God, unleashing the heavenly host to fight for us. The victories in this celestial war translate into tangible victories on earth.

As we comprehend the urgency of prayer in the spiritual war, let’s cultivate alertness, vigilance, and a commitment to the discipline of prayer. Let our lives be a testament to the truth that, in His presence, we find not only refuge but also the ultimate weapon against the forces that seek to destroy. Embrace prayer not as a passive routine but as a powerful offensive against the schemes of the enemy.

5 minutes with Jack Graham

Jack Graham is senior pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, one of the nation’s largest congregations with more than 57,000 members and three locations in North Texas. He is the author of numerous books, and his passionate, biblical teaching is seen and heard worldwide on PowerPoint Ministries. The Bible in a Year with Jack Graham podcast, in partnership with, launched in October 2022 and has now reached more than 30 million downloads. He and his wife, Deb, have three married children and eight grandchildren.

What is something you’ve been able to celebrate at Prestonwood recently?

I truly believe there’s a sense of revival happening at Prestonwood. Our North Campus in Prosper, under the leadership of Connor Bales, has been growing exponentially, so we recently expanded and renovated to keep up with the growing needs. We’ve celebrated our Prestonwood en Español ministry, led by Gilberto Corredera, which is thriving and reaching the Hispanic community throughout North Texas. We’ve celebrated our Prestonwood Pregnancy Center, as we have witnessed nearly 7,000 women who were abortion-minded choose life for their babies since the overturning of Roe v. Wade. We continue to work and pray that abortion will be unthinkable. We celebrated nearly 500 professions of faith among children and students through our summer activities. And we’re expecting more than 1,100 baptisms this church year. To God be the glory!

What’s one lesson you’ve learned to this point of your ministry that you know you’ll never forget?

One of the lessons I learned very early in my ministry was to balance life between the church and home. I always made time for my family. I made sure Deb and I spent time together, and I spent time with our kids, attending whatever events or sports they were participating in while growing up. This is a lesson I try to instill in our ministers and the young pastors and leaders we train through our Prestonwood Network.

What’s one thing you want to see God do specifically at or through Prestonwood in 2024?

In this tumultuous world we live in with its increasingly hostile and secular culture, we want our church family to stand firm as believers of Christ. We want them to be equipped and confident in the solid foundation on which they stand. We are more and more intentional about this through our teaching and discipleship and evangelism training, from our youngest to our oldest members. Our church family has always had a heart for reaching people—locally, nationally, and internationally—with the transforming message of the gospel. Evangelism is more critical than ever for our church and every church.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing the church in 2023?

Too many churches are throwing in the towel when it comes to the culture wars and social issues—especially on the sanctity of life. Too many pastors are compromising their calling in the pulpit, watering down their messages from the infallible Word of God for fear of offending. Number one, people are offended too easily these days; and number two, the Bible is offensive because it speaks truth. Now, more than ever, we must not relent. We must be bold and courageous and stand strong for the Lord. We are to fight the good fight of faith, because if we lose the church, we lose everything.

So much more than a business meeting

I have to admit my cynicism many years ago the first time I heard a church business meeting being referred to as a “ministry celebration.” I remember thinking, “What’s there to celebrate? The pastor presents financial numbers, the church votes, the upcoming calendar is discussed, we go home—end of story.”

I’ve since come to realize the error in such small-picture thinking. I’m not trying to convince you to show up to your next church business meeting wearing football-style eye black and one of those foam “We’re No. 1!” fingers, but what happens at such gatherings is truly worth celebrating. Behind all those financial tables and reports and such is an ongoing story about how God is using your congregation to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ in your community.

Or to put it another way: God has used and is using your church to change the eternities of people all around you. Such statements can become well-worn platitudes that speed into our ears and zoom right past our hearts, but the reality is, there’s no greater impact a human being can have than to redirect the eternity of another.

"God has used and is using your church to change the eternities of people all around you."

This month, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention will gather for its Annual Meeting. Messengers will witness many of the happenings common to church business meetings: financial numbers will be presented, officers will be elected, ministry updates will be given. But I hope you’ll see this meeting as more than that—it will be an opportunity for us to gather and celebrate how God has used this convention of churches over the past quarter-century. Not only that, we will have an opportunity to celebrate what God can do through this family of churches over the next 25 years so that He may use us in ever greater ways.

I want to encourage you about what God is doing right now. You may not think about it this way, but God is writing Texas history, American history, world history—and kingdom history—every moment of every day. While many of those moments may seem mundane and not worthy of recording for posterity, none are wasted in the hands of our Creator. 

