faith


How our church found a new strategy to welcome guests


By: Aaron Summers

We noticed a new trend in our church on Sunday mornings. Fewer guests were filling out the communication cards we had in the pews. We had guests, and plenty of them, but there was no way to follow up if we did not have any information from them.

Our church likes to take gift bags to guests at their home. I have intentionally instructed our people that most people today do not want us in their home, but would receive a gift at their home. We believe in building relationships. We have more and more young families... [continue]

How Christ’s followers are called to serve


“It’s my pleasure.” Perhaps you’ve heard this reply from a server at a particular fast food restaurant that is famous for its chicken sandwiches. It is part of the company’s focus on delivering outstanding customer service at each of its locations and has served as a model for other organizations.

We love to receive excellent service from others, but how eager are we to provide excellent service for others? How often do we look for ways to serve those around us? The truth is, all Christ-followers have been called to a life of service. But this... [continue]

Healthy Bodies, Healthy Churches


When your child is sick, you begin a process of gathering information so you can determine what is wrong with her and what your next steps should be. Perhaps one of your first steps is to check her temperature. If the number on the thermometer is close to 98.6° you can relax a little and move on to your next step in making her more comfortable. If the numbers are too high, you know your child is not healthy and you need to act quickly. Numbers can be very helpful. They make good gauges and guides, but they make poor goals. Your child’s health is your... [continue]

5 steps to make the most of your camp experience as a leader


By Jennifer Deibel, Contributing Writer

The car washes are complete, the spaghetti dinners served, funds raised and you’re ready for camp.

For many youth and children, a week at camp each summer is the highlight of the year. It’s a time to get away from the mundane daily routines, meet new people and have lots of fun. It can, however, be much more than that. Camp can be a truly life-changing experience.

Danny Dawdy, executive director at Highland Lakes Camp and Conference Center, says, “The power of Christian camping is one... [continue]

Pastoral transitions: Times to thrive


By John Hall, Contributing Writer

Moses is one of the most recognized figures in the Bible. He takes on Pharaoh. He leads the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. God even gives him the 10 Commandments as they converse face to face.

He’s one of the greatest examples of leadership in all of Scripture, irreplaceable in his role in God’s story. But God’s story of redemption doesn’t end with Moses. It continues as Joshua transitions into leadership.

Today, many churches find themselves in times of transitioning leadership. Research consistently has... [continue]

The In-Between Vision


Every pastor knows they will hear this question: “What is God’s vision for our church?” Or, it might be stated a little differently, like, “What are we supposed to be doing? What is God’s will for our church?” These questions will be asked either during an interview with a search committee, or right after the pastor arrives new to a church, or both.

Many pastoral candidates have a ready answer. They have gone to a seminary class, or they have attended a leadership seminar, or they have read a book, and they have a specific image in their mind of what a... [continue]

Encouraging First Responders through theological education


By: Rochelle Rocha Roots

In light of the many stresses and challenges that face law enforcement officers today, South Texas School of Christian Studies (SCS) seeks to encourage and empower local public servants by offering affordable theological training. One way SCS put this mission into action was to offer its First Responders Servant Leadership Summit in November 2016.

The concept for the summit originated from conversations between Dr. Tony Celelli, president of SCS, and Troy Riggs, a board trustee of SCS and the former... [continue]

Finding freedom in prison


Editor’s note: April is Second Chances Month for the Christian Life Commission in partnership with Prison Fellowship, celebrating a commitment to re-entry ministries, public policy and helping individuals like Lovinah Igbani find freedom through the Gospel.

Prison isn’t a place where people expect to find freedom. But that’s where it happened for Lovinah Igbani.

“In 2010, when my baby was three weeks old, I was charged with manufacturing with the intent to deliver hydrocodone,” Igbani said. “I was sentenced to eight years. My husband kept the girls for... [continue]

Protecting children in your church from sexual abuse


Sexual abuse is not a topic that most any of us want to discuss, but it is a discussion we must have in our churches because:

1 in 4 girls will be sexually abused before the age of 18.

1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18.

Of child abuse cases reported in Texas, 68% were sexual abuse cases.

Think about your church congregation and apply some easy math. If you have 200 people in your church, 100 females and 100 males, those statistics translate to 25 females and 16 males in your church that either have or will... [continue]

Texas Baptists reaching an expanding state through church starting


What breaks your heart? When you see a people group, a community or a neighborhood that is not being reached with the Gospel, are you compelled to action? Does your heart break when you see someone who may never hear the name of Jesus unless you do something? If you answered “yes” to these questions, you might be an ideal church starting candidate.

Texas Baptists Church Starting works to equip church planters with the skills, encouragement, mentoring and coaching, strategies and funding needed to successfully plant a... [continue]

A look into the life and legacy of James B. Simmons


Dr. Travis L. Frampton developed a growing interest in Dr. James B. Simmons's life and works several years ago upon reading The Cause and Cure of the Rebellion, an abolitionist sermon published by Dr. Simmons in 1861. The following story details Dr. Frampton’s journey on his sabbatical to learn more about the life and legacy of the institution’s founder.

Having taught at Hardin-Simmons University for almost two decades, I am more invested in Hardin-Simmons than in any other school of which I have been a part. As my own life has been... [continue]

A look at the new BaptistWay Press study - Power & Purpose: God Unveils the Universe


In the beginning… God! From the very first words of the Bible, we learn that it is a book about God. The Bible is about who God is and what God has done. He revealed himself as the Creator of the universe whose powerful words brought forth everything that has ever been created.

In the first 11 chapters of Genesis, we see history on a universal scale. We learn about the beginnings of the earth, the plants and animals and the crowning achievement of God’s creation: human beings. We also discover how sin... [continue]

What does your church sign say about you?


One of the best and worst tools a church has is a sign that can regularly be changed. The reason I say the best and the worst is because of the way that churches choose to use the sign.  Ed Stetzer is famous for the various pictures he shares on a blog of church signs and the different sayings that people put on them. When doing a message for the church sign, the question should always be asked, “How does this communicate with someone who does not go to church?”  

One of the signs Stetzer shares is “Cross Eyed People have the Best Vision.” As... [continue]

Evidencia de la esperanza, la ayuda, el entrenamiento, y el cuidado por medio de nuestras instituci


Comenzó en el 1941, con el bombardeo de Pearl Harbor. Un joven campesino en el oeste de Texas fue reclutado el servicio militar a principios del 1942. Él entrenó durante dos años, fue a la guerra, fue enviado a Alaska, y fue herido. Fue tratado en Alaska, luego en California, y finalmente tuvo tratamiento extenso y rehabilitación en Temple, Texas. 

Cerca de Belton, estaba la escuela para señoritas Colegio Mary Hardin-Baylor, ahora la Universidad de Mary Hardin-Baylor. Uno de los... [continue]

Providing hope, help, training and care through our institutions


It began in 1941, with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. A young farmer in West Texas was drafted for the war effort in early 1942. He trained for two years, went to war, deployed to Alaska and was wounded. He was treated in Alaska, then California, and finally had extensive treatment and rehab in Temple, Texas.

In nearby Belton stood the all-girl’s school Mary Hardin-Baylor College, now the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. One of the college ministries was visiting wounded soldiers at the hospital. A young woman at the... [continue]

SCS makes seminary education possible for Corpus Christi minister


Like most married couples, Josh and Melissa Fuentes had plans.

“I knew I wanted to go into ministry when I was 17,” recalls Josh. “As a kid, I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, but when I felt God calling me into the ministry, it just made sense. I could see myself working in a church for the rest of my life.”

Josh met his wife, Melissa, while they were both interns at First Baptist Church-Universal City, just north of San Antonio.

“I didn’t like him when we first met,” says Melissa, “but he grew on... [continue]

Transformational Ministry from Student to Student


Sharing a physical location with the Baylor University campus allows George W. Truett Theological Seminary to partner with and minister to the broader University in ways that many seminaries located off campus or not linked to an undergraduate institution are unable to. Perhaps one of the most meaningful opportunities to arise from this partnership is the ministering to Baylor undergraduates by seminary students. Truett students are able to take the ministry skills and theological knowledge they develop in seminary and share their faith... [continue]

Lifelong HPU friends share lives, memories at Baptist retirement community


Several conversations are taking place at once around a long lunch table at Buckner Retirement Community in San Angelo. Friends trade memories back and forth, pausing only to join hands and thank God for their meal. The four individuals sitting around the table represent a variety of Howard Payne University connections including alumni, retired faculty and friends.

Each of the four is a resident at Buckner, a 100-acre, Baptist-affiliated retirement community. Dr. S.L. Harris ’48 moved to the community in 2000... [continue]

How taking a retreat with your spouse can strengthen your marriage and ministry


It’s been said that relationships are either growing or dying. In our churches, we are always striving to grow relationships. Yet, we often neglect the more important human relationship that we have – the one with our spouse.  

I pray that your love for each other will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in your knowledge and understanding. Philippians 1:9

When Cory and I have participated in marriage classes, retreats, counseling and leadership trainings across the United States to... [continue]

The power of presence in the lives of teens


It is astonishing when science tells us something we know but perhaps have forgotten. Research now tells parents of teens how important their presence is in the lives of teenagers. Teens report that their parents’ presence when they are doing their homework, hanging out with friends in their house, or just hanging out is very important.

The presence of parents for teens is important for their feelings of safety and security. In our culture we too often bestow upon teenagers all the rights and passages of adults. They, in fact, can do many... [continue]

CLC director Reyes joins Smart-on-Crime Coalition in encouraging criminal justice reform


AUSTIN — Gus Reyes, director of the Texas Baptists Christian Life Commission, joined several key representatives from the Smart-on-Crime Coalition on Wednesday, December 14, for a press conference to encourage criminal justice reform for the upcoming Texas Legislative Session.

During the briefing, held at the Texas Association of Business, Reyes said, “Our commitment to justice is one of the reasons we joined the Smart-on-Crime Coalition. We want a justice system that is just; this means both... [continue]

Addiction and the church


Most people are somewhat familiar with the topic of addiction, whether it is through media, books, educational or prevention programs in the community; or perhaps at a more personal level, by struggling with addiction or knowing someone who is in that journey. The fact of the matter is that everyone has had an encounter with this issue whether personally or impersonally.  

Addiction is a complex and compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (e.g alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine etc.) or a behavior such as gambling or pornography.  According to... [continue]

Investing in the future of Texas through Collegiate Ministry


Much has been written about Gen Y and now Gen Z (just entering college). Tim Elmore offers excellent insights into the characteristics of both generations, growingleaders.com In campus ministry, some characteristics carry over into these upcoming generations.

