Texas Baptists Life, Volume 11, Issue 1

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In Texas and all over the world, Texas Baptists are reaching the lost and sharing the good news of Christ. Whether it's through rural churches, global missions or community building, Texas Baptists are sharing Christ and showing love.

MINATREA Director of Communications
FRESTON Associate Director of Communications
SCHROEDER New Media Specialist NEIL WILLIAMS Multimedia Specialist CALEB ARNDT Design Manager LAUREN KENDALL Graphic Designer
are receiving a free copy of Texas Baptists Life because of your generous support of the Cooperative Program. To subscribe or update your subscription preferences, visit txb.org/subscription.
Texas Baptists Life


Volume 11 — Issue No. 1


In Texas and all over the world, Texas Baptists are reaching the lost and sharing the good news of Christ. Whether it's through rural churches, global missions or community building, Texas Baptists are sharing Christ and showing love.

Featured Articles



At a Glance







Spanish Translation pg. 20






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TEXAS BAPTISTS Annual Meeting NOVEMBER 10-12, 2024 WACO, TX WACO, TX WACO, TX WACO, TX WACO, TX Join us in Waco, Texas, for the 2024 Annual Meeting, and let's celebrate together all the ways God is working through Texas Baptists to advance His Kingdom.


Dear Texas Baptists family,

I am so thankful you are taking the time to read this magazine because it is full of important stories and updates. As our Search Committee continues to seek the next person God is calling to lead TexasBaptists as executive director, the Lord continues to open the door for fresh opportunities to reach our state, nation and world for Christ.

One of the most exciting opportunities the Lord presents us each year is to reach Spring Breakers in South Padre Island with the good news of Jesus Christ through Beach Reach. Every year, my wife, Tracy, and I enjoy spending a couple of days with our BSM students to encourage them as they pray, go and share the love of Christ. Every year, we bring back amazing stories of how the Holy Spirit pierces the darkness to illuminate hearts and minds to understanding the truth of Christ. And

Estimada familia Bautista de Texas, Le agradezco mucho por leer esta revista llena de historias y noticias importantes. Nuestro comité de búsqueda continúa tratando de encontrar la persona llamada por Dios para dirigir a los Bautistas de Texas como director ejecutivo, y el Señor continúa abriendo la puerta de nuevas oportunidades para alcanzar a nuestro estado, nuestra nación, y al mundo para Cristo.

Una de las oportunidades más emocionantes que el Señor nos presenta cada año es alcanzar a estudiantes universitarios de vacaciones en South Padre Island con las buenas nuevas de Jesucristo por medio de Beach Reach ("Alcance en la playa"). Cada año mi esposa Tracy y yo pasamos varios días con los estudiantes bautistas universitarios al orar y salir a compartir el amor de Cristo. Cada año regresamos con historias maravillosas de cómo el Espíritu Santo penetra las tinieblas para iluminar corazones y mentes para entender la verdad de Cristo. Cada año estudiantes cristianos universitarios se dan cuenta de que también pueden ser

every year, Christian college students realize they, too, may be used by God to lead fellow students to meet Jesus. Hundreds of lost students encountered the living Christ, and it was amazing.

Texas Baptists had the opportunity to be salt and light at the Capitol in Austin. We led the charge to stop legalized gambling in the state. We also advocated to increase resources to expectant mothers and were able to bless those who most needed the help. Our Christian Life Commission continues to have a big footprint on many issues as we advocate on your behalf.

The PAVE church health strategy is blessing dozens of BGCT churches around the state in various contexts. We are developing strategies specific to Hispanic, African American, rural, bivocational, urban and other churches in order to provide ideas for every situation. While we all want to see new people saved and discipled, the goal is

usados por Dios para llevar a otros estudiantes a Cristo. Cientos de estudiantes universitarios perdidos llegaron a conocer al Cristo vivo, y es maravilloso.

Los Bautistas de Texas tuvieron la oportunidad de ser sal y luz en el Capitolio en Austin. Dirigimos el esfuerzo para detener las apuestas legalizadas en el estado. También abogamos por aumentar los recursos para madres embarazadas y pudimos bendecir a los que más necesitaban la ayuda. Nuestra Comisión para la Vida continúa dejando una gran huella en muchos asuntos al abogar en su nombre.