Unbeknownst to the whole wide world, a grandmother living in a Texas Panhandle town you’ve never heard of is telling the guy at the grocery store checkout counter about Jesus. Somewhere in Southeast Texas, a shift worker is leaving the refinery after working an all-night turnaround and leading a men’s breakfast Bible study. When we gather in November, you will have the opportunity to hear stories like these of how God is using our churches to impact the kingdom by connecting in our communities.

And that is worth celebrating. Let’s do that when we gather for our Annual Meeting this month. 

Eye black and foam fingers are optional.

Pastor de Richardson deja atrás su sueño de ser futbolista para seguir el llamado de Dios al ministerio.

Cambio de jugada

José Arzate tenía una visión clara de su vida cuando era joven: quería jugar fútbol profesional en los Estados Unidos y posiblemente incluso ser entrenador.

El siguiente paso en ese viaje sería una parada en la Universidad West Texas A&M, donde le ofrecieron una beca para jugar al fútbol americano en el 2013. Arzate, junto con sus padres y hermanos, hizo el traslado de 14 horas a Amarillo para poder perseguir su sueño en Canyon. 

La transición, sin embargo, fue más dura de lo que podían imaginar. Su familia no pudo encontrar vivienda ni trabajo y en ocasiones tuvieron que depender de la generosidad de otros para comer. Luego las cosas empeoraron. El entrenador que quería que Arzate jugara fútbol en la universidad se marchó y trajeron a un nuevo entrenador.

Eso cerró la puerta para que Arzate jugara fútbol allí. Él sintió que había defraudado a su familia y que su mundo se desmoronaba. Dos años más tarde, en medio de una continua incertidumbre, él llamó a su antiguo pastor, Rolando Aguirre.

“Las cosas no salieron como yo había planeado”, le dijo Arzate a Aguirre.

“Me alegro de que no funcionaran”, respondió Aguirre, “yo pude ver que eso no era para ti, porque tienes un llamado al ministerio [pastoral]”.

Nunca le había pasado por la mente ser pastor, pero después de la conversación, Arzate empezó a ver su vida con otros ojos y a sentir que Dios lo movía en una nueva dirección. 

“Si no hubiera pasado por ese desierto, no habría entendido que tenía un llamado pastoral”.

“Si no hubiera pasado por ese desierto”, dijo Arzate, “no habría entendido que tenía un llamado pastoral”.

Dios ahora estaba abriendo nuevas puertas. Arzate se matriculó en el Seminario Teológico Bautista Southwestern y respondió a un llamado para servir como pastor interino de jóvenes en una iglesia de Amarillo. Fue en esta iglesia donde conoció a su esposa, Natalie, que participaba activamente en la adoración y las misiones. Mientras servían juntos en la iglesia, vieron la necesidad en su comunidad de una congregación hispana bíblica centrada en Cristo. Ya que Dios había puesto en su corazón comenzar tal obra, Arzate se ofreció como voluntario para ayudar a su iglesia a comenzar un ministerio hispano.

Poco sabía él, que Dios pronto cambiaría el camino de Arzate una vez más.

José Arzate y su esposa, Natalie, han seguido la dirección del Señor, incluso cuando eso les ha requerido cambiar sus propios planes.

‘Plantar es una carrera de largo tramo’

En poco tiempo, otro pastor de Amarillo, Andrew Hébert de la Iglesia Bautista Paramount, se acercó a Arzate para pedirle consejo sobre cómo iniciar un ministerio hispano en su propia iglesia. Los dos hicieron una fuerte conexión ese día, y finalmente Paramount invitó a Arzate a dirigir ese nuevo ministerio hispano.

Dios bendijo grandemente el ministerio. En menos de seis meses, 20-30 personas asistían al servicio hispano de la iglesia. Cuando se cumplió un año, ya asistían 100 personas. Los Arzate permanecieron allí por dos años antes de responder a un llamado para dirigir el ministerio en Español de la Iglesia Bautista de Travis Avenue en Fort Worth. 

Fue en Travis Avenue donde Dios comenzaría a guiar a Arzate en una nueva dirección. Aunque su llamado al ministerio lo había llevado principalmente a congregaciones y esfuerzos en español, él y Natalie comenzaron a ver la necesidad de ministrar a poblaciones ignoradas, dentro de entornos multiculturales.