  • On college campuses in Texas, less than 5% are involved in a weekly Bible study or small group where spiritual growth is emphasized. Even when you consider those attending large group meetings, the percentage is no greater than 10% at best.
  • Over 625,000+ are
... [continue]

How sexual abuse prevention training can help your church


Sexual abuse is an uncomfortable topic to discuss. It seems to be even more uncomfortable when we think of the discussion within a church setting. For many of us, myself included, it is difficult to fathom how such painful and destructive experiences can occur in a church, but they can and do. And I assure you it is much more comfortable to discuss prevention of sexual abuse than to suffer the physical, emotional, and spiritual consequences of abuse that can occur by doing nothing.

Do you know what “grooming” means? Maybe I’m... [continue]

Volunteer-led campus outreach leads to increased connectivity


Crestview Baptist Church, Georgetown Nearby campus: Southwestern University Student population: 1,500 College Ministry: Volunteer led Ministries:

  • Free lunch (Mondays, hosted on church grounds)
  • Booster club to attend sporting events
  • Adopt-a-student
  • Mentoring program
  • Bible studies

Three miles from Crestview Baptist Church in Georgetown sits Southwestern University, a small liberal arts college with 1,500 undergraduate students. Two years ago, Jack Phelps, the associate pastor at the time, came to Pastor Dan... [continue]

Questions to keep conversation flowing in your marriage


Ever run out of things to talk about? Maybe it’s because we work and serve together, but more often than not, Cory and I find ourselves gravitating toward conversations that center around ’church stuff,’ i.e. upcoming events or meetings, things going on in this family or in that family, even venting our ministry frustrations and heartaches. It’s so reassuring to be on the same page in our ministries, but our communication can easily become focused on external things, and we may miss out on growing in relational intimacy in the... [continue]

What If You Just Ask?!


In my early days of pastoral ministry, I met two of the “big” pastors in my city at a local event for pastor types. By big, I mean they led the two largest churches in the city and county, each one preaching to over 1,500 on any given Sunday. Considering I was usually preaching to about 50, that was huge.

I came home feeling intimidated. I wondered what it would be like to be them. You know, studs. Ha!

No really, what I wanted to do was get close to them and see what I could learn from them. They were each 10-15 years ahead of me in ministry experience, and I... [continue]

Repurposing pastoral skills in retirement


Dr. E. L. “Skip” McNeal received the MWD Award (named for Dick Maples, Charles Lee Williamson, and Jan Daehnert) on September 22 for his contributions in interim ministry while serving Texas Baptist churches. Dr. McNeal was accompanied by his wife, Mary, and 11 other family members during a luncheon at the annual Fall Update continuing education event for the Texas Baptists Interim Ministry Network, where the annual award is given.

Dr. McNeal retired after serving for 30 years at First Baptist Church, Sanger. He had also served on the Executive... [continue]

How Much Battery Do You Have?


How much battery charge does your phone have? Go ahead. Take a quick peek. I just started the day, so mine’s at 96%. Yours?

Now, what about your spiritual battery? Running a little low? Sometimes, I think it would be so much easier if we had some sort of gauge we could peek at, discreetly of course, to see what kind of spiritual charge or reserve we are working with.

With the recent news that yet another high-profile pastor has exited the work due to fatigue, exhaustion and burnout, we are reminded how vulnerable those in ministry leadership are to wearing... [continue]

Outside the Box, Inside the World


We’ve all heard the term “Think outside the box” and we have all tried our fair share of doing just that in order to be different, competitive or rebellious. It’s one thing to “think” our way to a different path or solution, but a lot harder to “live outside the box.”

So, what is the box? It can be anything that society says is the only way to accomplish a particular goal, attempt a great feat or solve a difficult problem. The problem, however, is that we spend so much time thinking that we limit our ability of doing, and specifically, living outside... [continue]

Empowering parents to disciple their teenagers


Youth ministers have many roles in the life of a teenager - teacher, friend, mentor, role model, event coordinator, source of wisdom - the list could go on and on. The role of primary discipler in the life of a student, however, should belong to the parents says Brett Levy, minister to youth at First Baptist Church Georgetown.

Having served in ministry for the past 23 years, Levy has seen and tried a myriad of approaches to discipleship, many times with great success. Five years ago, though, Levy realized that the traditional structure of... [continue]

Minister’s family advocates for suicide prevention awareness after loss of son


So many people are quiet about it, but so many people are suffering. This statement could be true about a myriad of struggles people face every day, but for Gene and Pam Talbot the struggle is the impact of suicide after their son, Michael, took his own life in 2010.

Gene serves as associate pastor at First Baptist Church in Crosby, a position he has held for the past 17 years. During his experience in ministry, he has walked with families through many difficult times but following the loss of his own son,... [continue]

What I saw and heard in my city


Outside the city of Brownwood, lies a small Baptist encampment where I was spending a week as camp pastor of an RA/GA camp when the reports out of Louisiana and Minnesota came in. These were quite disturbing to me. I attempted, even from a distance, to minister in the midst of these reports by calling African American pastor friends who I knew were having to work through this in their churches and communities.

Then, Thursday night, the world I knew fell apart. Coming back from worship I began to hear the reports, out of my home city of Dallas, about the... [continue]

Chin church helps fellow refugees resettle in Sherman


In 2013, when the Grayson Chin Baptist Church began as a church plant in Sherman, they had 25 members, representing about five Chin families. Approximately 100 Chin people were living in the city at that time and through a partnership coordinated by Texas Baptists Intercultural Ministries and Texas Baptists Church Starting, the Sherman church was sponsored by Chin Baptist Church in Lewisville.

Now, just three years later, the church averages 200 people on a Sunday morning, providing a wonderful place for believers to join together... [continue]

Juggling Bandwidth: Managing your time without losing your mind


Bandwidth. It’s not what you think it might be. It’s not what you think you might have. It’s not the amount of output you can achieve. It’s the amount of throughput that you can realistically, humanly handle in any given 24 hours, one week or 30 days. It’s basically a technical term for how much data can be processed at one time through a conduit of copper, fiber optic or another form of telecommunications pipeline. Before you think that this is an essay on upload/download mbps, let’s dive into the “why” of this... [continue]

Reaching out to neighbors and fighting to end poverty


Pastor Daniel Banyuls has served faithfully at Iglesia Evangelica Bautista in Cerdanyola, Spain, for the past 15 years. He supervises the church’s local food ministry, which provides groceries to about 50 neighbors in need each week. They partner with the local government to raise awareness of the ministry in the neighborhood and the results have been humbling.

The need for help in their local community is great, with many people suffering from the continued impact of the economic crisis of 2008.... [continue]

Hope for America


“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom He has chosen as His heritage . . . Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in Him, because we trust in His holy name. Let Your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in You.” -Psalm 33:12, 20-22 (ESV)

Noah Webster defines HOPE as the following:

  1. A desire of some good, accompanied with at least a slight expectation of obtaining it, or a belief that is obtainable, and
  2. Confidence in a future event; the highest degree of well founded expectation of
... [continue]

Is there a sign on my forehead?


Sometimes a client will ask me if there is a sign on his/her forehead that says something to the effect of, “Abuse me, I’m a target.” Of course there is no sign, but at times negative reoccurrences in a life leads one to wonder if indeed there is a sign.

The truth is, to God’s people, and especially God’s ministers and their families, there is a target on each one. In our church, there is an elderly saint who prays especially for my husband and me. He tells us that we have big red targets on us. No, he is not hallucinating. He knows God’s Word tells us... [continue]

Where to turn when ministry is hard


Ministry can be wonderfully fulfilling. It can also be incredibly taxing. Statistics concerning ministers are staggering! According to Life Recovered, 75 percent of ministry leaders report they’ve had a significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry. Thirty-three percent confess “inappropriate” behavior. The clergy has the second highest divorce rate among all professions. Forty-five percent of ministers’ wives say the greatest danger to them and their family is physical, emotional, mental and spiritual burnout.

Ministry leaders... [continue]

Being present and allowing God to work


Living on mission, according to Josue Valerio, director of the Missions Team, is being present with the people around you and pointing them to a deeper relationship with Christ. As Jesus sent out 72 disciples in Luke 10, He gave them instructions to pray, travel light, seek a person of peace, practice receiving hospitality and to proclaim the Kingdom of God is at hand. Following His directive, the disciples were to remain in a home and be present with those living there - to experience life with them and share Christ’s love.

Whether we are... [continue]

Take a minute to say “thank you” to influencers in your life


Recently it has been my privilege on behalf of the Missions Foundation to participate in the Baylor Oral History project. In preparation for those conversations, they asked me to think back, not only over the 31 years of the life of the Foundation but over the path that led to my being president of this organization.

As is often the case, the journey back down the path found good decisions and bad; opportunities taken and missed; and occasional musings of “what if.” The most significant thing to me, however, was to remember the... [continue]

Golf Classic raises $15,000 to help promote positive mental health through counseling


Stepping out on the green with golf clubs in hand and friends beside is not only beneficial to physical health but also promotes positive mental health, according to Texas Baptists Director of Counseling Services Katie Swafford, M.A., L.P.C.-S.

During the third annual Texas Baptists Golf Classic, held on April 25 at the Dallas Athletic Club in Dallas, 261 individuals from around the state competed to promote their own physical and mental health and to also raise support for Texas Baptists Counseling ... [continue]

Want to Minister to People Who Live with Mental Illness? Here’s Where to Start


Imagine this.

You are a soldier, a veteran of war. The experiences that have made you stronger have also left your body marked by scars. The battles you have survived have helped you discover previously unknown parts of yourself that both make you proud and terrify you. Your training shows in the way you walk, the way you talk and the lines on your face.

You appreciate when people recognize you as a veteran and thank you for your service. But what you really need is to be with people who understand, who have... [continue]

[un]Apologetic Conference arms believers with knowledge and provides answers for seekers


All good apologetics should point back to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, according to best-selling author Mark Mittelberg, speaker at the [un]Apologetic Conference in El Paso on April 7 and 8.

During the conference’s opening session, Mittelberg gave a detailed description of the secular landscape Christians find themselves in today.

“We are talking about not just giving answers, but reaching people,” Mittelberg said. “This is not just apologetics, but evangelism. We are called, all of us as the body... [continue]

Don’t lose the spark in your marriage


This article is part four of the Marriage in a Fishbowl series, focused on encouragement and helpful marriage tips for ministers. It is written by Cory and Amy Brand, a ministry couple serving in Corsicana. Click here to read part one, part two, and part three.

