faith


BSM Director sees God’s provision through life-changing circumstances


On April 5, 2018, BSM Director Cody Shouse sat in Austin traffic on the way home from The University of Texas at Austin’s Longhorn BSM weekly Bible study. Unexpectedly, his car was hit from behind by another vehicle going 60 miles per hour, resulting in a serious accident...

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Building a bridge to success


By Aaron Summers

None of us intend to fail. Not one. We want, if not expect, to succeed. Sure, there are those circumstances that can change our thoughts and shatter our dreams, but we still set out to succeed in overcoming those as well. If we fail, we get frustrated.

So it is in ministry. 65% of our churches are plateaued or declining. That statistic is not news.  Every one of us start at a church to succeed in not being that statistic. Yet, it still happens. It has to me and it has to you.

What can we do? We usually start the evaluation process. Some evaluate other locations.  Some evaluate their current location. One way...

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The problem of pornography


Jenna Mountain didn’t hesitate with the crowd as she opened her workshop, saying, “Pornography has shifted our culture of sexuality and it’s a problem. It’s taken away God’s good gift of sexuality.”...

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Atchison details the importance of telling the story


Attempting to communicate truths from Jesus’s time to people living in 2018 has its difficulties, and as Great Commission Director Delvin Atchison described, the margin for error is great...

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5 Checks Everyone In Church Must Make


James 4 gives us five checks we must make when conflict rises and joy drops...

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How churches should intentionally plan to protect congregations


It’s not a topic that most churches want to even think about. But with news headlines about violent attacks becoming more prevalent, one Texas Baptists church member says churches simply must make security a high priority...

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Kelile highlights the unity of mission at Family Gathering


Nebiye Kelile, pastor of Pathway Church in Garland, Texas, spoke during the Monday morning worship session at the 2018 Texas Baptists Family Gathering...

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Dykes encourages Texas Baptists to embrace unity at Family Gathering


“Unity is valuable because it is so rare,” said David Dykes, pastor of Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas, during his Monday night sermon at the 2018 Texas Baptists Family Gathering...

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Paredes emphasizes placing trust in the ‘Great I AM’ at Family Gathering


Jason Paredes, lead pastor of Fielder Church in Arlington, Texas, presented the sermon during the last evening worship session of 2018 Texas Baptists Family Gathering...

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West encourages oneness at Family Gathering


During Tuesday morning’s worship service of the 2018 Texas Baptists Family Gathering, Ralph West, pastor and founder of  The Church Without Walls, in Houston, Texas, preached a powerful message on oneness...

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Developing a faith that sticks in the lives of teenagers


For 18 years, parents and the local church play in a match against culture to influence the worldview of growing individuals. Where culture would speak of religion as “sin management” and God as solely focused on our happiness, the church needs to be cultivating grace-based faith that can be articulated “beneath the level of students’ feelings.&rdquo...

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Navigating a rebuilding year at church


After 23 years in ministry, I find churches are still struggling to win. It seems that many are in rebuilding decades attempting to reach the evasive younger generation. For 40 years we have been chasing the young families in our communities. Yet, when we do the data mining in our records, we find that we are still not getting them en masse...

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UMHB Offers New Nurse Practitioner Program with Acute Care Focus


The Scott & White College of Nursing at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor has announced the launch of an Adult - Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AG-ACNP) program, which will equip graduates with the skills to practice in high pressure areas within acute care settings...

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Online Student Reaches Longtime Goal Through HBU


“Back then, my main focus was not excelling,” she said. “But this time is different. Houston Baptist University has really changed that for me. I want the ‘gold medal’ this time.&rdquo...

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Mind for business, heart for ministry


By: Maxcey Blalock, Media & Communications Specialist, George W. Truett Theological Seminary

At Baylor’s Truett Seminary, student Lauren McCoy is able to unite her passion for business with her call to ministry, creating a unique opportunity to make a difference in the church.

As graduation day approached for University of Oklahoma international business major Lauren McCoy, she anticipated a future of finance and administration. She was interested in microfinance, a type of service that involves giving small loans to low-income individuals to help them start a business and support their families.

“That’s what my hope was, which...

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Assistant Chaplains encourage spiritual growth


By Grace Mitchell, Hardin-Simmons University Marketing Staff Writer 

At Hardin-Simmons University, the college years are not only a time for academic learning, but also a time for spiritual growth. In past years, ResLife has hired graduate students as chaplains in the dorms. This year, they have added a team of undergrads to serve as assistant chaplains in residence and encourage their peers in their spiritual walk.

