Author: Russell Lightner

Native Texan comes home to plant in one of the fastest-growing cities in the state

Building a Legacy

As planters peruse demographics studies to research where churches are needed most, Celina’s statistics scream out from the page.

It’s easily one of the fastest-growing cities in the Texas. Five years ago, Celina had roughly 10,000 residents. Today, the population has more than tripled to slightly fewer than 40,000 people. That kind of growth is expected to continue for years to come, with some estimating the population in this once-tiny town to touch 160,000 by the end of the decade.

Those statistics tugged heavily at the heart of Robert Welch, a native Texan who returned home earlier this year to plant in Celina after serving three-and-a-half years as senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Charlotte (N.C.).

Welch noted Celina has only two established Southern Baptists of Texas Convention churches—three once Legacy Hills launches. So the need for churches is already great.

Celina is one of the fastest growing cities in Texas with the population tripling in the last five years.

"In a community like this, you’ve got to have churches to serve and reach all those people."

“In a community like this, you’ve got to have churches to serve and reach all those people,” he said. “Celina deserves churches that will come and say, ‘This is our Jerusalem and we’re going to reach this city.’ What you’re seeing here isn’t just [people moving away from the Metroplex]. They’re coming here from all over. There’s an Asian population here, an Indian population here. There’s a California migration happening here.”

Welch said Legacy Hills is scheduled to hold its first “monthly preview service” this month, which will include worship, a sermon, and activities for families. Those monthly services will continue each month until February, when the church plans to begin meeting weekly at an elementary school.

Until then, he and his family—which includes two teenagers and a grade-schooler—will continue to sink deep roots into the North Texas soil. Legacy Hills has already made inroads in the community by giving gift cards to every teacher in the school district and buying ice cream for unsuspecting patrons at a local shop.

“Not to take away from the established churches I’ve previously led, but this is the most challenging thing I’ve ever done,” Welch said. “But what God has called us to here, and going on this journey as a family … it’s just been humbling and incredibly rewarding and fun.”

CityView is well on its way to goal of planting 100 churches in 25 years

Sending is in their DNA

CityView Church launched in February 2014 with a mission to multiply. 

Since its inception, the church has sent out 12 planters to start churches throughout Houston and the surrounding communities including Alvin, Friendswood, Pearland, Tomball, plus Brazoria and Montgomery counties.

“For us, the goal is to make disciples of Jesus and to plant 100 churches in 25 years in the Houston area. That’s our vision statement,” said pastor and planter Jason Crandall, who also serves as church planting consultant for Send Network SBTC.

“We saw the growth of Houston … neighborhoods springing up everywhere,” Crandall said, noting that the name CityView suggests the church’s goal of planting neighborhood churches within the view of the city.

Currently, the church has its 13th resident planter in training. As many as three planters at a time have undergone CityView’s assessment and preparation process, Crandall said.

Some of the original CityView crew "who stuck through it all" are shown here.

"“When we don’t have one for a period of time, our church just kind of lags a little bit. It’s part of our DNA that we’re always going to have someone with us getting ready to be sent out by us as a church plant.”

“When we don’t have one for a period of time, our church just kind of lags a little bit,” Crandall said. “It’s part of our DNA that we’re always going to have someone with us getting ready to be sent out by us as a church plant.”

Some of CityView’s plants have remained small, with COVID limiting growth at times. But West Oaks Church in West Columbia-Brazoria County runs some 200 weekly, despite being less than three years old.

Its emphasis on planting has given CityView a unique growth curve, Crandall said. Currently, the church runs about 140-150. When numbers reach that level, it’s time to plant another congregation.

“We grow for a while. Then we send a planter with some people. Then we grow for a while,” he said. The cycle repeats as attendance again approaches 200.

CityView recently moved into its own building, a welcome relief from “eight-and-a-half years of set up and tear down,” Crandall added.

