November 2014

Good Grief: A Way through the Holidays after a Loved One Dies

My favorite cartoon to watch is, and will always be, A Charlie Brown Christmas. There is something so poignant and sad, yet celebratory, about the story. On one hand, Charlie Brown works so hard to make Christmas special, and all he ends up with is a small, insignificant tree. On the other hand, the cartoon probably has the most memorable presentation of the Birth of Jesus, delivered by Linus in the school play.

This is the eighth Christmas after the death of my father. As a retired military chaplain, I understand that the holidays are difficult without a loved one next to you. This is even truer if the loved one will never be there... [continue]

Thanks for letting the CLC share about its work

Thanks to Texas Baptists for giving the Christian Life Commission the opportunity to share about its ministries this week at the BGCT Annual Meeting. The CLC staff is proud to serve you day in, day out; it was especially rewarding to share about that work in this special setting.

A special word of thanks to Dennis Parrish, whom we contracted to produce our main stage and exhibit stage production. His design and production skills helped us greatly in presenting the ministries and impact of the CLC.

A.C. Miller, Foy Valentine, Jimmie Allen, James Dunn, Phil Strickland and Suzii Paynter established a tremendous direction for the... [continue]

​Leaders of state child and family ministries invite Texas Baptists to join the Jesus Agenda

By: Lauren Hollon Sturdy

During his time on Earth Jesus healed the sick, brought hope to the hopeless, touched the untouchables, dined with lowlifes and forgave prostitutes. The marginalized and oppressed members of society were always on His agenda.

Today, "The Jesus Agenda" is an international effort to raise awareness of God's heart for the poor and how He wants His followers to seek justice for the oppressed.

Three leaders from Texas nonprofits serving vulnerable children and families spoke in a panel discussion about their hearts and missions to carry out the Jesus Agenda among the most vulnerable in society during... [continue]

​Hunger Luncheon honors Texas Baptists who see beyond the horizon

WACO—It was a packed house for the Hunger Luncheon at the 2014 BGCT Annual Meeting as special guest Jamaica-native Dr. Neville Callam of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) expressed his appreciation for Texas Baptists' efforts against hunger.

Hunger kills more people every year than aids, malaria and tuberculosis combined, said Callam, general secretary and chief executive officer of the BWA.

He commended the donors in the room and Texas Baptists as a whole for "being committed to the service to humanity. Not because you have to but because you recognize you need to."

"(You) have the capacity to see beyond immediate... [continue]

​Churches Discover Role They Can Play in Mental Health Recovery

During a Tuesday afternoon workshop at the Annual Meeting of Texas Baptists, co-founders of the Grace Alliance described the ways in which churches can better prepare themselves to both recognize the signs of mental illness and better minister to individuals and families suffering from mental illness.

Based in Waco, the Grace Alliance exists to be a bridge between the world of professional mental health care and the church, creating supports systems and educational opportunities for families and communities of faith.

According to Matt Stanford, co-founder and professor of psychology, neuroscience and biomedicine at Baylor University... [continue]

​Texas Baptists approve 2015 budget, elect new officers at Annual Meeting

WACO - During the 129th Annual Meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, several important business items were discussed, voted on and approved.

On Tues., Nov. 18, at 9:30 a.m., Earl Ann Bumpus, chair of the Committee on Credentials announced 1,240 messengers and 515 visitors had registered for a total of 1,755 in attendance at the meeting held at the Waco Convention Center.

President Jeff Johnson presided over the business portions of the meeting, held on Monday afternoon from 1:00-3:00 p.m. and Tuesday morning from 9:00-11:30 a.m.

Officers were elected for 2014-2015 including President Kathy Hillman... [continue]

TBMF hosts award luncheon during Annual Meeting

WACO - Friends and supporters of the Texas Baptist Missions Foundation (TBMF) gathered together for the 2014 Texas Baptist Missions Foundation Awards Luncheon held in Waco, during the Annual Meeting of Texas Baptists. This year, TBMF presented three awards in recognition of work in missions in the state of Texas.

Bill Arnold, president of TBMF, welcomed those gathered at the luncheon and introduced Jay Abernathy, pastor of First Baptist Church of Palestine, to give the opening prayer.