One assistant chaplain works in each dorm, leading a weekly Bible study. They are also available for students who want to share a prayer request, talk about a struggle, or just go get coffee.

“The reason I wanted to...

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Grief: A unique reaction to death or loss


By: Fay Green, MA, LPC, LMFT, FT

Grief is a unique, personal natural, normal, necessary reaction to death and loss. Death is a universal part of the human experience. Grieving is the internal reaction following a loss while mourning is an outward or public expression of thoughts and feelings regarding a loss.  Bereavement means to be torn apart or robbed, to be deprived of something or someone.  

Grief can be anticipatory, sudden or traumatic. Anticipatory grief is a normal response to an upcoming loss or death. With anticipatory loss, individuals have an opportunity to complete unfinished business. 

Sudden death or loss happens...

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How to care for trauma survivors Q&A


Unfortunately, in our very broken world, we all too frequently hear about tragedies at home and abroad. These events can have significant impact on the mental and emotional health and well-being of those involved and, in fact, have an impact on you and me. To help us all better understand trauma, I reached out to one of our network counselors, Brady Robinson, LPC-S, who specializes in coping with trauma for a brief Q & A session.

1.  How do I know if I have experienced trauma?

Trauma in a traditional sense of the word implies that one has experienced a real or perceived threat to their life or physical integrity. This can also...

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5 ways to strengthen your church nominating committee


By Aaron Summers

Nominating Committees everywhere are starting to work hard to fill church positions. I have worked on both the local and state level in trying to uncover and discover and recover people to serve on various boards, agencies, teams, committees, and teaching slots. I have seen the good and bad side of filling positions. Often, we cherry pick the best people for certain positions and scramble to just fill the page. 

Tragic.

Somewhere in the deep recesses, we know there should be more people involved, but who has the time? In most cases in the church, there are two positions for every committee, plus trustees...

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Is your pastor burdened with financial stress? The stats say Yes


By John Hall

Contributing Writer

Nine years ago, Darrel and Kim Auvenshine helped found Southside City Church in Fort Worth. The congregation primarily serves the impoverished, the down and out and the homeless.

Hour after hour, day after day, week after week, Pastor Darrel pours his heart into the lives of others. He’s a networker, counselor, pastor and encourager. He’s the guide who continually points people to Christ, the man who seeks to meet everyone’s needs. Except his own.

Darrel and his wife always put others first, stretching their finances thin to improve the lives of others. Then the bivocational pastor lost his job...

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Strengthening families in times of need


By Vicki Hewitt, STCH Ministries

When a single mom and her children first arrive at Homes for Families, a program of STCH Ministries, desperation often accompanies them. Dreams of a better life have worn thin from years of crises, trauma and anxiety. Yet the moment they choose to reach out for help, rather than continue to go it alone, a shift begins to take place.

For most of the moms, the motivation to give up their chaotic, familiar world for something unfamiliar comes from their desire to give their children a different, better life.

Current resident Amanda, a mother of four, shared that she came from a situation of abuse...

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The Truth No One Wants to Hear or Talk About


By Dawn Irons, M.A., LPC

It’s been 48-hours since the knock on the door, and yet it seems a lifetime ago. It was a persistent knock that would not go away. I made my way to the door, still in my pajamas, and when I opened the door I saw the people gathered around my daughter and holding her up. I ran to them to see what was going on.

They explained how they had been driving down the road and they saw her collapsed in the middle of the street. Her body was involuntarily shaking and she was unable to make clear sentences. It was something I had recognized before. I made eye contact with my daughter and asked her if she had been...

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Evaluations within your church


By Aaron Summers

We all must do them and have them done to us. In church life, this tends to be tricky and messy.  We have borrowed so many terms from the business world that we are fuzzy on the real issues before us. We use terms such as personnel, finance, human resources, etc. It is no wonder we have easily shifted into a cultural version of evaluative measures.

Every year, churches come to this point and feel they must do an evaluation on those who receive a salary. I certainly understand and accept accountability.  We should be holding one another accountable. However, the criteria of the accountability are shifting toward...

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Finding an answer to the call to ministry


By Terry GoodrichAssistant Director of Media Communications, Baylor University

Richard Baggett and his wife, Miwes, were on an RV vacation in summer 2016, standing on Deception Pass Bridge in Washington and marveling at the view. Then Baggett’s phone rang.