The church has devoted five percent of its tithes and offerings from the beginning directly for Houston-area church planting, funds separate from Cooperative Program and associational giving, the pastor said, adding, “We decided we were going to live on less and see the gospel go.”

John 4 mindset propels The West Church into difficult neighborhood

Boldly going where others won’t

The southwest Houston neighborhood of Alief ranks among the highest nationwide for prostitution, and crime is high. The community lacks resources—both money and mentors—yet it’s the very place God has called The West Church to minister, propelled by Jesus’ encounter in Samaria recorded in John 4.

“A lot of people drive around the neighborhood in order to get to other places, but we sensed the Lord was calling us to not go around it but go toward it,” Ayo Omopariola, pastor of The West Church, said. 

Omopariola was born in Nigeria and has lived in the U.S. since he was five. He and his wife, Amaechi, were part of a church plant years ago and remember it as a formative, “wonderful” time, he said. While he was serving as a church planting resident at City Church in Houston, God stirred his heart about Alief. 

“The Lord started a work within our hearts to want to see that part of the city be transformed by the gospel,” Omopariola said.

The West Church started meeting on Zoom for monthly prayer calls during the pandemic. Each person on the call would share a verse, and the group would pray. After about eight months, they started interacting in the community, mainly asking people questions. The core group wanted to learn how people in Alief viewed church. 

“God has been at work in this community for a very, very long time,” Omopariola said, “so we weren’t starting a new work. We wanted to find out what the Lord had already been doing.”

Despite the difficulty of the neighborhood, some groups had been working faithfully to reach it for years. They allowed The West Church to use their facilities, and they met Omopariola for coffee to answer questions.

The church hosted a vision meeting at a stadium in Alief in July 2021, and then they launched a Bible study that slowly picked up attenders. In January of this year, they launched at Best Elementary School in Houston with about 25 people. Now they have about 115.

“Outreach is such an integral part of what we do,” Omopariola said. “We’ve been able to build a lot of relationships with people in the community.”

The West Church has in a way adopted Best Elementary, the pastor said, ministering to the faculty, staff, and students. Church members have been mentoring students, building bridges which lead to reaching families. 

Ayo Omopariola and his wife, Amaechi, along with their three children, are leading The West Church to share the hope of the gospel in Alief, a difficult neighborhood in Houston. Photos submitted

“Our church is slowly starting to resemble the diversity that is around us. It’s going to be a long process, but we want to see the reality of John 4 in our church.”

After about five months of ministering at the school, The West Church received an award of appreciation from Best Elementary, Omopariola said. 

The church also partners with The Landing, an anti-trafficking organization in the neighborhood. “They’ve been one of our biggest advocates in the community, and a lot of our missional outreach is in large part due to the relationship we have with them,” he said. 

West Groups, the small group ministry at The West Church, has been “a source of life and community,” the pastor said. “We’ve been so impacted not only by what the Lord has been doing in the church but also outside of it.” 

So why has John 4 become the missional thrust of the church? Omopariola says it is because Jesus viewed it as a divine necessity to enter a place so many avoided. Samaria, like Alief, was a place with so many difficulties, yet Jesus engaged in a theological conversation with a woman there in order to show His care for all people. 

“She isn’t ashamed or even talked down to, but she’s encouraged to want to live a different life, and as a result of that, she becomes one of the greatest evangelists in the New Testament because after her interaction with Jesus she goes back to her community and tells them, ‘Come see a man who told me everything I’ve ever done,’” Omopariola said.

Alief is a community that has been neglected by most, but The West Church is striving to “bring the love and light of Christ into the community and be able to point people toward hope,” the pastor said. 

“Our church is slowly starting to resemble the diversity that is around us,” Omopariola said. “It’s going to be a long process, but we want to see the reality of John 4 in our church.” 

So far the response from people in the community has been positive toward the church, the pastor said, particularly because they sense church members are authentic about what they believe and how they practice those beliefs. “Surprisingly, they want more of it.”