Arnold then presented the 2014 Adventurer Award for Leadership in Missions to the Kyle Lake Foundation. The Adventurer Award is presented annually to... [continue]

Johnson compels Texas Baptists to live altruistically in a self-centered world

WACO— In a world that pursues self-centered goals such as wealth, comfort, and fame—altruism can get people's attention, BGCT president Jeff Johnson told the audience at the 2014 Annual Meeting. But living that kind of difference is not going to be simple.

Johnson presented his final address as president at the Monday night worship rally of the Meeting on Nov. 17. Introduced on stage by his three daughters Sara, Lori, and Julie, and preceded by worship led by the choir of the church he pastors, First Baptist Church in Commerce, Johnson gave a compelling message about truly being set apart in a world where generosity is... [continue]

City Reach Waco shares Gospel and inspires local churches in evangelism

In a celebration luncheon on Monday during Annual Meeting, there was cause for much rejoicing as stories were shared of evangelism outreach throughout Waco and the surrounding Central Texas area. City Reach Waco, an intentional emphasis on evangelism in the Annual Meeting host city, involved a prayer initiative, soccer tournament, prison outreach and neighborhood block parties.

Vince Smith, director of missions for Collin Baptist Association, shared about an initiative in Collin County to pray for every home in the area. An idea started at First Baptist Church, McKinney, mobilized 900 volunteers sinced February to personally... [continue]

Discovering How Literacy Can Bless Your Community

During the annual meeting of Texas Baptists, representatives from Literacy ConneXus provided churches with 50 ways to bless their communities through literacy ministries.

Literacy ConneXus is Christian ministry designed to help churches help people with literacy needs. Beginning in 2004, with an initial focus on advocacy and adult literacy, the organization has expanded to work in ESL training, childhood literacy programs, and a Books for the Border and Beyond program, which provides bookshelves and books for families in poverty.

Lester Meriweather, executive director of Literacy ConneXus, Pam Moore, editor and media... [continue]

Hardage identifies Texas Baptists as Great Commandment and Commission people

WACO - Texas is in a state of change and will be for many years to come, Dr. David Hardage, executive director of Texas Baptists told messengers and visitors at the 2014 Annual Meeting.

"This state is growing, and this growth is ushering a whole new level of diversity like we've never seen before," Hardage said.

Not only is Texas changing in ethnic diversity but also in religious diversity, he said, noting 45% of Texans do not believe in anyone or anything.

He told the audience that on an airplane ride about two months ago, he had a revelation from God that made him ask the question, "What makes Texas Baptists... [continue]

Only you can stop human trafficking

WACO–In a dimly lit room in the corner of the Waco Convention Center, a group of individuals left no seat empty to gather in hopes of learning more about a commonly misunderstood topic: human trafficking. Dr. Tomi Grover, author of Compelled, and Jay Abernathy, pastor of First Baptist Church, Palestine, defined human trafficking, gave ways to effect change, told of a new East Texas non-profit helping young girls and provided resources available to help educate Texas Baptists.


"This is the very heart of God. Want to know where God is? Look in the darkness. [Human trafficking] is the darkest... [continue]

Christian Life Commission teaches Texas Baptists to model Christ through advocacy

Kathryn Freeman taught a packed room about the steps to becoming an advocate this afternoon at her workshop, "It's Our Government: We Can Make a Difference."

Freeman, the director of public policy at the Christian Life Commission (CLC), emphasized advocacy takes many forms and isn't always tied to the government. Advocacy can look like membership in the local PTA or mission work.

She said the Christian Life Commission recommends "starting with missions," when individuals are trying to decide, which issues they want to get involved in.

"Most churches have a missions or outreach or service pastor who's engaged in your... [continue]

​Texas Baptists elect diverse officer panel

WACO - Texas Baptists have elected the most diverse officer panel in the 129-year history of the Annual Meeting. Kathy Hillman, messenger from Columbus Avenue Baptist Church in Waco, has been elected President, marking the second woman to hold the office. The election was held during the Monday afternoon Business Session in Chisholm Hall at the Waco Convention Center.

Additionally, René Maciel, president of Baptist Univeristy of the Américas, was elected as First Vice President and Bedalo Yirga, pastor of Ethiopian Evangelical Baptist Church in Garland, was elected Second Vice President. Maciel previously served as Second Vice... [continue]

​Texas Baptists urged to fight sin, live like Christ

Texas Baptists gathered Monday morning to worship and celebrate the first day of the Texas Baptists Annual Meeting in Waco.