The caller, a supervisor with Christian Resort Ministries International, wondered whether Baggett would be willing to tackle a start-up ministry for an RV park in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, where “snowbirds” from northern states seek warmer climates in winter.

The year before, at age 70, Baggett had completed a two-year ministry certificate program at Baylor’s George W. Truett...

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Making missions possible through Mary Hill Davis Offering scholarships


By Analiz G. Schremmer

Any student who has benefitted from a scholarship knows what an enormous difference it can make. When that scholarship funds a mission trip, the outcome can be eternal.

Luis Juarez was once the recipient of a Mary Hill Davis Offering scholarship. Today, he is currently Director of Missions and Ministries at Baptist University of the Americas (BUA) and is able to see the impact that the scholarship continues to have in the lives of students.

“This scholarship makes mission work possible for a lot of students,” Juarez said. “Without it, they wouldn’t be able to experience missions and receive funding for...

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Being an industrious pastor


By Danny Reeves

An oxymoron is the combination of contradictory words that have been linked together.

You probably already know a few of these such as jumbo shrimp, pretty ugly, working vacation, or humble Texan, but have you ever considered this one? Lazy pastor.

There is no doubt that a healthy church is not possible with an unhealthy pastor or a lazy pastor. So as a fellow pastor within the Texas Baptists family, I want to take this subject head on with you and encourage the idea of being an industrious pastor.

I want to talk about three principles that pastors must adopt to be diligent and not lazy. First, pastors have to...

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Pastors & Ministry Dads: 5 Things Your Kids Need From You


By: Carrie Austin

As a pastor’s kid, I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly of church life. Like many PK’s, I struggled through rebellion and making my faith my own. I have felt the sting of “godly” people doing ungodly things and the heartache and confusion of my own family being their target. I understand, now, the financial toll of a sacrificial life of ministry. I can also say that I have seen the fulfillment and passion that that same life can bring.  

My parents were not perfect by any means--they would be the first to admit their failures-- but as a product of their life of ministry, I can say there is so much that...

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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 moving in the surrounding neighborhoods of our church and we want to share the love and joy of Jesus...

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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 call runs counter to our culture that celebrates self-fulfillment, self-expression, and...

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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 goal, not the numbers on the thermometer.

The same is true in the church. Numbers...

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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 of the greatest tools a church has. Coming away from a student’s regular routine into an environment of...

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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 shown the average tenure of a pastor is between three and four years, presenting...

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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 church—every church—should look like. Unfortunately, those pastors’ plans often...

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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 Corpus Christi Chief of Police. Their main purpose was to determine a way to provide education for public...

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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 about 10 months and after that, he sent the baby to a cousin … and my...

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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 experience sexual abuse. Chances are more likely than not that you have someone in your...

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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 church in an unreached area or with an unreached people group. Through years of implementation, evaluation and...

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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 inspired and

changed for the better by Dr. James B. Simmons’ story, I wanted to know more about...

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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 enters the world and the devastating effects it has on everything and everyone God created. Fortunately, we also recognize God...

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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 believers we understand what that means, for it is a cute, pithy statement. Most...

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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 ministerios universitarios visitaba soldados heridos en el hospital. Una joven de la escuela, natural de la ciudad de Oklahoma, era una de las...

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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 school, a native of Oklahoma City, was one those visitors. The young farmer met the young woman and soon they fell...

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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 me.”

“Kind of like a fungus,” kids Josh.

After the internship ended, the two started dating and were married not...

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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 with the Baylor campus.

Through the resident chaplain program – a partnership between Truett...

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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 with his wife, Fleta ’48, who passed away in 2013. Dr. Twila (Miller) Wakefield Smith ’48 has lived in the Buckner...

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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 grow our own marriage and help us in our efforts to minister to families more effectively, the number one comment we hear is...

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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 things for themselves. But they are not adults; they still need the guidance and support of...

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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 supporting victims and holding offenders accountable, but also gives former offenders who have served their sentences the opportunity to...

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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 the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)...

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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 commuter students many living at home, balancing family, work and school. Major metropolitan areas have the vast
...

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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 different than most, but I had not really paid attention to this term and certainly did not understand it...

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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 Wooldridge with an idea to start a weekly free lunch at their church for Southwestern students. A couple in the...

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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 process.

If you’ve ever felt that way, or if you just need some ideas to get to know each other on a...

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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 truly believed they had some lessons and advice from which I could...

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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 Board of the BGCT, in leadership roles in his association and in helping the BSM at...

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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 out early.