Lo que siguió fue otra llamada, literalmente, de la Iglesia Bautista Northrich de Richardson. Los líderes de la iglesia se pusieron en contacto con Arzate para compartir con él su visión de poder llegar a una población más diversa. Le dijeron a Arzate que esa iglesia, que había sido una sólida y conocida en la comunidad, estaba en declive. Les costaba llegar a los jóvenes. Se necesitaba una nueva visión, y le preguntaron a Arzate si quería venir a dirigir la iglesia.

Una vez más, Arzate respondió al llamado. Sólo que esta vez, en lugar de empezar una iglesia desde cero, él y los líderes de Northrich se enfrentaron a una decisión: ¿replantar, revitalizar o relocalizarse? Finalmente, se puso en contacto con la Convención de los Bautistas del Sur de Texas, que ayudó a la iglesia a tomar la decisión de replantar.

Equipo de alabanza de la iglesia The Bridge dirigiendo durante un servicio reciente.

Trabajar con la SBTC aportó valiosos beneficios, dijo Arzate. Tanto él como su esposa empezaron a recibir formación para plantar iglesias. También comenzó a desarrollar una estrecha relación con Julio Arriola, quien dirige Send Network SBTC, una asociación de plantación entre la SBTC y la Junta de Misiones Norteamericanas. Arzate dijo que Arriola ha servido como uno de sus mentores.

“José tiene una pasión profundamente arraigada por la plantación de iglesias multiculturales”, dijo Arriola. “Él reconoce la importancia de predicar y servir a una comunidad que abarca una variedad de etnias, no se limita a los hispanos o anglos, sino que incluye una multitud de grupos étnicos.”

Debido a su deseo de alcanzar a la comunidad, Northrich adoptó un nuevo nombre durante el proceso de replantación: The Bridge Church. Como su nombre indica, la iglesia quiere ser un puente entre las naciones y el evangelio de Jesucristo. Desea conectar a las personas con la Palabra de Dios, con otras personas y con el propósito que Dios les ha dado.

Arzate sabe que el trabajo no será fácil. Siente que otra parte de su ministerio es animar a otros plantadores que pueden desanimarse cuando no ven el progreso tan pronto como les gustaría, así como otras personas lo han animado a él a lo largo del camino.

“Cada semana he considerado tirar la toalla porque es difícil”, dice Arzate. La plantación es una carrera de largo tramo. Es para el que perdura, y no para el que [quiere ver] frutos rápidamente. Cuando una visión se trata de alcanzar a las naciones y a las próximas generaciones, el enemigo se inquieta y ataca para traer desánimo, pero Dios nos da las fuerzas para perseverar y cumplir Su propósito, mediante la oración.”

Richardson pastor with football dreams instead follows God’s call into ministry

Calling an Audible

Jose Arzate had a clear vision for his life as a young man: he wanted to play professional football in the U.S. and possibly even coach.

The next step on that journey would be a stop at West Texas A&M, where he received a scholarship offer to play football in 2013. Arzate, along with his parents and siblings, made the 14-hour move to Amarillo so he could pursue his dream in nearby Canyon. 

The transition was harder than they could have imagined. His family was unable to find housing or jobs and often had to depend on the generosity of others to eat. Then it got worse. The coach who wanted Arzate to play football at the university left and a new coach was brought in. 

That closed the door for Arzate to play football there. He felt like he had let his family down and that his world was falling apart. Two years later, in the midst of continued uncertainty, he called his former pastor, Rolando Aguirre.

“Things didn’t work out the way I planned,” Arzate told Aguirre.

“I’m glad they didn’t work out,” Aguirre replied, “because I could see that wasn’t for you because you have a call to [pastoral] ministry.”

Being a pastor had never crossed Arzate’s mind. But after the conversation, he began to see his life through a different lens and sense God moving him in a new direction. 

“If I hadn’t gone through that desert, I wouldn’t have understood that I had a pastoral calling.”

“If I hadn’t gone through that desert,” Arzate said, “I wouldn’t have understood that I had a pastoral calling.”

God was now opening new doors. Arzate enrolled at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and answered a call to serve as an interim youth pastor at a church in Amarillo. It was at this church he met his wife, Natalie, who was active in worship and missions. As they served the church together, they saw a need in their community for a Christ-centered, biblical Hispanic congregation. Since God had put it on his heart to start such a work, Arzate volunteered to help his church start a Hispanic ministry.

Little did he know, God would soon change Arzate’s path once again.

Jose Arzate and his wife, Natalie have followed the Lord's leading—even when it required them to change their own plans.

‘Planting is a long-distance race’

Before long, another Amarillo pastor, Andrew Hébert of Paramount Baptist Church (who now pastors Mobberly Baptist Church in Longview), reached out to ask Arzate advice about how to start a Hispanic ministry at his own church. The two made a strong connection that day, and eventually Paramount invited Arzate to lead that new Hispanic ministry.