The David Chapel Missionary Baptist Church choir gave a passionate performance of "How Great is our God" and "For the Rest of My Life." Their music was bookended by Bruce Kuhn's expressive recitation of Bible passages as he brought the text alive with his commanding stage presence and the voices he created for his characters.

Joseph Parker Jr., pastor of David Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in Austin, preached from Romans 7:14-25 about how the enslavement of sin affects our ability to "live the... [continue]

​Providing Hope for the Refugee

A packed room of messengers gathered to hear about ministry among refugees at the annual meeting of Texas Baptists. Presented by the Texas Baptists Intercultural Ministry, the workshop offered participants a window into the world of refugees, offered guidelines for pursuing ministry among refugees, and also afforded the opportunity to hear-first hand from refugee pastors ministering in Texas.

Some 10.4 million individuals around the world are classified as refugees, those who are forced to flee their home country because of war, oppression and violence against them due to their religion, ethnicity or political views. Unlike... [continue]

TBM Rally reviews fruitful year of ministry

WACO - During a rally held to highlight God's recent activity through Texas Baptist Men, speakers gave accounts of water well drilling, salvations and village transformations, among other testimonies.

The rally was held the first night of Texas Baptists' Annual Meeting, a three-day event, which kicked off Sunday, Nov. 16, at the Waco Convention Center.

TBM Associate Executive Director Mickey Lenamon opened the evening with an overview of TBM's 17 ministries, complete with pictures, stories and statistics. Lenamon gave examples of TBM's continuance to show Christ's love: "anyway, anytime, anywhere," in accordance with the... [continue]

Matt Snowden

"Joy. I love teaching on joy. The joy of the Lord is so powerful. It is a stream in the desert." -Pastor Matt Snowden

Name: Matt Snowden

Wife: Meredith Snowden

Children: Molly Katherine and Wes Snowden (ages 8 and 7)

Church: First Baptist Church Waco

Number of years: Four and I/4 years

Attendance: We have an active membership of 805

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Meridian, Mississippi.

How old were you when you became a Christian and what is the strongest memory about that time?

I became a Christian at 11. I was baptized in the Highland Baptist Church. My strongest memory of that time was... [continue]

African American Fellowship admires God as a God of justice

WACO—Though revenge seems sweet and payback fair, God commands His followers to let Him take control of the situation, Pastor John Ogletree from First Metropolitan Church in Houston told guests at the African American Fellowship of Texas worship rally on Nov. 16.

Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Waco hosted the rally preceding the 2014 Texas Baptists Annual Meeting. Visitors engaged in worship facilitated by the Antioch choir and a sermon based off Romans 12:17-21.

"This message is to people who know something about being a victim," Ogletree told the audience. "As believers, we have to understand it's alright to be a... [continue]

Hispanic Baptists Rally Inspires Attendees to “Live the Difference”

On a bitter cold November night, Hispanic Baptists exchanged warm greetings and friendly handshakes in the Paul W. Powell Chapel at Truett Seminary for their annual rally, which kicked off the Texas Baptists Annual Meeting on Nov. 16.

Church planting consultant and evangelist Roland Lopez preached from Acts 8:26-35 and used Philip the disciple as a model of what it means to "live the difference."

Lopez said Philip exemplifies a follower of Christ who lives the difference in three ways.

First, he was described as, "a man who was sensitive to the Spirit of the Lord." When an angel came to Philip to instruct him... [continue]

​Texas Baptists gather in Waco for Annual Meeting

WACO – Texas Baptists' will welcome messengers to the annual meeting November 16-18 in Waco. The meeting, held at the Waco Convention Center, is centered on the theme "Live the Difference" with a special emphasis on ministry opportunities through Advocacy/Care and Chaplaincy, including the Christian Life Commission.

Registration begins at 4 p.m. on Sunday, November 16, and rallies for Hispanic and African American Ministries, as well as Texas Baptist Men, will begin at 6 p.m.

Monday morning registration will open at 8 a.m. and workshops beginning at 8:30. Workshops this year will intentionally address the intersection of Christian... [continue]

Free coffee and Bibles

As the seasons change and the leaves begin to fall, the atmosphere of UTA changes. It is different than the beginning of the semester, when students nervously try to find their classes in the summer heat. At the beginning of the semester, students are very willing to try new things, to take a flier, and to perhaps ask what you are doing and what your organization is about. They are eager to join organizations and make friends.