La estrategia para la salud de la iglesia, PAVE, es de bendición a docenas de iglesias de BGCT en diversos contextos alrededor del estado. Desarrollamos estrategias específicas para iglesias hispanas, afroamericanas, rurales, bivocacionales, urbanas, proveyendo ideas para cada situación. A pesar de que deseamos ver que nuevas personas son salvas y discipuladas, la meta es asistir a pastores y líderes de la iglesia con estrategias frescas para mejorar la salud de la iglesia en general. Para iglesias en

to assist pastors and church leaders with fresh strategies to improve overall church health. For churches in declining communities, maintaining attendance levels is a huge win. We strive to help all kinds of churches be encouraged toward faithfulness. Finally, let me say how proud I am to be a Texas Baptist, as we continue to cherish and protect Baptist distinctives, like the priesthood of every believer, the autonomy of the local church and soul competency. It is important to provide theological clarity on who we are as Texas Baptists/GC2. But we need to be careful about protecting unity in our diversity. You and your church family are important to us. Thank you for all your prayers, gifts and efforts to promote the movement of God’s people to share Christ and show love until all people say, “Yes!” to Him.

Your servant in Christ,

comunidades en declive, mantener sus niveles de asistencia es muy importante. Nos esforzamos por ayudar a todo tipo de iglesias al exhortarlas hacia la fidelidad.

Por último, permítame decirle cuán orgulloso estoy de ser Bautista de Texas al continuar apreciando y protegiendo distintivos bautistas como el sacerdocio de cada creyente, la autonomía de la iglesia local, y la competencia del alma. Es importante proveer claridad teológica respecto a quiénes somos como Bautistas de Texas/GC2. También necesitamos proteger la unidad en nuestra diversidad. Usted y la familia de su iglesia son importantes para nosotros. Gracias por sus oraciones, ofrendas, y esfuerzos para promover el movimiento del pueblo de Dios de compartir a Cristo y demostrar amor hasta que todos respondan "¡Sí!" a Cristo.

Al servicio de Cristo,






The goal, as Pastor Mahesh and his wife Alesha go about each day in their home city of Kathmandu, is simple.

“Every day, me and my wife, we share the gospel,” he says. “We pray and we have a target, at least in a day, that one person gets the heart of Christ.”

1.6 billion considered unreached by the gospel. The primary religions are Hinduism, Islam (it’s home to nearly one-third of the world’s Muslims), Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism. There are an estimated 34 million evangelical believers – 1.85% of the population. The IMB describes South Asia as “the largest concentration of lostness on the planet.”

Nepal is essentially the epicenter of that lostness. But Texas Baptists are partnering with believers like Mahesh and Alesha and many others who share a common purpose. As Manik, another Nepali pastor, says: “We are reaching continuously to the lost people of this nation. We want to see gospel saturation in our lifetime.”

That typically means multiple conversations – but that’s the couple’s passion: To see Kathmandu and Nepal won for Christ. It seems a daunting task, and yet, they see an opportunity.

“Everyone,” Mahesh says, "needs to know the heart of Christ.”

Mahesh and Alesha are just one example of passionate ambassadors for Christ, who are supported by Texas Baptists through the Missionary Adoption Program (MAP). MAP exists to connect Texas Baptists churches with churches, associations and conventions all over the world to jointly adopt local missionaries who are native to the countries in which they serve. In South Asia, Texas Baptists have partnerships in Nepal, Bangladesh and India. MAP partnerships also exist in Africa, Brazil, Myanmar, Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Canada and the United States.

According to statistics from the International Mission Board (IMB), South Asia is home to 1.8 billion people, with

Pastors, church planters and missionaries like Mahesh and Manik – and all three of those titles fit – are seeing tremendous results, according to Noe Treviño, director of MAP for Texas Baptists and minister of missions for Texas Baptist missionaries. With a small group of Texas Baptists, Treviño visited South Asia earlier this spring and returned excited after seeing firsthand what God is doing in and through Mahesh, Alesha, Manik and other Nepali believers.

“The gospel is being spread to hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom are UPGs and UUPGs (unreached people groups and unreached unengaged people groups),” Treviño says. “The native missionaries go out each day knocking on doors sharing the gospel and walking the streets, sharing with anyone who will listen to them. Literally thousands of people are being saved every month.

Nearly 1 million people live In Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. For many, it’s perhaps best known – or known only – as the jumping-off point to the Himalayas, including Mount Everest. As Chas Tozer*, an IMB missionary in South Asia notes, the region is 10,000 miles

"We pray and we have a target, at least in a day, that one person gets the heart of Christ."

from Texas – “as far away as you can get.” And yet through MAP, it is accessible in multiple ways to Texas Baptists.

“MAP, really at its core, is the chance for churches just like yours to partner with missionaries just like me on this side of the world,” Tozer says, “and together to work with national partners that are really getting to see God do amazing things.”

Jason Burden, pastor of First Baptist Nederland and past president of Texas Baptists, participated on the trip to South Asia – and was astonished.