For churches that want to reach out to hard communities, Omopariola advises developing a strong prayer strategy first.  

“The needs are so great, and you feel overwhelmed all the time,” he said, “like there’s no way one single individual or one church or organization is going to be able to solve all the problems.”

A challenge to celebrate, consider, and commit

Can you believe how fast 2022 is flying by? It seems like just yesterday we were embracing the new year with anticipation. 

This year has been great so far. We have witnessed God move in incredible ways across Texas. As I reflect on all that God has done, is doing, and we believe will continue to do, allow me to give three brief encouragements to you:

Celebrate

God is doing something among you! He is always at work. I encourage you to find those things and celebrate them in your life and in your church. At the SBTC, we are celebrating God doing great things through a couple of pastors’ trips over the summer. In July, the SBTC led 128 pastors and wives to Israel. This was an awesome time of seeing the Bible come alive. We had great opportunities to worship, fellowship, network, and learn together.

In August, 50 pastors went to New York together to study and learn about developing a culture of prayer. We spent time with and learned from prayer leader and pastor Jim Cymbala of the Brooklyn Tabernacle. This church is known around the world for its prayer ministry. Again, it was an incredible time of worship, prayer, networking, and equipping.

Consider

If you are an SBTC pastor, I would like you to consider a very special invitation. On July 17-26, 2023, I will be leading a pastors trip to Greece to “Walk in the Footsteps of Paul.” This will be an unbelievable opportunity to see much of the New Testament come to life. You will not only learn and go deeper in the study of the Scriptures, but you will connect with other pastors and build meaningful relationships along the way. 

We have been able to work with our tour company to get the trip costs down significantly. The trip for a pastor is only $3,199, and spouses are $3,499. However, thanks to a generous grant provided by the SBTC Executive Board, pastors who have never been on a trip in the footsteps of Paul will be able to go for $1,999, and an even greater discount is available if your spouse travels with you. Space for this trip will be limited and grants will be given on a first-come, first-served basis until all the scholarship funds are allocated. The trip is restricted to two pastors per church and one grant per church. You can e-mail Randi Kent at rkent@sbtexas.com for more information. I hope you will consider experiencing this opportunity with us!

Commit

Our 2022 SBTC Annual Meeting is just around the corner, November 14-15 in Corpus Christi. We are anticipating a great meeting as churches from across Texas join together in worship, prayer, preaching, and celebrating all God is doing (and yes, we will do a little business, as well). The first session on Monday evening will culminate with a prayer service. We are anticipating a powerful night together. Over the two days, you will hear stories of how God is moving across Texas. You will also hear some future vision and goals for seeing a prayer movement across the churches of the SBTC. It is going to be a great time together. I pray you will clear your calendar and commit to being a part of our Annual Meeting. More details can be found at sbtexas.com/am22.

One of my favorite things is to tell the story of how God is using SBTC churches to “Reach Texas and Impact the World.” I love hearing from you and celebrating alongside you. I consider it a real joy and honor to serve you and to serve alongside our team at the SBTC. Please know that I love you and believe in you! I look forward to seeing you in Corpus Christi.

Creatividad en la creación

Niña de 9 años ilustra dibujo animado para compartir historias de la Biblia con sus amigos

Kamila Reyna siempre ha sido una niña artística. 

Desde cantar frente a cientos de personas hasta compartir devocionales, esta niña de 9 años nunca ha tenido miedo de mostrar los talentos que Dios le ha dado frente a los demás. Sus padres -Jonatan Reyna, pastor de Paramount en español en Amarillo, y su esposa, Karla- siempre la han animado a usar esos talentos para Su servicio.

Recientemente, mientras jugaba con una aplicación de actividades para niños, Kamila aprendió que podía animar personajes y escenas, lo que le proporcionó otra vía para hacer precisamente eso. 

“Encontré un botón en [la aplicación] Toca Boca que no sabía para qué servía y cuando lo pulsé, me di cuenta de que podía grabar mi voz y hacer un video”, dijo. “[Así que pensé], ¡quizás debería empezar a hacer vídeos!”.