“So, what do you do in your free time?” (We’ll give you a minute to stop laughing…) We have found that, even when we do have a free minute, we don’t really even know what we enjoy doing anymore. So much of our time is scripted for us that we can’t even imagine having a choice of... [continue]

The mistake of granting veto power


Early in my very first ministry assignment, I learned a key leadership principle by observing a ministry peer make a simple mistake repeatedly--a mistake that crippled the organization he was leading, making forward progress impossible on any significant level. Simply, my friend was granting what could be called veto power to an old sore head in his congregation. By veto power, I mean my ministry peer allowed this one person, regardless of the majority’s direction, to control or dictate if a new initiative was pursued.

The peer allowed this both... [continue]

Why the church must be involved in caring for those with mental health issues


According to statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2014, 18.1% of U. S. adults aged 18 or older had experienced some form of mental illness within the past year. This statistic translated into an estimated 43.6 million adults, or 1 out of every 5 adults, and did not even include the millions of children with mental disorders! Given these numbers, it is important for churches to develop plans to engage and serve people who struggle with mental health issues. There are at least four reasons that... [continue]

Cultivating meaningful communication with your spouse


This article is part three of the Marriage in a Fishbowl series, focused on encouragement and helpful marriage tips for ministers. It is written by Cory and Amy Brand, a ministry couple serving in Corsicana. Click here to read part one and part two.

“Never close your lips to those whom you have already opened your heart.” - Charles Dickens

A church member dies. Someone feels forgotten. A family falls apart. Another financial need arises. A cancer diagnosis. The phone rings…again. Is anybody else exhausted?

As ministers, we are... [continue]

Knowing Your Limits


I can't do impersonations. I've tried. It's beyond me. I speak for a living and work in a lot of humor in my talks, but the element of that hilarious impersonation of some celebrity is never in my act. And, ironically, I finally determined to quit trying after a failed attempt to impersonate Clint Eastwood's famous line, "A man's got to know his limitations." Ha!

One of my best friends approached me that day and simply said, "Pastor, you know I love you, but don't ever try that again." I laughed, and he put his hand on my shoulder and said, "I'm serious. It was... [continue]

A Holy Week reflection on suffering


For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Christ and Him crucified.1 Corinthians 2:2

The cross of Jesus Christ is central to our faith, and its presence could not be more evident during this time of year. In this season, we remember the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We have prepared our hearts through Lenten devotion. We have set our minds on Good Friday in order to discern the grace of God in the most difficult of situations. Even now, we wait with bated breath for hope to rise again with resurrection power on Sunday... [continue]

The art of one thing


Being the ultimate single-tasker, I often find myself overwhelmed with the aspects of ministry that resemble some version of juggling--believe me, those who've mastered tossing and catching chainsaws and things afire have nothing on today's ministry leader. But, more often than not, I have found the ability to hone in on one thing at a time to be a distinct advantage in three-plus decades of ministering in and through transition. It's the art of the one thing.

For example, when I arrived at a new ministry assignment which clearly called for major transition (the only... [continue]

Do you see me?


People struggle with mental illness all around us. Though we may be shocked to hear the statistic that 1 in 5 will experience a mental illness in a given year or that 10 million adults in the U.S. live with some type of serious mental illness, we struggle to recognize how our personal world is touched by mental illness.

On more than one occasion driving to work, I have observed mental illness. You may think the next line will read something about episodes of road rage or technology addictions (because yes, those are evident in the morning/evening commute). But what about... [continue]

Putting marriage priorities back in order


This article is part two of the Marriage in a Fishbowl series, focused on encouragement and helpful marriage tips for ministers. It is written by Cory and Amy Brand, a ministry couple serving in Corsicana. Click here to read part one.

'And they lived happily ever after!'

Are you kidding me? I'd venture to say that any of us who have been married for any length of time have figured out that creating a good marriage takes work! But here's my question: who are you married to? I mean, let's just get really honest. Who consumes your thoughts, your... [continue]

What Else Can a Parent Ask For


Since our two sons were little, we've stressed the importance of going to college and earning a bachelor's degree. Even more, we have stressed the need to go ahead and work towards earning a master's degree, since competition in the job market seems to increase every day. Now, our oldest is in his last semester of high school and college life is looming just six months away. We couldn't believe it when the other night we had to put down the deposit for his dorm! Truly, the last 18 years have flown by, and we're definitely full of mixed emotions as we... [continue]

Why does mental health matter to me?


Have you heard that 1 out of 5 adults in the US will experience some type of mental health issue this year? Recently I spoke to a church on the subject of mental illness and used this statistic. One gentleman raised his hand and somewhat jokingly said "I'm looking around and there are about 40 people in this room….so you mean that about 8 of us are going to have a problem?"

Statistically, yes, that is what I mean.

Some people are taken aback by this realization because their thoughts immediately go to news stories or movies that depict more... [continue]

What homes of restoration and redemption look like


Nestled next to both Texas Christian University and Paschal High School lies a small building, which is home to Southside City Church pastored by Darrel and Kim Auvenshine. Before Southside was a church, it began as a group of people meeting at a park to serve the HIV community of Fort Worth.

"We built our church on Matthew 25," Darrel Auvenshine said during an interview. "We wished to serve 'the least of these,' and that our church could feel like their home when they might not have one."

On the southside of Fort Worth poverty has been... [continue]

Marriage in a Fishbowl


Have you ever had any of these thoughts?

  • I hope no one realizes that I have no idea what I'm doing.
  • I want to quit most Mondays.
  • I'm really kind of 'over' people. I'm not even sure I like them anymore.
  • I'm afraid that my kids will end up resenting me, despising the church and rejecting Jesus, all because of their experience as a pastor's kid.
  • My marriage is so strained I'm not sure we will make it.

Cory and I have been in ministry full time for most of our adult lives. We have served together, raised our kids under the watchful eyes (and often vocal opinions) of our... [continue]

Brokenness is close at hand, but we are together


We've all heard the phrase "it's a small world" and may have even said it ourselves at some point when we realized we knew someone or knew of someone through another person. In fact, for years the idea has been that there are six degrees of separation between people – so much so that years ago it was made into a game – the six degrees of Kevin Bacon. More recently, Facebook has said there are only 3.5 degrees of separation between users.

Why am I talking about degrees of separation? It's estimated that one in five people will experience a... [continue]

The oversaturated, overextended and overstimulated mind


In a world where contentment and happiness tend to be driven by the entertainment industry, and at a time when the entertainment industry is growing in innovative, all-encompassing ways of keeping our attention in the midst of the hustle and bustle of life, it is easy to become addicted to an oversaturated, overextended and overstimulated state of mind.

How then do we battle the repercussions of this cultural norm? As the demands on our lives become ever increasing and time is consumed, our minds and thoughts are following the... [continue]

Preparing for service on a unique mission field


Passionate about preaching the word of God and sharing the Gospel, Mark Kim enrolled in Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in the fall of 2014. In his younger years, Kim would not have pictured himself in seminary but rather in medical school pursuing a career in pediatrics.

Following his graduation from Baylor University with a degree in education, Kim was working at a hospital in his hometown of Lewisville. He constantly found himself drawn to patients, checking on how they were doing in the midst of sickness and emergencies. He... [continue]

What happens to college students when they actually "rest"


Jumbo shrimp, good grief, bitter sweet--these are just a few of my favorite oxymorons. Another favorite I hear a lot is this: restful college student.

For many college students, the idea of "resting" is unheard of, aside from catching maybe five hours of shut-eye at night. Whether it's school, work, homework or having a social life, for some reason the hours in college just seem to get filled up so quickly.

Every year, Texas Baptists Collegiate Ministry organizes a prayer retreat called "Abide" that invites college students to... [continue]

Walking in the fire, continued


Part One closed with this scripture: Philippians 4:8 "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

You may not realize it but this is a major part of dealing with stress and burnout.

I gave you a list of symptoms to look for. Could you see yourself in that list? Perhaps over the holidays you have been more aware of the pressures... [continue]

Advent


To many in the Baptist world, Advent is a relatively new practice. But, it has ancient roots tied to expecting and welcoming the coming of the Savior. We observe Advent in the days leading up to Christmas when we celebrate the delivery of that Savior.

The four Sundays of Advent showcase hope, peace, love and joy culminating on Christmas with Christ who embodies and offers these attributes. The order in which these appear in celebrating Advent often depends upon the type of church, but the meanings are the same.

Hope, peace, love and joy are great words, concepts and truths which... [continue]

Walking in the fire


When you have given of yourself until there is nothing left to give, there is a way to recover.

I sat in my office at the church and cried, "God, I don't want to do this anymore." It wasn't the first time God and I had this conversation, but this time was different. Times before I was frustrated, or I just didn't like some of the current issues the church was going through. This time I was depressed, my heart was aching and I literally felt like every part of my insides had been poured out. There was nothing left but the physical part of me trapped being a pastor.

For... [continue]

Five Mistakes I Wish I Had Made Sooner


I'm sharing five mistakes I wish I had made a lot sooner. Sooner, I say, because some lessons I seem to insist on learning by the experience of my own failure rather than by the observation of others' mistakes. These are ones I wish I had gotten out of my system sooner.

And, I'm sharing these five (there are more, believe me), because there is no reason for you to go out and repeat them just for fun. Of course, if you're the type who insists on sticking your tongue to the frozen flag pole of life just to see what happens, then by all means go... [continue]

Pull Up a Chair this November


I am a true fan of November.

Situated at the end of autumn and the dawn of winter, November welcomes scarf weather, soup, apple cider, and of course—Thanksgiving. Even though I am admittedly biased due to my November birthday, I fervently believe that Thanksgiving is the best holiday.

Think about it.

Thanksgiving is a day that solely focuses on gathering friends and family around a table for the sake of gratitude, community, and sweet potato casserole (the perfect food). What an ingenious idea!

My home is no exception. The Hearon family is... [continue]

Freedom through surrender


Serving as a co-pastor at Community Life Church (C-Life) in Forney, Randy Wade wears multiple hats day-in and day-out. From pastor, counselor, mentor and friend to husband, father and son, Randy serves many people in a variety of ways.

One day last fall, as he began listing out his roles in life and how he thought he ranked in each one, it became very apparent something was not right. While many ministers and leaders in the church complimented Randy on his giftings, it was hard for him to honestly rank himself above a two on a 10-point scale in any... [continue]

We Hold These Truths - Haggling over small things


"There is too much to be done to haggle over small things."