But, I think I should be honest here--vulnerable? susceptible?...

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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 the box.

Consider the man who created peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. (I...

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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 his youth group may be skewed.

While typical youth ministry programming included training...

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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, his empathy and understanding has grown exponentially.

Michael was the oldest of the Talbots two children, raised in the...

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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 shootings and terror on the streets of downtown.

When it was all said and...

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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 in worship, most of whom are refugees from their native home of Burma. The church now represents...

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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 analogy.

Like me, you probably have many opportunities handed to you each and every day. Opportunities to minister...

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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. The opportunity to provide even a few staples, such as milk, bread, rice and meat, has had ripple...

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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 good; as a hope founded on God’s gracious promises. 

These...

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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 this is true.

There is an adversary, the devil, who prowls around like a...

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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 are expected to have perfect marriages, well-behaved children and no personal...

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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 practicing these principles in our neighborhoods or in a community halfway around the...

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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 many, many people who had well-influenced the direction of the path along the way. I realize that I am...

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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 Services.

The tournament raised an estimated $15,000 by way of donors, event fees and sponsors, with BCFS serving as the title...

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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 been where you have been and who don’t require you to explain your stories or hide your struggles.

So you look online and...

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[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 of Christ, to go into our world and make disciples.” 

Mittelberg was joined by Mike Licona, author and associate professor of...

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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 activities!

I read an article recently by Pastor Chris Hodges called “How to Make Your...

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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 the church must do so.

Firstly, the church must care for people with mental health issues because of our...

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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 constantly battered by the pain in this world, by the fallout from sinful choices, and from the...

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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 embarrassing." So, now I quote celebrities but never try to...

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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 morning.

We can't wait for Sunday morning. Sunday morning is when the darkness of night...

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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 other option was for the ministry to die), I found myself...

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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 the others who we may drive by, but don't really see. Like the...

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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 time and your energy? Whose companionship do you seek? Who has your heart? Who are you...

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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 look into the future. But like the civil rights leader Ralph Abernathy said, "I...

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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 severe levels of mental illness. They can't imagine they would be at risk for such...

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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 prevalent for decades. In the past few years, this area has experienced a revitalization.

Several...

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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 congregations, led out in Bible studies and taught classes together, fed...

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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 mental health issue this year. I'm no mathematician, but I'm pretty sure the number five falls...

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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 patterns of our daily decisions (as menial as those decisions may seem at times). And as Christ...

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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 was concurrently enrolled in an Old Testament course at Southwestern and found the Lord...

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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 do the unheard of: to rest.

It's unscheduled. Once students arrive Friday at Highland Lakes Camp in...

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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 put on you by others. Many people experience chronic depression during the...

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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 10 years, I had been involved in itinerant ministry. My wife and I...

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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 out and make these same mistakes as quickly as you possibly can.

  1. Mistake: Failing
...

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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 known for its "open table" policy. I never know who will be attending, but I...

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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 area.

He made a second list of what others had told him about his giftings...

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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 Supper as meaningful to, but not necessary for salvation

Cherish ...

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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 we gather together for worship was to share this meal and...

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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 criticism, but here I want to focus on some structure of practicality to build on this...

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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. If this is the correct chronological context of this psalm, then David would have been...

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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, appropriately, becomes their best friend.

Job assignments ebb and flow. Sometimes, even, whole companies move...

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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 God at work in Texas. With each visit, meeting, or even...

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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 mother of three girls under the age of six, is pregnant with her fourth child. She speaks very little...

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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 churches -- First Baptist in Austin. Her passing has hurt many people, as...

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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, and continued to be involved on campus and planned to use the...

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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 that order, specifically in that order. Obviously, the subliminal message was...

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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.

During the pre-game warm-up, I found myself on the ground with a beating headache and opening my eyes...

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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 you on that journey … this is in fact a fairy tale and I'm so glad to share it with you. I love...

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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 called "Superhuman," and the point of the song is to talk about how when he's on stage, people...

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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 young adults.

As a recent college graduate, I fall squarely in that category. I want so...

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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 you are or how great the speech/lesson/sermon was. For years, I struggled with...

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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 because I seemed genuine and polite. So while the vote of confidence and not...

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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 distinction of being awarded first-team all-state in acting, something you probably didn't even know existed!

I...

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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 cheered in a sling. Even though the doctor told me it would be eight weeks, I fully recovered from the...

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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 for meaning and belonging, love and acceptance in life. Several weeks...