In November, students are settled into a routine and are less willing to stop and chat, or to accept a flier advertising a Bible study. To put it simply, they are comfortable. However, as followers of Jesus... [continue]

UNT BSM Breaks ground for new building

DENTON—With hands on shovels and eyes on the future, attendees of the University of North Texas (UNT) Baptist Student Ministry (BSM) groundbreaking ceremony celebrated an exciting new chapter for the 54-year-old campus ministry as they prepare to construct a new building.

The existing 7,200 square foot facility was built in 1960 as a tool to reach the campus community of 6,500 students for Christ. Now, over 50 years later, the student body has reached over 36,000, and there is need for a new space to reach the campus..

"The Lord is growing UNT, and He's growing this ministry," Stephanie Gates, UNT BSM director, told... [continue]

A community that prays without ceasing

In the past couple of weeks, we have begun conducting local interviews with students interested in applying for Go Now Missions this coming summer. One of the questions we ask is what the three things are that the potential missionary would want to first teach a new disciple of Christ, and though the answers vary, the overwhelming response has been the importance of prayer

Of course we believe prayer is important. It is found throughout the Bible. Jesus is seen praying in the New Testament again and again, modeling for us how we should pray. But prayer can be difficult; it can get swept away by busyness; and it can begin to... [continue]

Dramatic presentations part of this year's annual meeting

"Theatre for the Mind and Spirit" is coming to the Texas Baptist annual meeting Monday, Nov. 17. This is how Bruce Kuhn describes his dramatic presentations. Kuhn will be part of the morning and evening worship services at the Waco Convention Center.

Bruce's presentations bring Scripture alive. The words are literally from the biblical text, but Bruce helps them breathe with human passion. Below are 2 seven-minute videos of Bruce presenting a portion of the Gospel of Luke and Tales of Tolstoy, and there are other videos listed on his website.

More videos...

A number of Texas Baptists saw Kuhn's presentations at... [continue]

Rays of hope result from counseling

A senior pastor struggling with his marriage. A worship pastor battling a pornography addiction. A youth pastor wrestling with depression. A children's pastor trying to cope with anxiety. A minister's spouse dealing with depression after a forced termination. A ministry couple struggling with a child embracing an alternative lifestyle. Grief, burnout, substance use, eating disorders, stress, transition, trauma, pre-marital counseling, personal growth and a host of other issues have been the subject of conversation for Texas Baptist Counseling Services this past year. Regardless of the struggle Texas Baptists find themselves walking... [continue]

Countdown to cupcakes

Working at a church in Tahoe City, I wanted my first and second grade students to become more familiar with the Bible so I created a "Countdown to Halloween" paper chain. Each link in the paper chain had a scripture reference on it. We would rip off one link everyday and look up the verse written on that link. I became concerned when the students were having a hard time finding the books in the Bible. I'm serving in California, not in a country where the Bible isn't available. It's scary to think that the Bible is foreign to some of the people in the United States.

It was hard at first not to do it for them. I only have 30 minutes... [continue]

Texas Baptists welcomes new director of Hispanic evangelism

Joshua del Risco has been named director of Hispanic evangelism and associate director of evangelism for Texas Baptists.

Del Risco's experience in directing evangelism and communicating with churches is extensive, having worked with the North American Mission Board for 13 years in various capacities including serving as a national missionary for evangelism and developing the international and multiethnic evangelism team.

"We are thankful to the Lord that He has sent Joshua (to Texas Baptists)," said Scott Willingham, director of evangelism. "He comes to us 'turn key,' that is, he is ready to lead and serve."

He has... [continue]

Live the Difference: in disaster recovery

This year's Annual Meeting theme is "Live the Difference." We asked several individuals what it looks like to live the difference in their day-to-day lives. Here's what Gerald Davis, Disaster Recovery and development specialist, had to say:

Being the Dallas Cowboy fan that I am, I appreciate the complement which is usually made by a player to a coach or the coaching staff, which is generally made after a win, that says "the coach(es) had an excellent game plan which put us in the right position to make the play(s) and allowed us to win the game." Living the difference, for me is like that. I'm so grateful to God for allowing me to... [continue]

Engage 24 stories from around the state

Engage 24, an intentional one-day emphasis on evangelism, was held this year on October 14. Texas BSMs found unique ways to embrace the emphasis on their campuses, some making it a week-long event and others choosing more than one day to reach their campus.