We live in a broken world that aches for Christ. Until His return, we are to work as Jesus worked. And there is plenty to do.

People are hurting. People are lost.

Atrocities previously unimaginable seem almost commonplace.

A human life isn't seen as important or equal to another's.

The earth is changing climates. Disasters are harsh.

The divide between those who have and those who have not is widening at an astounding pace.

Yet, too often, individuals haggle over how to go about... [continue]

Baptist Distinctives


Baptists are a fellowship of Christians who…

Hold certain beliefs

  • God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
  • The Lordship of Jesus Christ
  • The Bible as the sole written authority for faith and practice
  • Soul competency, accountability, and responsibility
  • Salvation only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ as Lord as Savior
  • The security of the believer who has responded to God's grace through faith
  • The priesthood of each believer and of all believers in Christ
  • Baptism of believers by immersion
  • Church membership voluntarily entered only by baptized believers
  • Baptism and the Lord's
... [continue]

Do you know the point of a steeple?


When people hear the word "church," many, Christian or not, picture a steeple. For those of us who went through years of Vacation Bible School, we just recited, "Here's the church. Here's the steeple. Open the doors, see all the people" in your mind or with your hands.

Steeples have a place in our churches, cities and lives. They serve as a visual statement of a church, a landmark altering the skyline of the city and a focal point for those of us going into church.

Historically, steeples served two main purposes – to help the congregant in his/her... [continue]

Eating Together


"Let's eat." Those may be my favorite two words. Whether it's dinner with my family or Wednesday night supper at church, few things speak of the abundant life God longs to give us like sitting together over a delicious meal. Perhaps that's the reason Jesus' primary commandment about Christian worship involved the commandment to eat together. Baptists generally believe Jesus left us with two ordinances for worship: baptism and the Lord's Supper. While we have brought baptism into the building, baptisms originally happened in public. The one thing Jesus told us to do when... [continue]

Handling the Cheapest of Commodities: Criticism


Criticism is everywhere. It's a constant. If you're in any form of ministry leadership (or any kind of public service), you don't have to go looking for it. People offer it for free, especially church people. It is the cheapest of today's commodities in our hyper-opinionated culture.

So, how do we handle it when it comes our way?

In an earlier post, Preaching as Performance, I highlighted the value of coming to grips with our insecurities and tendencies toward an unhealthy performance orientation. That's a good foundation for dealing with... [continue]

5 important ways on how to finish strong


At 45, I am beginning to have thoughts of what it will take to finish strong. Sitting in the middle of life, I want to be able to approach retirement and grand-parenting with no regrets. How can I make the most of my choices now so I can finish strong? Someone once said, "One thing about getting old is that you can sing in the bathroom while brushing your teeth." I want to believe God has more for us to do! Let's look at Psalm 71 and see five important ways on how to finish strong.

Some say David penned Psalm 71 when he fled from his son Absalom.... [continue]

Welcoming Winston


In a post a few months ago, I lamented about the experiences of having to put our dog, Cooper, down. In case you missed reading that literary masterpiece, you can read it here.

With a couple weeks of a quiet and still back yard, we decided to start the puppy-looking process. Since we are an active family, I requested we get a dog that can go run with us. My wife came to me after some research and suggested a breed.

The conversation went something like this:

Denise: "What do you think about getting a German Short-haired Pointer?"

Rand: "Really?"

Denise: "Yes, why?"

Rand:... [continue]

Why we don't like change and how to handle it better


Question: "How many baptists does it take to change a light bulb?"Answer: "Change?!!!!"

If you've recently been frustrated by something in your life changing, you're not alone. Most of us don't like change (unless we're in charge of it). But, change happens constantly. As the saying goes, change is. Period.

A restaurant takes a favorite dish off the menu. Or, the restaurant moves to a less convenient location. Or, the restaurant closes.

A favorite neighbor moves to a new neighborhood. A friend gets married and someone else,... [continue]

My First 90 Days


It is hard to believe today marks exactly three months since I started working for Texas Baptists.

As I reflect on this first quarter at the Christian Life Commission, I cannot help but be grateful for this season of learning and connecting.

This summer has been a whirlwind of conferences across the state, meetings with ministries and associations, and planning for upcoming events and materials. My new role proves itself to be dynamic, exhilarating, and forever stretching -- for which I am exceedingly grateful!

Stepping back from the many moving parts, I am keenly aware of... [continue]

What a beautiful refugee taught me about the American Dream


An estimated 30,000 refugees live within a three-mile portion of North Dallas called Vickery Meadow. In July, I had the priviledge to meet, visit and photograph (photos below) some of these beautiful Zomi refugees for a new Texas Baptists initiative called Project: Start. While much is being done in Vickery Meadow to aid refugees, many simply do not know what resources are available; Project: Start will be a physical location in Vickery Meadow specifically designed to connect refugees to resources.

Nu Niang Hoih, a young... [continue]

Commodities


In our world of commodities, where we can actually use something up, we tend to pass that trait on to other aspects in our lives and faith where it simply doesn't apply.

One of my favorite commodities is hummus. Yes, I know it's not the best food option, but I do like it. A lot. I do wish they'd re-label those "family size" containers to read "personal size" – I'd feel better about myself … I can and do reach the end of my serving of hummus.

Since we have finite minds, we find it difficult to think of things in unlimited quantities. That limitation doesn't change the fact... [continue]

Lessons from a life lived well


A beautiful blonde woman is pictured looking upward beyond the eye of the camera that is photographing her. Her mouth forms a slight, very sweet smile.

It is a picture that should not be in a newspaper, at least not on the page where it is printed. It's on the page titled "Funerals and Memorials."

Twenty-six-year-old Natalie Dailey died Aug. 16 in downtown Austin when an SUV struck the motorcycle on which she rode. "Police said the car failed to yield," the Austin American-Statesman reported.

I did not know Natalie, but she attended one of our Texas Baptist... [continue]

I am not a hot shot


Trust is hard for me. Not because I've been let down or burned by people I had once trusted, but because I like to think I don't have to trust people to begin with. I can keep everything inside, and do everything myself. I wish I could be a self-sufficient individual who doesn't need to rely on anyone or anything, but I am not, and it has been made very apparent to me this year.

I went at this past semester, Spring 2015, like I was a hot shot. It was my sixth semester of college, and I thought I knew what I was doing. I signed up for tough classes I was excited for,... [continue]

Is your gift acceptable to God?


"Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do what is good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed" (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

When I was growing up, my parents gave me a rectangular plastic bank divided into three sections labeled "Give," "Save" and "Spend" in... [continue]

This little light of mine


If you grew up in church, you probably remember the song, "This little light of mine." As a refresher of a portion of the lyrics, it says "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine" and repeats this line a lot.

Well, a friend of mine posted Bruce Springsteen's rendition on "the Facebook" and it made me think a little differently about the song. It's such an upbeat version that it makes me smile as I tap my feet. It's contagious.

That's how we should always share our light. Be radiant. Be about life. Be about love. Those attributes attract people to the light we are trying to let shine.

Pedal hard.Rand

Inattentive Driving


I've come to realize something. For as long as I know, people have called a car wreck an accident.

An accident is an incidental and unplanned event that could have been prevented had circumstances leading up to the accident been recognized, and acted upon, prior to its occurrence.wikipedia (The definitive source on everything).

I believe what is most often referred to as an accident isn't. True, I don't think someone meant to have a wreck. But, I don't consider a car wreck an accident because I put a lot of stock on the phrase above, "could have been prevented had... [continue]

Stop cowering from the lion, try chasing it instead


Let me tell you a story of a girl (me) who chased a lion.

I was a shy, insecure fifth grader at a small private school and was afraid of trying new things, fearing both failure and inadequacy.

But one day I courageously chose to put my fears aside and join the softball team.

Well, I wasn't very good. The greatest achievement I earned was making it to first base.

I thought my last softball game would be the one where I would literally hit the ball out of the park. Unfortunately, I didn't even get to play.

... [continue]

Reflections on my marriage: an amazing six months later


The last couple of weeks, news of Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert's divorce has swarmed the media. FOX News and CNN are running stories on it, as well as the usual pieces in People Magazine and Us Magazine. In 2010, Shelton told Us Weekly this would be his last marriage, and in his "God Gave Me You" music video we can see Lambert saying, "We made it through the unthinkable, we have made it through everything we can possibly make it through. I know we have a lot more trials and tribulations to go, but I'm ready to join in with... [continue]

80/20


The 80/20 rule, as you may know, is a representation stating that things in the world are not evenly distributed. For instance, 80% of the wealth is distributed among 20% of the population. Or, 80% of the sales come from 20% of the customers.

One of the most popularly used examples of this is that 80% of the a company's work is done by 20% of its employees. This is actually why I'm writing on it. I'm fortunate enough to work at a place where 90% of the work is done by 90% of the staffers. In other words, people here work hard and well together.

Another thing you may not have known... [continue]

Are we being honest about the perfection we demand?


One of my favorite styles of music is Christian rap. Think: Lecrae. And as a twenty-something girl from the suburbs, rap may not be the music you peg me as liking.

But what I love about Christian rap–more than any other style of music–is the raw authenticity. Maybe because rappers spit the lyrics so quickly that it's hard to keep up, but knuckling down and listening to the words reveals a deep honesty.

And being so publicly real is a rarity.

Andy Mineo is a rapper under the same record label as Lecrae. A track on his second album is... [continue]

Healthcare Ain’t Broke


It is rich. And it is broken.

Recently, the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act.

Every time my son tries on a pair of shoes, he wants to see how fast they are. Every time. I remember doing this too at his age. Come to think of it, I've done it in the past few years when trying out running shoes on an in-store treadmill under the guise of how they feel with my gait.

A few weeks ago, we were in Florence, Italy, and purchased him a pair of shoes. Of course, he wanted to wear them out of the store – so he did. Then we went to an adult shoe store (Firenze has a... [continue]

Young adults (myself included) and the church


At the African American Fellowship Conference in Sugar Land last week, Reverend Tomiko Jones of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Mansfield outlined a few important points churches need to make in regards to reaching the 21 to 39-year-old age group.

The biggest discrepancy in the modern church is older members wanting younger people more involved with the church, but not knowing how to make it happen. This is an across-the-board crisis of churches as average ages increase with church attendance decreasing. The answer to this is reaching out to... [continue]

How should I respond when praised?