Kamila envió su primer vídeo a su padre, quien se sorprendió de lo que su hija había creado. El 15 de julio, el pastor Reyna publicó el video en su página de Facebook. El video animado dura dos minutos y siete segundos y narra la historia bíblica de la creación del libro del Génesis. Kamila narró personalmente el clip y fue bien recibido por quienes lo vieron en la página de su padre. 

Kamila and her family said they hope God will continue to open doors for them to impact the children in their community with the gospel.

“Mi deseo es que los niños conozcan a Jesús y lo reciban en sus corazones”

“Pregunté en la publicación si sería buena idea crear un canal de YouTube con los dibujos animados de mi hija”, dijo el pastor Reyna, “¡y muchos me escribieron que me apresurara a hacerlo! … Como ella está haciendo estos dibujos animados y ha estado haciendo devocionales, esta es una gran oportunidad para combinar ambos para compartir la Palabra”.

Viendo una oportunidad para que Kamila utilice la aplicación y sus habilidades para ministrar y motivar a otros niños y personas de su comunidad, el pastor Reyna y su esposa han animado a Kamila a seguir creando videos con contenido bíblico. Una de las oportunidades potenciales que el pastor Reyna ve en la creación de dibujos animados como este es que pueden ser utilizados como un vehículo para la evangelización. Dijo que Kamila ya ha hablado de Jesús con muchos de sus amigos en la escuela, que se encuentra justo detrás de la iglesia. 

Debido a su experiencia no sólo como profesor de música, sino en la edición de video y la producción de sonido, el pastor Reyna dijo que planea asociarse con Kamila para hacer más animaciones que seguirán utilizando un estilo más moderno de animación.

Kamila tiene ahora un canal de YouTube y está creando contenidos para niños de todas las edades. Ella y su familia dicen que esperan que Dios les siga abriendo puertas para impactar a los niños de su comunidad con el evangelio.

“Mi deseo es que los niños conozcan a Jesús y lo reciban en sus corazones”, dijo Kamila.

Getting creative about creation

9-year-old digitally illustrates cartoon to share Bible story with friends

Kamila Reyna has always been an artistic child. 

From singing in front of hundreds of people to sharing devotionals, the 9-year-old has never been afraid to display her God-given talents in front of others. Her parents—Jonatan Reyna, pastor of Paramount en Español in Amarillo, and his wife, Karla—have always encouraged her to use those talents in His service.

While playing with a kids’ activity app called Toca Boca recently, Kamila learned she could animate characters and scenes, providing her with another avenue to do just that. 

“I found a button in [the app] that I didn’t know what it was for, and when I clicked it, I realized I could record my voice and make a video,” she said. “[So I thought], maybe I should start making videos!”

Kamila sent her first video to her dad, who was surprised at what she had created. On July 15, Pastor Reyna posted the video on his Facebook page. The animated video lasts two minutes and seven seconds and recounts the biblical creation story from the book of Genesis. Kamila personally narrated the clip, and it was well-received from those who saw it on her dad’s page. 

Kamila and her family said they hope God will continue to open doors for them to impact the children in their community with the gospel.

“My desire is that kids know about Jesus and receive Him into their hearts.”

“I asked in the post if it would be a good idea to create a YouTube channel with my daughter’s cartoons,” Pastor Reyna said, “and many wrote me to hurry up and do it! … Since she is doing these cartoons and has been doing devotionals, this is a great opportunity to combine them both to share the Word.”

Seeing an opportunity for Kamila to use the app and its abilities to minister to and motivate other children and people in their community, Pastor Reyna and his wife have encouraged Kamila to continue creating videos with biblical content. One of the potential opportunities Pastor Reyna sees in creating cartoons like this is that they can be used as a vehicle for evangelism. He said Kamila has already talked about Jesus with many of her friends at school, which is located right behind the church. 