The goal behind Engage 24 is to empower students to get on their campuses and in their communities and start Gospel-centered conversations. Below are stories from BSMs across the state about the impact of the intentional outreach.

Texas A&M University

At Texas A&M University, the BSM students hosted a Midnight Pancake Breakfast, serving 2,300 pancakes between... [continue]

'The Blind Side' couple to end BGCT Annual Meeting

The BGCT Annual Meeting this year will end with a special event on the Baylor University campus. Baylor President Ken Starr will host a "conversation" with Sean and Leigh Anne Touhy, the couple featured in the book and movie, "The Blind Side."

It is part of the university's "On Topic" series of events at Waco Hall. Tickets are required but are free and will be available Sunday and Monday, Nov. 16-17, at Waco Convention Center during the BGCT Annual Meeting. Tickets also will be available Tuesday, Nov. 18, at Waco Hall before the event.

"The Blind Side" tells the story of Michael Oher, a homeless teenager turned first round draft pick... [continue]

Boldness to further the Kingdom

"And He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.'" Mark 16:15

This past week, on Monday I went along with two other volunteers and Rafiki Africa Ministries to a nearby community to evangelize the Gospel and to encourage the people that lived there. Upon our arrival we were met with a recent news update from one of the members of the community. He reported that there had been four deaths the day prior due to fighting that had been occurring between a neighboring district. The people who live in this community had come from the North where many of them were forced to fight in the war and were... [continue]

Churches built to last

MIDLAND - Churches, like the human body, have a natural life cycle. The average lifespan of a church is around 70 years, unless something supernatural happens to further its impact, according to David Lowrie, senior pastor of First Baptist Church El Paso.

Lowrie was one of two keynote speakers during the "Built to Last" Conference hosted by First Baptist Church in Midland Oct. 9-10. The conference was organized for church leaders around the state to come together to learn how to build a solid church foundation. Dr. Randel Everett, president of the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative and former pastor of FBC Midland, also served as a... [continue]

​Training Mexican church leaders in communal evangelism

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO: Eight Texas Baptist organic church leaders journeyed to Mexico City, Mexico the first week of October to train local church leaders on how to share the Gospel in their communities using personal evangelism and the 4byfour method. Throughout the week, they experienced God's provision and power. Forty individuals on the streets accepted Christ as Lord, and 19 young people surrendered to the call to ministry. Read these personal testimonies from a few of the missionaries:

Sharing Christ in the community

As we went out to the streets of Mexico City to share about God, it surprised me to see that the... [continue]

Kathryn Freeman

Name: Kathryn Annette Freeman

Ministry: Christian Life Commission

Position: Director of Public Policy

Where did you grow up?

Grand Prairie, Texas

How old were you when you became a Christian and what is the strongest memory about that time?

I became a Christian at seven years old. I remember learning about inviting Jesus into my heart at Vacation Bible School. I remember being very excited about taking the pre-baptism class and obsessively wearing my salvation bracelet until it fell off.

Where did you do your undergrad?

Texas A&M University (WHOOP!)

If you did any post-graduate work, where did you... [continue]

Ministry Profile: Christian Life Commission

Department: Christian Life Commission

Staffers: Gus Reyes, Director; Ferrell Foster, Director of Ethics & Justice, Coordinator, Texas Baptist Hunger Offering; Kathryn Freeman, Director of Public Policy; Marilyn Davis, Congregational & Commission Specialist; Joyce Gilbreath, Hunger Offering Specialist; Julie Valentine, Ministry Assistant

Explain your ministry:

The CLC addresses ethical and public policy issues in order to help Texas Baptists follow Christ in their everyday lives. Each Baptist comes to his or her own conclusions about issues. The CLC speaks to those issues in order to help each Baptist grapple with the... [continue]

Live the Difference: in your daily worship

This year's Annual Meeting theme is "Live the Difference." We asked several individuals what it looks like to live the difference in their day-to-day lives. Here's what Jeff Johnson, BGCT president and pastor of First Baptist Church of Commerce, had to say:

My ability to Live the Difference is often tested as a pastor in light of 1 Timothy 3 and the qualifications I am to embody. For instance: "Preacher, are you trying to make this church into a disco"?

My reply? "Yes, I have been trying to get a church to buy into it since the 1970's and this church is the first one that has taken me up on it." (Probably not a 1 Timothy 3 type... [continue]