Twenty-five years ago, I preached my first sermon, and it was a fiery, cliché-driven message about sex, drugs and effects of media. In my estimation, it was horrible. I kept that cassette for years, but after several moves cannot find it. Whether you preach, speak, teach, etc. we find ourselves in one of several moments:

  • Why did I even try?
  • If only I had … it would have been better.
  • Why did no one start chanting?
  • Other people think I did well.

Sometimes we do well; sometimes not. There are those moments when people want to come and tell you how wonderful... [continue]

Daily Grace (and why it matters)


In a span of 24 hours, I was stopped twice by police officers.

Being the chronic rule follower that I am, those two write-ups were decently defeating and ate at my brain. I deserved both of them, so when the traffic officer told me I could contest the first one in court, I almost laughed. No sir, I definitely went straight through that turn-only lane, but thanks for giving me options.

The second one was because I forgot to buy my ticket on the railway that morning and the officer got off at my stop with me. She told me that she would just give me a warning... [continue]

The avid fans, injuries and determination of the athletic world


It's that magical time of year. No, not that one. The one with the Tour de France and the sheer determination of the best athletes from around the world. Was it not your first thought?

You may know, I'm an avid cyclist, even a racer at times. Well, not a TdF level racer, but a local, wanna be better racer. It's fun, it's challenging, and I get to ride with and meet a lot of people.

Also going on right now is the CONCACAF Gold Cup that is on the heels of the FIFA Women's World Cup, which was so much fun to... [continue]

What family pets can teach about life and death


About 13 years ago, my wife brought home a blue heeler that had been abandoned at a local barn. Since then, Cooper has been a part of our lives swimming with us, running with us and even herding our son when he came into the picture about nine years ago.

If you are good at math, you'll notice our son hasn't known life without Cooper. Until now.

After spending Friday morning with our son riding, visiting the Fort Worth Zoo and eating at his favorite pizza place, we returned home for a swim. Once we got in, so did Cooper, however not in the... [continue]

Preaching as Performance: We Live & Die by the Same Sword


Sometimes, I'm overly sensitive to what people say to me about my sermons. I have no idea how common this is among fellow ministers, but I have a particular bent which the Lord continues to hammer out of me. Technically, it is a form of performance orientation, and I come by it honestly in at least two ways. It's not only an extremely common trait in those with my personality type, but I also began performing on stage at the age of 5. In high school, under the tutelage of our debate and drama coach (my dad), I even had the... [continue]

Stubbornness: Is it your greatest asset or weakness?


My junior year of high school, I broke my arm. Caused by a cheerleading accident, the incident ruined all my plans, activities and basically everything I had going. It took surgery, plates and screws to put back together the two bones in my left forearm, and even then I had months of recovery ahead of me.

Basketball season was coming, which I had never been absent from, and homecoming was only two weeks away, but I was a tough-spirited 16-year-old girl who refused to be weak and play by my doctor's rules. During homecoming, I... [continue]

How to find life from death


This is the third article in a three-part series from our Director of Counseling Services on loss, which addresses how to deal with the emotional impacts of loss through grief, compassion fatigue, and finding life in death.

Amid all the awareness of death and loss in the last few weeks, God has proven faithful to show He makes all things new.

On the very day I had heard news of the devastating loss of a family member, a co-worker pulled me aside to chat about a loved one's spiritual growth and awakening. This was the story of a young adult, searching... [continue]

The powerful truth about our identity


I've been called by many names in my lifetime. Nicknames like Rach, Rae or Cricket. I've been called champion, All-American, ambassador, athletic, healthy and creative. I've also been called names I don't wish to repeat.

I believe names have meaning, names have a distinct purpose. Before we are born our parents mull over name after name until they settle on our unique name. Those names have a specific meaning. My parents settled on Rachel Katelyn, meaning "lamb," and "bright one."

In fact, the first job God gives Adam is to name all the creatures (... [continue]

Fireworks & Freedom


I love the 4th of July. We are able to celebrate the independence of our country and come together to barbecue, watch baseball, eat some ice cream, spend time with friends and sing "America the Beautiful." Everywhere you go, people are proud to be American, and to show that pride, we fly flags and can't stop talking about how truly great our country is.

My greatest 4th of July memory is when my family and I vacationed to Washington D.C. and watched fireworks sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I'll never forget this moment which gave me such happiness and... [continue]

Compassion fatigue and guarding your heart


This is the second article in a three-part series from our Director of Counseling Services on loss which addresses how to deal with the emotional impacts of loss through grief, compassion fatigue, and finding life in death.

Within a short period of about four weeks, I've been impacted in some way by about 10 deaths. Each life lost has a story. Each life has family members, loved ones and friends who are grieving and dealing with the reality death brings.

God gifted me with a great capacity for empathy. Rarely does a situation come across my path... [continue]

4 Things to Leave Out of Your Next Sermon


It is Sunday morning. I have just finished teaching our young married class, have met with my Sunday prayer partner and am now gathering my stuff to go into the worship center. I have:

  • My Bible,
  • My notes,
  • My phone, and
  • My mic

Now I am ready. Like you, we greet others in the hall and in the sanctuary. We shake hands, give hugs and greet guests. A few announcements, songs and an offering later we find ourselves at the brink of stepping up to the pulpit. As you take that first step, remember what not to bring to the pulpit.

... [continue]

Grief is a journey – just be present


This is the first article in a three-part series from our Director of Counseling Services on loss which will address how to deal with the emotional impacts of loss through grief, compassion fatigue and finding life in death.

I've always heard losses come in "threes." Well, the past few weeks have gone way beyond that number in my world. I know there are many families and friends grieving – some I know personally and some I only know by name as brothers and sisters in Christ. Most of these losses have come in very tragic situations and circumstances.... [continue]

Found Ministry in Free Counseling


Benjamin Skye's dream was to return to America from his home in Malaysia, get a college degree and live here permanently. Texas Baptists not only helped bring him overseas but also guided him along in his journey to counsel families and serve the Lord.

Born in Pennsylvania, Skye then spent the next 17 years of his life in Malaysia. Despite living in a religiously diverse country in which Islam is the most prominent, he was raised in a Christian household with dreams of furthering his education in the United States, like his father.

"My mother credits our... [continue]

Can I trust you?


Anyone who has been in leadership long can recall a person they could not trust. Some people are obvious, others covert. Pastor Scott was approached by a woman and his stomach began to churn. She had never done anything suspicious. It was just a feeling. The Spirit was giving him a nudge that he should not completely buy into whatever was being said. Living in the jaded, skeptical society in which we do has created a community that does not trust. We have been burned. We have been cheated. We have been lied to as well. Maybe you have a face in your mind and a name on... [continue]

State hat


We Texans like claiming things. I guess all states do, but who really cares that much about the state whatever of Oklahoma?

  • Texas state flower: bluebonnet
  • Texas state bird: mockingbird
  • Texas state large animal: longhorn
  • Texas state small animal: armadillo
  • Texas state amphibian: Texas toad
  • Texas state insect: monarch butterfly
  • Texas state tree: pecan
  • Texas state dish: chili
  • Texas state cobbler: peach
  • Texas state fruit: Texas red grapefruit
  • Texas state flying mammal: Mexican free-tailed bat

If you want a much longer list of official Texas state items, click here.

A new official state item is... [continue]

Operation Giver: Voluntary church cooperation


Operation Giver is a project connecting young Texas Baptists with older professors, pastors and theologians to discuss Baptist Distinctives. Similar to the book, The Giver, our goal is to pass on wisdom from seasoned Baptists to the up-and-coming generation. While times continually change, the beliefs we share as Texas Baptists have held true for more than 130 years. Facilitating these conversations will help educate and encourage younger Baptists as they continue in the biblical tradition set before them.

Transitions tend to mark who we are.... [continue]

Can't we get rid of the Old Testament already?


This question is being asked more often. I was asked this just the other day by a group of 20- and 30-somethings whether or not we, as Christians, need to follow Old Testament regulations. When we talk about a theological position several considerations must be made. Proper biblical interpretation must find a balance among the scriptures as a whole. We believe scripture does not contradict scripture. With that said, let's examine this issue together.

The question was sparked from the very words of Jesus when he said He did not come to... [continue]

Pre-judging


The old phrase, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression," is a polite way of saying that we pre-judge people. And to be honest, I'm prejudice.

Now, before you start casting stones, you are too. You may not realize it, but you are. You pre-judge people too.

My prejudice is based on how one dresses, one's vocabulary, body language and how one treats others. I also prejudge people on their hair, teeth, the bicycle they ride, the car they drive and a myriad of aspects of life. My prejudice is not based on ethnicity, nor does it force people into a permanent... [continue]

5 Reasons Generosity is Important: Looking at you, Millennials


As a Millennial working in the nonprofit sphere, I hear a lot of questions about the giving habits of my generational peers and how to get more young people involved in the organization's mission. Many see our "selfie era" as an indicator of rampant narcissism, producing an overly self-involved generation that cares little about what lies beyond our social news feed. While there is some evidence to suggest otherwise, youngsters like myself have a tendency to seek answers pertaining to the why rather than simply the how. The... [continue]

Saddle Up


Today (May 10), starts the first day of the 6th Bike Out Hunger – Texas event, which raises awareness of, and money for ending the cycle of hunger in Texas.

The annual event started as a "Hey, what if …" in the fall of 2009 with the first ride, a six-day 400-mile expedition, in Spring 2010. Of the original small group, four cyclists are riding with us this week and have made all six weeklong rides.

This one "what if" has grown into an organization that reaches more people and impacts more lives each year. This year, there are 8 single-day rides in Texas, one six-day ride,... [continue]

Helpful tips for your Mom's Day sermons


Imhbao*, Mothers' Day is THE riskiest Sunday of the year for a pastor. Here are some lessons I've learned so far:

  1. Keep it in the fairway - no trick shots; #youwillblowit.
  2. Do NOT use sports analogies (as I did in #1 above).
  3. Speak to their hearts as opposed to their heads (Moms are smarter than the rest of us anyway and don't need How-to's).
  4. Stories not points. Better yet, story.
  5. Be positive, uplifting, encouraging - don't EVEN bring up the lady in Proverbs 31; most ladies dread the comparison.
  6. Preach no more than half as long as usual - it's all about brunch/lunch.

*In my humble but accurate opinion.

Inspiring excellence, impacting generations to come


Evangelist Billy Graham once said, "The greatest legacy one can pass on to one's children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one's life, but rather a legacy of character and faith."