Because of his background not only as a music teacher, but in video editing and sound production, Pastor Reyna said he plans to team up with Kamila to make more animations that will continue to utilize a more modern style.

Kamila now has a YouTube channel and is creating content for children of all ages (the channel is called “Kami’s Vlog”). She and her family said they hope God will continue to open doors for them to impact the children in their community with the gospel.

“My desire is that kids know about Jesus and receive Him into their hearts,” Kamila said.

What’s your story? ‘God is making this last part of my life wonderful’

At my church [Cross City North, Trophy Club], I’m known as “Mama Kay.” When I told my pastor, Kent Wells, to call me that, he said, “Well, every church needs a Mama Kay.” So, I’m Mama Kay—all the children know me. Being a greeter at my church and pouring out God’s love on people is the greatest reward I could have.

But I didn’t start out at Cross City’s north campus. I was at the Euless campus [formerly First Baptist Church of Euless] for 27 years. I lived close enough to that location, and I didn’t want to travel any further. My husband had been ill with some strokes for many years. And in that church, I had been part of the choir for eight years and worked in a newborn children’s nursery for some years. I was an outreach leader and an inreach leader—I just thoroughly enjoyed being there. I had a wonderful Sunday school group. And then my husband died in 2017.

I found myself not wanting to go back to church for a while because, for one thing, it was a long drive to make by myself. In bad weather, I wouldn’t do it. I felt so bad about missing church, but it was just a fact of life that I was 80 years old, and that was just a lot for me. After my husband passed away, my granddaughter insisted I come live close to her in Trophy Club, which was a longer commute to Euless. 

After I moved, Pastor John Meador saw a need in this part of the Metroplex for another church. He’d been looking for a place to plant a church, and they looked around my area. I didn’t hear much talk about it because I was just going to Sunday school sometimes and not church. We had a vote on it one Sunday when I was there, and they voted to go ahead and start this campus, Cross City North. And I thought, my goodness, this is going to be in Trophy Club. 

"I feel like I’ve had a reawakening of my spiritual life, of worship, and serving God in a joyful and more meaningful way than I ever thought possible at my age."

Image Courtesy of Cross City North

We were going to be meeting temporarily at Byron Nelson High School, three minutes from my house.  I just said to myself, “Well, God, you saw that I was having a hard time getting to church, and you just sent a church out to me!” And let me tell you, I rejoiced about that. The Sunday after we passed the vote, I stopped the new campus pastor in the hall and I said, “Kent, my name is Kay Meers and I live in Trophy Club, and I’m going to be coming to the new church to see if it’s where I need to be.” His face lit up. And he says, “Well, let me tell you, I can just see your smiling face greeting at the door of our new church.” And so, I went the very first Sunday. There was just something about it. There was an excitement there. I’d never been part of planting a new church before. 

I did go up to him after the sermon, and I said, “Kent, I really have enjoyed it here, but I feel such a loyalty to my Sunday school class back in Euless. We’ve been together for years. We’re all hitting 80 now and there’s deaths and illness, and I just don’t know if I can make the break.” And he says, “Well, Kay, I’ll promise you one thing. If you stay over here with us, we’ll keep you young and happy.” I decided to stay, and it was just so neat to get in the car and go three minutes to church. I didn’t miss a Sunday, I don’t think, for the first year.

But there have been some challenges. I had a little illness and had to lay out for a few Sundays. One time I had to have a heart procedure on a Wednesday and got home from the hospital on Friday, but I was at church on Sunday. My pastor said to the rest of our church, “Kay Meers is here today. No matter what, she was knocked out cold, but she managed to get to church today.”

And then my son died of cancer in August. For about four months, he needed someone to take care of him. I was eager to get to church on Sunday, but I had to miss a few weeks. My daughter goes to another church, but we would trade out. She’d stay one Sunday morning so I could come to church, and I’d stay the next Sunday morning so she could go to church. But we were there with David the whole time, one of us, the whole family. My whole church was so kind to me during that time. 