God blessed the ministry greatly. In less than six months, 20-30 people were attending the church’s Hispanic service. By the time it hit its one-year anniversary, 100 people were attending. The Arzates remained there for two years before answering a call to lead the En Español ministry at Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth. 

It was at Travis Avenue that God would begin to guide Arzate in a new direction. Though his call to ministry had led him mostly to Spanish congregations and efforts, he and Natalie began to see the need to minister to overlooked populations in multicultural settings.

What followed was another call—a literal one, from Northrich Baptist Church in Richardson. Church leaders reached out to Arzate to share with him their vision of reaching a more diverse population. They told Arzate that the church, once strong and well-known in the community, was in decline. It struggled to reach younger people. A new vision was needed, and they asked Arzate if he would come and lead the church.

Once again, he answered the call. Only this time, rather than starting a church from scratch, he and church leaders at Northrich were faced with a decision: replant, revitalize, or relocate? Ultimately, he reached out to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, which helped the church make the decision to replant.

The Bridge Church, where Arzate pastors, is working to connect with a diverse community

Working with the SBTC brought valuable benefits, Arzate said. He and his wife both began to receive church planter training. He also began to develop a close relationship with Julio Arriola, who directs Send Network SBTC—a planting partnership between the SBTC and the North American Mission Board. Arzate said Arriola has served as one of his mentors.

“Jose has a deep-rooted passion for multicultural church planting,” Arriola said. “He recognizes the significance of preaching and serving a community that encompasses a variety of ethnicities, not limited to Hispanics or Anglos, but embracing a multitude of ethnic groups.”

Because of its heart to reach its community, Northrich took on a new name during the replant process—The Bridge Church. As its name implies, the church wants to be a bridge between the nations and the gospel of Jesus Christ. It desires to connect people to the Word of God, to other people, and to their God-given purpose.

Arzate knows the work won’t be easy. He feels like another part of his ministry is to encourage other planters who may get discouraged when they don’t see progress as soon as they’d like—just as other people have encouraged him along the way.

“Every week I’ve considered throwing in the towel because it’s hard,” Arzate says. “Planting is a long-distance race. It is for the one who endures, and not for the one who [wants to see] fruit quickly. When a vision is about reaching the nations and the next generations, the enemy gets restless and attacks to bring discouragement, but God gives us the strength to persevere and fulfill His purpose through prayer.”

What I have learned about prayer

Have you ever prayed and felt God was directing you a certain way? I have! In May 2023, I graduated from seminary and found a number of opportunities presenting themselves to me. I had an opportunity to travel on mission, to help with Bible literacy through storytelling, and to write about hope in Christ. My family and I prayed and knew God was directing us this way. He provided the funds for me to travel, and it was only a matter of time before I could step into the other roles, as well.

However, as days, weeks, and months passed, those doors started to close, one after another. I could not travel and the Bible literacy and writing opportunities were suddenly gone. I felt discouraged, disappointed, and hopeless. I blamed myself for not trying hard enough. I felt stuck as I watched others move on with their plans. It was a difficult season.  

As I look back, though my circumstances did not change, I have changed. The Lord taught me lessons about prayer I had not learned before:

Prayer teaches discernment.

Waiting can leave us vulnerable and susceptible to deception. The enemy, who is a false shepherd, is always looking to mislead us. It is only when we stay focused on Christ in prayer that we discern His voice and follow Him. Christ said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:3).

Prayer renews our confidence that God exists.

When we pray, we are reminded we are praying to a living God. “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). The God who created the universe and powerfully holds all things together by His Word not only exists, but He also rewards us for our persistence in prayer.

A prayer of faith begins with hearing God.

Paul said in Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.” As we pray, we learn to cultivate the discipline of saying less and tuning our ears to hear God speak to us through His Word in the Bible. We learn to pray with our Bibles open. We remember that God loves us more than we love ourselves. He knows us more than we can ever know ourselves. And He always wants to give us His very best.

God always answers our prayers.

As we align ourselves to God’s will, we see our circumstances and prayers through His lens. God’s will is a done deal! While I did not go on mission that summer, I prayed for those who went. God answered, and more than 1,200 high school students came to Christ. Opportunities to teach Bible literacy to my family, church, friends, and strangers, were plenty—I just needed to see and accept them. God is using my writing, including what you’re reading, to share the message of hope. God always answers our prayers, and He shows us how if we are willing to see with His eyes.