The BGCT has stood strong in faith and character for 119 years because of leaders who inspire servant hood and excellence. For those people, we are grateful, and we honor individuals every year who are leaving a lasting impact in Texas Baptist life.

On June 7, at the historic Independence Baptist Church, we will... [continue]

Sticks and Stones


When I was growing up – well, I still am – when I was younger, there was a popular phrase, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." I don't ever recall saying it, but do remember hearing it yelled across the elementary playground.

The problem with this phrase is, it's a lie.

Have you ever broken a bone? It hurts for a bit. But you get attention from people when in a cast, sling or on crutches. Then you know what, you heal quickly. Maybe you learn not to jump off the roof, but that's a story for a different time.

Have you ever been... [continue]

Treasuring the sacred space


A friend of mine left for Heaven Sunday night. Sheron was a wife, mom, grandmother, sister, my friend and one of the gentlest spirits I've known. After a week's worth of days we thought would surely be her last, she finally, quietly, breathed one last time on Earth and took her first breath in Heaven. It was an incredible privilege to be there with her family this last week, invited into that sacred space, which families reserve for "family only" plus, usually, one more - their pastor.

I don't actually pastor my "own" church anymore, to put it the way I'm most... [continue]

Operation Giver: The security of the believer


Operation Giver is a project connecting young Texas Baptists with older professors, pastors and theologians to discuss Baptist Distinctives. Similar to the book, The Giver, our goal is to pass on wisdom from seasoned Baptists to the up-and-coming generation. While times continually change, the beliefs we share as Texas Baptists have held true for more than 130 years. Facilitating these conversations will help educate and encourage younger Baptists as they continue in the biblical tradition set before them.

When a person accepts Jesus Christ... [continue]

Two fingers


I drive a truck. (That'll be important later.)

Here in Texas we have a wave that's actually known as the "Texas Wave." It involves lifting only two fingers from the steering wheel to greet an oncoming driver.

In driving about 2000 miles the past few weeks, I've notice fewer returned Texas waves and far too few oncoming-driver initiated waves. Which led me to think it could have been the area of the state or the vast amount of imported drivers from, say, Oklahoma or some other less-friendly place.

But, for the sake of discussion, let's say that simply crossing into Texas should... [continue]

How to overcome root rot


I have never claimed to have a green thumb, but I am an eternal optimist. So recently, when my peace lily was just about on her (yes her, I named her Lily) last leg, I decided I couldn't let her give up without a fight. I researched online until I found out what might be wrong with my quickly fading Lily (pictured left). My conclusion was she had developed root rot.

The only hope for her was to remove the diseased and rotting roots, which had probably developed from over-watering or poor soil, and replant her in a healthier soil and environment.

I... [continue]

Table for 12


The number of single adults in America is on the rise. There are 124.6 million singles in the U.S., which now outnumbers married adults over the age of 16 (Source: Bureau of Labor and Statistics, August 2014).

What that means is, now, more than any other time in the past century, more people are alone than ever before. But that does not have to be the case.

As a 30-year-old single adult, I could easily fall into the trap of woe-is-me, negativity and seclusion. But I believe the Lord created me for relationships, and while I'm not married yet, it does not mean that I have to... [continue]

Miser(able)


Do you know people who are cheap? I don't mean responsible with money, I mean just won't or hates to give or spend money?

Christians are to live generously. We are to give our money and ourselves to God and to others. But what's the opposite of generous? Miserly. God asks us to be cheerful givers. This helps place the appropriate priority on our money and time.

In my experiences, I've found that the more generous a person is, the happier he/she is. I've also found the opposite to be true. The more miserly one is, the more miserable he/she is. Did you think of someone you know... [continue]

Texas RFRA Is Both Necessary and Working


Given the current media firestorm around proposed RFRA laws in Indiana and Arkansas, the Christian Life Commission would like to give a brief history of RFRA laws and reiterate our support for state RFRA laws that mirror the federal law.

The federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed in 1993 in response to the Supreme Court decision in Employment Division v. Smith, which held that generally applicable laws that conflict with religious beliefs do not violate the First Amendment. The Smith ruling meant that any law, as long as it was not... [continue]

My anti-shame campaign


For the next few minutes, I ask, no I beg you to put aside all political, religious and cultural opinions, but instead think back to a time when you felt humiliated, completely and utterly embarrassed. What other emotions does this moment in your past illicit? Is it sadness, tears, anger, depression? Now imagine if this moment of shame was broadcasted on a global scale.

In 1998, Monica Lewinsky says, "I was Patient Zero of losing a personal reputation on a global scale almost instantaneously." I applaud Lewinsky for speaking out about her experience in the new ... [continue]

Crazy Hope


Hope.

We all need hope.

We have earthquakes shaking, winter storms freezing, sickness ravaging, bad news surrounding, ISIS killing and kidnapping, families breaking, jobs dropping and gas prices rising! We don't need regular hope. We need CRAZY HOPE.

Hope for New Leadership

It often seems that national leadership seems unaware of what is going on with the common man. Those in power keep giving themselves more power. Those in power interpret the laws to suit their own need, fill their own pocketbooks and do as they wish. They travel and dress to the nines on the... [continue]

Big Bend


A life-long Texan, I did something last week I had never done. I visited Big Bend National Park. If you've been there, you know it's a crying shame I've been in Texas all my life and am only just now experiencing one of its greatest treasures. If you haven't visited the park, you literally do NOT know what you're missing. It is incredible. Every Texan should put Big Bend on their bucket list.

Of course, a mere four days of camping and hiking were not sufficient to cover 800,000 acres of Chihuahuan Desert, the Chisos Mountain Basin, and 118 miles of the Rio Grande River cutting... [continue]

Bigger than the ball pit


There we were standing at the opening of the ball pit and tunnel at a local kids' pizza and play place.

I was trying to convince my young boy that he could jump in, play and then come out the other end, but he was simply refusing out of fright. He could see other boys and girls in there having fun, but apparently wasn't as concerned about their safety.

Not wanting to have a boy afraid of taking calculated risks, I kept encouraging him to enter and explaining how it worked, "You jump in here, play around a bit then crawl out the other side. You'll be fine." He was... [continue]

The best filter ever


Google "best selfie filter apps" and you will find over 2 million results in under a minute. You'll also find which filters are best for the perfect selfie. You can find apps to add phrases to your selfies, cartoon yourself, make your selfie look surreal, make cosmetic changes like hide blemishes or change the tone of your skin, make you look taller or have larger eyes, overlay images on your selfie, and my favorite – make you look more SPARKLY!!

Everyone looks to someone for information on who they are, what their purpose in life is, whether they are beautiful,... [continue]

College seniors: 4 assumptions about the real world to get out of your head right now


Congratulations! You're about to be a college graduate. You survived four(ish) grueling years of late nights and hard work to get that piece of paper you can frame at your new job.

If you haven't done so already, now is a good time to put on your armor and gear up for the road ahead. Maybe it will be an easy initial transition for you, but the journey won't be sunny and 70 degrees all the time. Having been out of college a little over a year now, I've learned a lesson or two about clearing my mind... [continue]

Reflection


When are you most frustrated or angry?

Do you have children? If not, think back to when, as a child, your parents were angry or frustrated with something you were doing.

My wife and I have a great, polite and agreeable son. However, there are times when he doesn't seem to be all, or any of, those. The most frustrated I get is when our son - who carries our name - doesn't listen or pay attention to what I'm trying to teach him. These situations especially escalate if we are with a group of friends or in public, and he's being inappropriate for the situation.

If we are in a nice... [continue]

Spring break with the geese


My daughter, Tabitha, and I sat on the bank of the San Gabriel River the other day to watch the geese. From the start, it was an odd day. Normally, the geese rush visitors in hopes of bread crumbs or other food. No rush on this day.

There actually were pieces of bread scattered on the ground near us that the water fowl were ignoring. They ignored us, as well. They were, rather, enamored with each other.

We gradually realized that "enamored" was indeed the correct word. Spring had come to the river, and the geese couldn't care less about food. They had their... [continue]

Operation Giver: Baptist Autonomy


Operation Giver is a project connecting young Texas Baptists with older professors, pastors and theologians to discuss Baptist Distinctives. Similar to the book, The Giver, our goal is to pass on wisdom from seasoned Baptists to the up-and-coming generation. While times continually change, the beliefs we share as Texas Baptists have held true for more than 130 years. Facilitating these conversations will help educate and encourage younger Baptists as they continue in the biblical tradition set before them.

"Sometimes it is easier to have someone... [continue]

6 decisions staff children want you to make


Raising kids is messy! I don't mean teaching them to bake with flour all over the kitchen messy. I don't mean having muddy tracks through the house after playing outside messy. I don't mean the handprints on the wall, crayon murals in the bedroom or a water-logged baseboard around the tub messy. What I do mean is that raising kids in this societal context can be very difficult. How can those in ministry raise their kids to meet the challenges with grace and awareness?

I have been a pastor for 19 years and my wife and I have a 13-year-old... [continue]

Orange Up


St. Patrick's Day is upon us and we'll see hordes of people donning green from head to toe, gone so far to dye their hair and some of their food, and drink to celebrate one of the most misunderstood holidays there is.

Wearing green on St. Patrick's Day celebrates one's Irish heritage and one's Catholic heritage. Wearing orange is said to celebrate one's Irish heritage as well, but from a Protestant slant.

If you are a visual person, you just painted a picture of the Irish flag. Only missing is the white between the two colors, which represents the aspiring peace between the two... [continue]

How to change the world


This month, I turn 25. Out of all other birthdays, I feel this one is pretty significant, and apparently so does science, which has just confirmed adulthood begins at 25. Just 10 years ago, I was a bright-eyed high school freshman. A freshman who only wanted to travel the globe, be a missionary and change the world. It took me almost 10 more years to realize I don't have to travel the globe to be a missionary, and I cannot – no matter how hard I try – change the whole world.

Now this post isn't bashing those who are traveling, living and serving in other... [continue]

Could've missed it


There is a concept I wasn't truly introduced to until a few years into my marriage (now almost 20-years strong). To me, it highlights one of the differences between my wife and me, and perhaps a difference between women and men.

The phrase is, "You could've missed it." A derivative is, "You're almost late." The concept is you didn't take all aspects into consideration and were up-to-the-minute on-time. Catch that…on-time, as in, not late. I like to refer to my newly learned aspect of time management as the future-perfect-potential-tense and yes, it's rather hard to... [continue]

​Moving mountains for Maggie


Blind, deaf, paralyzed, orphaned. All these words could have defined Maggie Mei Henderson, but by the power of God, this energetic two-year-old is now living with her forever family, walking, talking and seeing the world with curiosity and wonder.