I feel like I’ve had a reawakening of my spiritual life, of worship, and serving God in a joyful and more meaningful way than I ever thought possible at my age. It’s just been a joy to me—an absolute joy. And I’m so grateful to God for making this last part of my life so wonderful. I’m loved and respected and happy. Even through the death of my husband and the death of my son, God has given me a peace and a comfort that I didn’t know was possible during grieving. He has really been wonderful to me. I know that this was His plan for me and my reward for following His path.

I’m just so happy to see everybody and so eager for them to know the happiness that I know. That’s about all I can say. It’s wonderful and I’m happy. And I sure do thank God. I thank my good Lord for all the blessings He’s given me. I thank Him for my life.

What’s my story? The closer you get to Jesus, the more you can love people!

What's your story?

Want to share a story of what God is doing in your life or your church? 

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SBTC church plant perseveres after equipment trailer stolen

WEST COLUMBIA   The first Sunday of September brought a challenge—and an opportunity to overcome adversity—for West Oaks Church, an SBTC church plant. 

On Friday, August 30, church leaders realized one of the church’s equipment trailers had been stolen. Inside the stolen trailer were various signs and sound equipment, a television, printers, and children’s check-in stands—all valued at around $8,000-$9,000 dollars, according to Pastor Colby Wallace. 

Despite the theft, the church stepped up—with a little help from other nearby churches and others who loaned tables, mic stands, and other equipment to help West Oaks Church get through the weekend. After hustling to replace or find other ways to perform the functions of the church that Sunday, Wallace said he was pleased to see a larger-than-expected number of attendees and visitors show up for the holiday weekend service.

“We adjusted pretty well, and our staff and our people stepped up and we made it work,” Wallace said. “In spite of what happened, everything went very smooth and it was very encouraging to see the support we had.”

What’s your story? Using personal loss and grief to minister to others

Easter weekend of 2015 was a wonderful time for my wife and me. We were not only celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but we discovered that our first child would be born in December of that year. 

Everything proceeded smoothly until morning sickness reared its ugly head. The nausea was so intense that my wife had to be admitted to the hospital for several days. However, everything with the baby was progressing as it should. As we moved forward in the pregnancy, we scheduled a sneak-a-peek sonogram to capture detailed images of our baby as a keepsake. 

When we arrived, the lady at the front desk had us sign all the paperwork, and I noticed one part that informed us that any abnormalities would be relayed to my wife’s doctor. We did not think too much of this at the time, and we actually had peace knowing the doctor could review and confirm any issues. 

Unbeknownst to us, our child had two complications that were not compatible with life. One was anencephaly, where the skull had not fully developed, and the other was ectopia cordis, where the heart had developed outside of the chest. While medicine has advanced significantly over the years, the issue with our child’s skull could not be corrected through medical means. We began to pray for a miracle only God could provide.   

As we prayed, we fervently asked God to heal our daughter on this earth. We specifically prayed for her skull to be made complete and the heart to be placed back within her chest wall. King David wrote, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:13-14). 

We knew from these verses that God had a plan, but we were petitioning Him to change how He had made our daughter. Our immediate response to the situation was that He had made a mistake, but then the Spirit ministered to us, assuring us that God had formed our daughter exactly as He planned. God did not and cannot make a mistake.  

"God’s plan for my life is sure, even in the wake of unthinkable loss and grief."

Image Courtesy of Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep

My wife was able to carry our daughter full-term, and we enjoyed three wonderful hours with her before God called her home. As a young couple, we did not know how to process this grief or where to turn for dealing with this situation. I was also in my first pastorate after graduating from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. We were confused, hurting, and grieving the loss of a child we barely knew. My wife and I needed a ministry to help us during this difficult time.  