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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 (Genesis 2:19-20). Throughout the Word, God gives names to His people. He called Abram,...

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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 a sense of patriotism.

While our nation is so proud to show their...

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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 that I do not try to imagine myself in another person's shoes. Though God can use...

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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.

  1. Leave your anger. This emotion is real. The struggle is real. We all get angry. Family,
...

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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. Others have come after long illness and suffering.

As I reflect on these losses...

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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 English proficiency to her requiring us to begin reading the Bible twice a day...

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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 your heart of someone you know, or at least suspect, you can't...

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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. It is during the transitions we live through in which we get the opportunity to show what...

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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 abolish the law, but to fulfill it. We also understand the Ten Commandments and Mosaic Law...

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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 issue is not merely the supply of worthy initiatives or reducing the number of clicks on a donation page, but...

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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...

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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 honor Reverend Dr. James "Jim" W. Culp, Sr. of Second Chapel Baptist Church in Garland and Dr....

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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 commonly asked. I serve alongside Texas Baptist pastors and their...

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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 into their lives one of the first things they are assured is: "Nothing can take away your...

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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 took Lily and all the necessary replanting elements outside and began the...

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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 be alone.

I crave community and what I've found through being...

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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 intended to prohibit the free exercise of religion, is valid even if it restricted...

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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 TED Talk entitled The Price of Shame. This talk serves as a catalyst...

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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 public's dime and then don't understand why everyone is...

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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 its way through towering canyons, but my 20 year-old son...

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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, strong enough, funny, worth anything – whether they belong. And in...

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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 of false assumptions. Here are just a few I encourage you to watch out for:

The assumption that you'll be just as confident as you...

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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 minds on mating.

Some of the animals already had paired up and were content to...

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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 tell you what to do than to do it yourself," said Dr. Mike Williams, a professor...

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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 son and 11-year-old daughter. We want what everybody else wants and that is to raise our...

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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 countries – I wholeheartedly spiritually and financially support...

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​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, Maggie spent the first year of her life in an orphanage in Baoji, China.

...

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​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. They wanted children and, through prayer, came to realize that God's way of building their...

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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 psychological acceptance.

Sense of coherence (SOC) is one's cognitive appraisal of a...

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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 social, mental and emotional health of their children is vital!

The mosaic...

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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 to break, not to mention, hopefully, a refreshing...

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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 present as an anticipated memory."

It's an intriguing idea...

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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 out on great relationships and other awesome things God is...

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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 usually rears its head when it comes to sports. While my sport of choice and my talents are...

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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 fun in my book.

Clearly I was a little dramatic, but I...

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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 of a healing touch.

Jesus' Teachings Convey Total...

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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 Africa and was looking forward to serving at a South African orphanage in a...

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​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 the strong and sometimes lengthy storms.

1. Cling to God as...

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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 you are young. I think I'm probably the only one who still gets...

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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 writes,

"Marriage is patterned after Christ's covenant relationship to his redeemed
...

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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 unexpected death of a close friend, the news my younger brother...

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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 Christmas story was mainly what I learned from a Muppet Christmas Carol...

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Rays of hope result from counseling


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

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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 much are "Thank you." Think about it. When is the last time you stopped and...

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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 involving drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, panic...

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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. For sexual abuse survivors like Tricia Martin*, sharing with her...

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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 did not understand the things she was asked to do, but it did not seem right...

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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 the couple was about to pack up for the night. Then Rebecca spied "biggest bass I've ever seen in my...

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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 on those who are outside. As Sunday School leaders, we must continue to keep...

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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 pregnancy.

The Senate passed the provision July 12 by a vote of 19-11, with Lucio as the sole Democrat to vote for the bill...

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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 legislative effort to limit immoral payday and auto title lending practices, which are devastating...

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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 services to travel back in time to the 1950s. Just being part of Texas...

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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 Rick Warren, possibly the nation's most prominent evangelical leader. Warren...

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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 cravings for food and weight gain
  • Agitation or restlessness -- for
...

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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 member, encourage deacons to pick up evening calls several days a week. Rotation patterns enable
...

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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 years, finding a safe place in the midst of ministry was my greatest...

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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 can think of some broken areas of my life that could use some fixing, some empty...

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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 wheelchairs. Larry is not, and we have been very fortunate. But I will never forget the...

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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 seemed like a really big deal to me at the time. Why would I want...

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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. Deep down inside I heard whispers saying this season was fading and...

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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 are in a coach's care. A coach is there to give instruction on the...

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