Pastor Trent Henderson and his wife, Ginny, have seen the hand of the Lord move mountains for their daughter, Maggie. Trent serves at Heritage Park Baptist Church in the Friendswood and League City area, and his wife, Ginny, is a physical therapist. Born with a severe heart defect and orphaned as a newborn,... [continue]

​Forever loved, forever Young: An adoption story


It was December 8, 2008–the day to finally meet Sam. After years of waiting, Ashli and Kyle Young found themselves in Russia face-to-face with the 3-year-old child they would soon adopt and call their own.

"It was weird," Ashli said of that first interaction. "People talk about instantly connecting with their child. I didn't experience that. He was just a kid with a personality I didn't know."

Five years earlier, the couple began the adoption process after doctors said they had less than a one percent chance of getting pregnant.... [continue]

Predicting the positive impact of ones faith


Dear Pastors,

I hope you're well. I've spent the better part of two decades learning about God's nature and intelligent design of His creation through scientific research. Researchers, such as Kenneth Pargament, have shown that religiosity and spirituality can inhibit resilience as much as help it; consequently, it depends on how you experience your faith in determining its aid when you are facing life's difficulties. In my research, I've found two variables predict the positive impact of one's faith on resilience: sense of coherence and... [continue]

Better make a dish


Beginning the day we brought our newborn son home from the hospital eight years ago, we didn't have to cook for a month. Our small group really came through and provided a wonderful convenience. I'm glad they did and I'm glad we continue to do the same to others in similar life-altering situations. I bet if I were to go through our freezer I'd still find a few partially consumed chicken casseroles they blessed us with.

Please note, I didn't say that our small group came through and wonderfully met a need, but a convenience. I stated it accordingly because it is... [continue]

7 vital signs to check with your child


Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people. Luke 2:52

This school year has been marked by sickness. With two strains of the flu hitting in the fall, many schools were finding it difficult to have class. As we move through the winter months it appears that strep is now taking its toll. I called Urgent Care the other day to see what the wait time was; they told me four hours! We know the health of our children is important, but I am not just talking about physical health. I am finding that for most parents the... [continue]

Air Time


It's fair to say I spend an inordinate amount of time on airplanes - in 2014, I "enjoyed" a mere 89 flights. So, I plan my time in the air as strategically as I do my time on the ground. Some of my best use of "air" time is spent reading, journaling, writing (I'm actually on a flight while I write this) and (my favorite) writing personal handwritten notes. Thank yous. Scripture and prayer notes. Notes of encouragement.

I realize there are more "efficient" ways to communicate thoughts of blessings to those whom I write, but for me a handwritten note is an old habit too hard... [continue]

Insta-moments


Instagram is quickly becoming one of the most popular apps for Millennials and I am right there along with my peers. I love Instagram and check it multiple times each day (I would be embarrassed to actually count and admit how many times a day I check it).

The other day I was reading an article about how our constant desire to capture photos and share them with the people in our lives is changing the way we experience the world around us. Daniel Kahneman, a professor at Princeton University and Nobel laureate, said, "The 'Instagram Generation' now experiences the... [continue]

Connecting the dots


When I was small, I would sometimes sit right up next to the TV screen and look at all the red, green, and blue dots. It was weird, and cool at the same time, how all those tiny little dots came together to make a recognizable picture once you stepped back to see the connections. I can easily get caught up in looking at the dots - focused in on my little world. But God's been reminding me that He as a big picture – one that I don't necessarily see in its entirety. If I get focused on my own dots, I can neglect to make connections with others and in doing so, miss... [continue]

I am impatient, stubborn and unteachable


Now I wouldn't normally categorize myself as impatient, stubborn and unteachable, but pride has a funny way of manifesting itself. There's a reason pride is known as the seventh deadly sin; the worst, and the cause for them all; a literary theme used from mythology to Milton's "Paradise Lost" and Marlowe's "Doctor Faustus;" and a trait associated most strongly with Hitler's narcissism. And, if the Greeks or British poets had an epic about me, pride would be my folly.

On my journey to sanctification, pride has a particular hold on me. It... [continue]

Resisting Rest


When I think of the word "rest," most of the time it's my mom's version of rest when I was a little girl. Every Sunday afternoon was mandatory nap time in the Lowrie house, being a pastor's home bustling with four little girls where silence was hard to come by. Mom would tell us to go to our rooms for an hour to take a nap and when we whined and tried to convince her we weren't tired, oftentimes we were told, "Well at least rest in your room for an hour." I would count down the minutes until the hour was up and once again I was given my freedom. Rest equaled lack of... [continue]

Almoner


I want to be an Almoner.

It was a new term to me and is an official role in the Catholic faith. There is a Papal Almoner whose job is to personally distribute Vatican money to individuals in need and meet their daily needs.

This article enlightened me.

After reading the post and coming up with yet another future job idea, I began to think about it a little longer. Isn't that exactly what Christ calls us to be, an almsgiver? Yes, we understand the tithes and offerings, not saying we do it, but we do understand it.

Our giving should start there. We are to also be... [continue]

Pastors are Human


Dr. Mark Weston is the Counselor in Residence at the Counseling Center at Northwood Church and an Adjunct Professor of Psychology and Counseling at Criswell College.

Pastors are human. As such, many have concerns, which interfere with their marriage, parenting or life. Often these concerns are only the surface manifestation of much deeper but unidentified hurts. If total healing is to occur, the pastor must recognize that giving attention to only surface manifestations and not the greater spiritual and emotional needs they have is to neglect what is truly in need... [continue]

Pro Sports


I'm done with mainstream professional sports.

It's a process that started when I was in high school when I turned my back on the NBA. Since then I haven't accumulated more than 30 minutes of NBA action. Yes, as you can tell, my absence has really hurt the organization and the players.

Following dropping the NBA came dropping the NFL. That really happened in college and I'm not exactly sure why. I kind of picked up NFL again with the launch of the Tennessee Titans (I grew up in the Nashville area) but my interest waned and recently I hardly watch it. Now, I'm done... [continue]

High-speed hand dryers


I found another thing that makes me feel older.

When drying my hands in one of those high-velocity air dryers, I watch my hands. Well, more specifically, I watch the skin on my hands.

It flaps.

It flaps in the breeze. I'm quite certain my younger hands didn't experience this phenomenon. I can only imagine what my face would look like in that wind. Well, I guess I could experiment with that but it'd be hard to view and bad to see.

To me, this is also proof that our environment impacts us. Make sure you are in a healthy environment.

Pedal harder, Rand

What will people say about you?


A mother stood in the front of the church between two caskets. On her right side lay her 49-year-old husband. On her left side lay her 18-year-old-daughter.

Friends and family embraced the widow one-by-one with hugs and whispers in her ear, expressing condolences and sharing memories. The line backed far outside the sanctuary doors for over three hours as loved ones fought back tears and tried to come up with the "right" words to say to the mother and her three remaining children.

The daughter, Ari, was a freshman college student, passionate about... [continue]

Dress up your pet day


National Dress Up Your Pet Day is today. Perhaps you didn't know that. I didn't until this morning's commute and enlightening qualities of drive-time radio. That reminded me of a scenario involving my wife and me about 10 years ago.

At the onset of our marriage, we would grocery shop together (a joint task long ago abandoned for the individual shopping method). One of the things I used to do is sneak random items into the grocery cart while she wasn't looking. They ranged from a type of cereal we don't eat to depend under garments and other "unmentionables." I... [continue]

​Depression Ripples


Depression is something we are becoming more aware of and less fearful of in our Christian circles. I'm thankful the information is available and glad we are becoming more comfortable with these discussions. But I think there is a piece that we sometimes miss. Depression has many ripple effects and spouses or loved ones are often struggling in the wake.

So here are some thoughts to consider if you find yourself bobbing like a buoy in the wake of a loved one's struggle with depression. These aren't how-to fixers, but might be lifesavers to help you in weathering... [continue]

Non-words


"You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means." –Inigo Montoya

One of my pet peeves (I have a few) is incorrect usage of words or the flat out use of non-words. Regardless if people are trying to add syllables to sound smarter or if they just don't know, it annoys me. Please see below and make the world a little less annoying for everyone – or just me.

So, here's a list to help my fellow Texans (and whomever may be unlucky enough to stumble across this post) speak more intelligently.

  • Irregardless is not a word. Regardless means without
... [continue]

You are not alone


Last Sunday, I walked into church with two friends looking for a place to sit. I saw one of our elderly ladies sitting by herself, so I walked up and asked if we could join her. She hugged me and said, "Yes, of course! I hate sitting alone. Thank you so much for joining me."

She has been widowed for several years and she went on to tell me sometimes when she cannot find someone to sit with in church it makes her cry. What she said really stuck with me the rest of the day, and it also served as a good reminder. Sometimes, I think being single in church is only hard when... [continue]

New Year. New You.


Well, the first is easy to do, just flip a calendar. Ok, that sounds a bit 1991, just turn on your iPad.

The second, a new you, a new me, is much harder. We are a culture focused on improvements. Improving athletic ability (if I were an ESPN announcer I would have used a non-word: athleticism), improving our status, or improving the number of friends and followers on social media. As a cyclist who uses Strava, I'm constantly trying to improve time up a hill or time on a sprint zone for a coveted King of the Mountain badge on an app. No, there is no real value for... [continue]

When wedding plans go awry


I'm planning a wedding. My wedding to be exact, which is coming up very quickly. I am counting down the days as every bride does, but I'm also continually reminding myself of the significance of not only my marriage, but also my wedding.

I've been to a lot of weddings, and I used to roll my eyes when another pastor turned to Genesis 1 or Ephesians 5. I felt it was "so cliché." The older I became though, I began to see the importance of these passages - marriage is ordained by God. It has been put in place to reflect His glory. John Piper... [continue]

Joy in suffering


"Christianity teaches that, contra fatalism, suffering is overwhelming; contra Buddhism, suffering is real; contra karma, suffering is often unfair; but contra secularism, suffering is meaningful. There is a purpose to it, and if faced rightly, it can drive us like a nail deep into the love of God and into more stability and spiritual power than you can imagine." -Tim Keller

My phone rings. On the other side, I hear a voice - sometimes panicked, other times dejected, defeated or anguished - informing me something terrible has happened. The calls have included the... [continue]

Lessons from A Christmas Carol


On my way out the door to the airport last week I realized I needed a book to read on my plane ride to New York. I quickly glanced on my shelf and Charles Dicken's classic A Christmas Carol caught my eye. I must have bought it several years ago when I was on a classics kick at Barnes & Noble – I purchased one almost every time I went in the store. Since it's Christmastime and my mom and I were headed to New York to enjoy all of the holiday festivities, I thought this was the perfect time to read it.