Since 2015, God has blessed us with two more children who are happy and healthy. We, however, experienced a situation in September 2021 that we did not anticipate. After the complications with our first child, we never imagined we would deal with a miscarriage. Our fourth child passed away during the first trimester of the pregnancy. Again, my wife and I were facing grief, hurt, and confusion. Our child was alive, but now he is not. If this was not enough, my wife and I experienced another miscarriage in January 2022. Therefore, we need a strategy and plan for processing this grief.  

I am currently serving on staff as an associate pastor at the First Baptist Church of Leonard and I have a desire to develop a group counseling ministry for couples who have experienced a situation similar to ours. The ministry will be a weekend retreat consisting of a session on Friday evening and sessions on Saturday. The focus will be upon helping couples process and move forward in their grief. The retreat is scheduled for September 9-10. This ministry will be for couples who have experienced the death of a child under the age of five or a miscarriage. It will also be open to individuals who have experienced the death of their spouse or have been divorced.  

God has opened this door of ministry for me, and I am using it to complete my Doctor of Ministry degree at Luther Rice College and Seminary. My prayer is that other churches will be able to use the content of my project in their own setting for the purpose of ministering to those who have faced this kind of grief. 

So, what’s my story? God’s plan for my life is sure, even in the wake of unthinkable loss and grief.

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Biblical engagement is not a lost cause

Afew months back, the American Bible Society released its latest “State of the Bible” survey. As has been the case over the preceding decades, the metrics that measure Bible engagement are increasingly trending downward. 

Four in 10 Americans say they ever read the Bible outside church, and only two in 10 say they read it twice a year or less. Only 10% of all Americans read the Bible daily, and the sum of all the numbers reported in this latest report, according to ABS, represent “a major shift away from personal Bible reading.”

I don’t know a single Christian who wouldn’t be troubled by these numbers, but I fear we’ve grown calloused when we hear them because we just don’t know what to do about it. So what can we do to reverse these trends?

Here are a few recommendations:

Emphasize Bible study over topical study

There’s nothing wrong with topical teaching, and it can be done well. People need to know what the Bible says about marriage, gender, conflict, finances, and more. But if topical teaching or preaching is all we ever do, we may unintentionally create generations of people who are culturally literate while being biblically illiterate. 

When done poorly, topical teaching and preaching can lead to proof-texting instead of a thorough exegetical study of the Scriptures. In reality, the Bible should always speak first and never be used as secondary material.

"I’m not sure there’s a greater heirloom we can pass down to future generations of Christ-followers than the ability to ably handle the Word of God for themselves."

Be careful teaching application

We sometimes have a tendency when we preach and teach of not only providing a summary of all our research for that particular sermon or lesson, but of telling our listeners all the ways we think  they should apply the biblical principles to their lives. 

We run the risk of making (at least) two errors when we do this. First, we train our people that there’s no need for them to personally engage and interact with God’s Word because they know we’ll tell them everything they think they need to know. And maybe even worse, we risk playing the role of the Holy Spirit, who is the only one who can guide us into a right understanding of how God’s unchanging Word applies to the ever-changing situations that will arise in our lives.

Don’t get me wrong—good Bible teaching will walk people into a space where they learn how to apply God’s principles to their lives. We just need to be careful to leave the Holy Spirit space to speak to Bible learners, as well.

Read the Bible with other people

One of the easiest methods of Bible study has seemingly become a lost art: simply reading the Bible together out loud. Sometimes our good intentions to follow strategies, measure discipleship growth arcs, and present compelling lessons with impactful illustrations have the potential to complicate something God did not intend to be complicated: discerning His Word.

When was the last time you sat down with a group of other Christians, read a passage of the Bible out loud, and then asked each other, “What might God be trying to communicate to us through this passage?” It really could be that simple.

What works in one church context may not work in another. Regardless, we must continue to try something in whatever context we find ourselves to raise the level of biblical engagement. I’m not sure there’s a greater heirloom we can pass down to future generations of Christ-followers than the ability to ably handle the Word of God for themselves.