Prior to opening the book, my knowledge of the classic... [continue]

Prayer


If prayers were answered the way I wanted them to be, you probably wouldn't know me.

Why? I'd be sitting on the beach, that I'd own or in a mountain cabin, which I'd also own. Without truly confessing anything, perhaps I've prayed to win the lottery. Well, not in so many words, but bought a ticket thinking God was on my side for the win.

Prayer is an interesting thing, and honestly something I feel that I (and a majority of other Christians) get wrong. Sure, intercessory prayer is an aspect of prayer as our Father wants us to take our concerns to Him. However, we often come into... [continue]

Breath of Heaven


Christmas. The time we celebrate the perfect gift from God to us. "For unto us, a child is born." Think of that for a moment - someone sacrificing so much of himself for you. Even deeper, think of God, fully divine and infinitely superior to any human, giving part of self, through sending His Son leaving the throne and putting on a finite, injured, vulnerable flesh and succumbing to all its limitations and pain.

I know a lot of people around this state, nation and world, and love you all as much as I can. But, I cannot imagine giving you my son, especially if I know you... [continue]

Light it up


Returning home from the D.C. area after Thanksgiving, I noticed a certain glow about the DFW area and know that TXU will have another green Christmas.

The Christmas lights are up and on houses, trees, bushes, walkways, driveways, shingles and blades of grass. I've even found a few cars, children and animals with portable Christmas lights strung about them. This reminds me of one of my Christmas traditions – watching Christmas Vacation at least once. Along with that tradition, from Black Friday through Christmas Eve, I daily post on Facebook a random quote from that... [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... [continue]

Saying thanks to your pastor


Being a pastor can many times be a thankless job. One works seemingly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - going from meeting to counseling session to hospital visit. Not to mention the time needed to prepare for Sunday's sermon, Wednesday's Bible study, a luncheon for Senior Adults and a youth fellowship on Friday night.

Between all of the week's activities, there are also opinions from church members on everything from the color of the carpet in the sanctuary to the dessert served on Wednesday night.

Pastor's hear it all - but two words they may not hear very... [continue]

Lay down your burdens


This story is 3 of a 3-part series addressing the effects of sexual abuse and the power of healing through Jesus Christ.

Sexual abuse - An uncomfortable phrase for most of us and a horrific experience and reality for far too many. In Christian circles, these words are not talked about very much. Whether it is the fear of the unknown, shame, disgust, naiveté or something else, there seems to be a common theme of silence.

Yet when we see others struggle, we have a tendency to talk about that. Many who have been sexually abused find themselves dealing with issues... [continue]

Where the healing begins


This story is 2 of a 3-part series addressing the effects of sexual abuse and the power of healing through Jesus Christ.

Sexual abuse is a sensitive subject and many times hearing about the pain and struggles loved ones have experienced through this type of abuse can be extremely difficult. Many people can be prone to want to gloss over the hard details and look for the silver lining or try and tie a little bow on the story and move on. However, for those suffering from sexual abuse, this is far from what they actually need.

There is power in the spoken word.... [continue]

Because of where you have been


This story is 1 of a 3-part series addressing the effects of sexual abuse and the power of healing through Jesus Christ.

Tricia Martin* was a fun-loving preacher's kid in the 1970s who played outside constantly and never met a stranger. Though she was small for her age, she never felt inferior or out of place, that was just the way God made her. She grew up in a loving, Christ-centered home and knew she was accepted and valued.

When she was eight years old, Tricia was sexually abused by one of the men in her church, a man whom she knew and trusted. She... [continue]

Lay cowboy church pastor, wife save two drowning children


GARNER STATE PARK - Rebecca Strange prays for God to use her and her husband "for your will."

On Aug. 6, it was God's orchestration of small events that led them to be exactly where God wanted them, the couple said. Visiting Garner State Park on their honeymoon, Richard and Rebecca decided to stay a day beyond their initial plans. They were enjoying the trip, and one more day would be wonderful, they thought.

The extra time gave them a chance to go fishing that evening. They hadn't caught or seen anything of significant size, and... [continue]

Bible Study: What is Open Group?


When we examine the Great Commission passage of Matthew 28:19-20, several important words are customarily highlighted - "go," "teach," "observe." The word rarely mentioned is "them." What an incredibly important word that should draw our continued attention as Sunday School leaders, focusing our efforts toward reaching the lost in our neighborhoods.

The Open Group concept in Sunday School is foundational to a successful Bible study ministry in our churches. Over time, it's easy for people to focus their small group toward their own wants and needs, and less... [continue]

Senator cites BGCT letter in arguing for stronger abortion restrictions


AUSTIN - A senator cited a letter from Baptist General Convention of Texas Executive Director David Hardage as lawmakers passed stronger restrictions on abortions across the state.

Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, shared three paragraphs of a letter that Hardage wrote to every Texas legislator that presented Texas Baptists' affirmation of life. The Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission staff delivered the letter early in the Texas legislature's discussion of bills that would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks of... [continue]

Opposing abortion in a world of vulnerable people


The Christian Life Commission has received a couple of questions about why it honored Texas Sen. Wendy Davis with its Horizon Award in 2012. As virtually everyone knows, Davis was thrust into the national political spotlight in June with her filibuster in opposition to a bill supported by many Texas Baptists, including me.

The CLC honored Sen. Davis last year for her support of various issues that are important to Texas Baptists, including opposition to predatory lending practices. The senator from Fort Worth has been vital to the... [continue]

A beautiful mosaic


Diverse...We all would love to use this word to describe our worship experience. But is that the true depiction of what we see on Sunday morning?

Texas Baptists is no doubt an ultra diverse association of Baptist churches, but what about each church individually? If we ALL were to assemble in one place, we would resemble a beautiful and grand mosaic art piece. But, this is not what I see in my neck of the woods.

In my city and in most of Texas, Sunday morning worship still is the most segregated hour. We publicly endorse social progression, but then we allow our... [continue]

Depression in a world of faith


Across this state, ministers are smiling on the outside while withering inside. Many don't know what to call what they're experiencing. They struggle even to put it into words.

Related articles: Symptoms of depression | Minister burnout and depression: Proactive steps

Counseling professionals know precisely what to call it: depression. Research indicates as much as 68 percent of ministers are dealing with symptoms related to depression.

Ministers and depression has been the topic of increased discussion in recent months following the suicide of the son of... [continue]

Symptoms of depression


Related articles: Depression in a world of faith | Minister burnout and depression: Proactive steps

Wondering if your suffering from depression? If you're feeling several of these symptoms, you may be fighting depression, according to the Mayo Clinic.

  • Feelings of sadness or unhappiness
  • Irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Changes in appetite -- depression often causes decreased appetite and weight loss, but in some people it causes increased
... [continue]

Minister burnout and depression: Proactive steps


Related articles: Depression in a world of faith | Symptoms of depression

Burnout or depression can happen to any minister under certain circumstances. Katie Swafford, director of Texas Baptists Counseling Services, suggest ministers and churches look at the following proactive steps to ensure ministry - and ministers - remain strong.

  1. Set boundaries. Ministers believe they must be accessible at all times, but it simply isn't realistic. Rotate who is on call between staff members. In smaller churches where the pastor is the only staff
... [continue]

A safe place in the storm


Moore, Oklahoma is a town we will not soon forget. The nation looked on in stunned silence at the devastation from the violent tornadoes that visited this community. Too many realized too late that a truly safe place was all that stood between life and death.

Storms often come without warning. Some are more severe than others. Some storms threaten our physical safety while others wreak havoc on our emotional wellbeing. Preparation is key for storms not to be too costly. As the people of Moore discovered, everyone needs a safe place.

As a pastor's wife of 24... [continue]

A little bottle of


Change, whether good or bad, is difficult. The Kennedy clan has just moved from the shores of Alabama to the mountains of Colorado. Are our new vistas awesome? Yes! Has the move been exciting? Yes! Am I grieving? You bet!

One of the last things I did was make that final hair appointment with my hair dresser and dear friend of 15 years. When it came time to get that last "Everything-I-can-get-done-to-my-hair-that-will-last-me-for-as-long-as-possible," she fixed me up, including giving me a little bottle of "Fixes Everything." Really? Everything?

I... [continue]

Overcoming fear with thanksgiving


Fear came roaring in. I could have let the fear overwhelm me, control me, inhabit me, become my constant companion.

Two years ago my husband, Larry, came down with a terrible case of shingles. Sores covered the right side of his face from his chin, up over his ear and deep into his eardrum rupturing it 70 percent and leaving him in excruciating pain. In the end, it also set off another attack of his neurological disorder called NMO (Neuro-myalitis-optica) and left him barely able to use his right arm. Many people who have NMO are blind and in... [continue]

Leaving the familiar


I remember as a little girl when my father was contemplating assuming the role of music leader in a neighboring community church. I was too young to know all of the discussions that took place, but one I do remember was when my parents talked to me about this possibility which would mean we had to attend another church. I probably didn't respond the way they had hoped. I remember having a pouty expression and saying "No, I don't want to go. All my friends are here."

Though attending another Baptist church was probably not a huge deal in the larger scheme of life, it... [continue]

Seasons of surrender


I fought long and hard not to make this move. I liked the way my life was. I finally felt settled - I knew the flow of my job after more than three years in my position. I had finally made good friends, and I felt at home when I was with my life group at church. I had found my place in ministry, discipling girls through the Baptist Student Ministry where my husband worked part time and teaching GAs at our church. I even knew the traffic patterns so well that I could maneuver the streets of this big metro area like the best of them!

But last fall, something changed.... [continue]

Coaching to mentor


As athletes grow older and out of the ranks of high school and college sports, many turn to younger teams and begin coaching - sometimes for fun and sometimes as an occupation. For some, coaching comes through other natural connections, becoming the parents who coach their son or daughter's team.

Coaching, whether it's out of a desire to stay involved with sports or because your children need a team leader, can be a wonderful opportunity to mentor students and to be involved in your community. For several hours a week through practices and games, these young athletes... [continue]