“It was true gospel pioneering,” Burden says. “To encounter people who literally had never heard the name of Jesus and to be able to witness to them and to see the receptivity in their expressions, it really reminded me of what the Great Commission is all about. I live in such a Christian bubble, and there’s no such thing as a Christian bubble over there.

“And to walk side by side with our missionaries who are serving there, it just stokes my enthusiasm for prayer for them and makes me really want to partner with them.”

In an agricultural community on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Burden was walking with a Nepali national missionary, praying and looking for people to talk with. They found some men relaxing under a tree, taking a break from work. The missionary engaged the men, and the conversation quickly turned into a gospel conversation.

“It didn’t end up in a Damascus Road experience for anybody, but this is the faithful work that’s gonna make sure that there in Nepal, there is gonna be a gospel witness,” Burden says. “Out of the multitude of these conversations underneath the shade of a tree, that’s where God is gonna be at work.”

“And to walk side by side with our missionaries who are serving there, it just stokes my enthusiasm for prayer for them.”

Mahesh has pastored his church in Kathmandu for almost eight years. He and Alesha have been married almost three years, “working together in God’s kingdom,” as he puts it. “We are feeling so blessed to serve the Kingdom of God.”

Kathmandu is strategic because of its status as a gathering place. From all over Nepal, people regularly travel from villages to live in or spend time in

Kathmandu, which provides opportunities they don’t have back home. They speak multiple languages. And as Mahesh says, “Everyone is searching for many things … They are following bad things.”

But to Mahesh, that simply means the harvest is plentiful.

“The city is a big opportunity for God’s Kingdom,” Mahesh says. “If I share the

“Everyone is searching for many things ... They are following bad things.”

gospel with people here and they accept Christ, then we disciple them. After that, we go together to his village, and then we share the gospel there.”

The church serves about 350 believers, and its composition is constantly evolving. New believers are discipled with the intent to send them out to plant churches. Many have started churches in their home villages.

“They’re engaging in brand new villages among peoples that have literally never heard the good news of Jesus before,” says Tozer, who adds that one of the teams of Nepali believers he works with shared the gospel 47,000 times last year.

“The gospel is going out in abundance,” he says. “But it’s not just the gospel going out, it’s disciples being made. Those disciples make up brand new churches.”

Burden says what he saw of missionary work in South Asia seemed like something out of the book of Acts.

“I saw people who were just completely sold out of the gospel,” he says. “Some

of them talked about the difficulties they faced in their personal lives, living within a culture that for some is ambivalent to Christianity, and for others is hostile toward Christianity. Just to see their commitment to the gospel, their sacrifices. They’ve sacrificed careers and opportunities, things we’ll probably never be asked to give up, just to preach Jesus and plant churches.

“I can’t even spell the word ‘sacrifice’ compared to what they’ve endured for the gospel.”

Pastor Mahesh of Kathmandu asks Texas Baptists to pray for his team, because “we want to minister faithfully.” And he issues an invitation, too:

“We would love to see you, Texas Baptists churches,” Mahesh says. “If you have time and if you’re available for us, then please come and see what God is doing in Nepal, day by day.”

Along with work serving in the city, Mahesh would like to take adventurous visitors to serve in villages in the

mountains – “the extreme,” he says. “We share the gospel with the backpack.”

“I would love to invite you: Please come,” he reiterates. “Let’s (work) together for God’s Kingdom.”

“We encourage you to give not just financially, which is a need,” Treviño says, “but also to be a part of encouraging them through social media and other means. If your church is able to bring a group to Kathmandu to work alongside them for a few days, it would be a great experience for your church, I guarantee you."

“We encourage you to be a part of what God is doing through our Missionary Adoption Program with Texas Baptists.”

To learn more about how God is using MAP missionaries around the world to reach the lost, visit txb.org/MAP. Churches or individuals can adopt a MAP missionary as well. For more information, email noe.trevino@txb.org.

*Name changed for security purposes

“The gospel is going out in abundance, but it’s not just the gospel going out, it’s disciples being made."

HOUSTON – Located in the heart of the Medical Center, Rice Temple Baptist Church thrives in one of the most culturally diverse sections in the nation.

In the church’s most recent history, there are over 30 nations represented with around 24 different languages being spoken by members. Moreover, the church retains connections with members living abroad holding Bible studies in Japan, Taiwan, Korea, along with several other countries in Europe and Africa.

“We have a mission field handed right to us,” said Pastor Clint Reiff. “Many of our


international members come seeking medical treatment but also get prayer and fellowship.”

Pastor Reiff shared how the church has been blessed with a great number of international members due to the church’s active participation in disciple making within their community. Members are encouraged to discover God, develop and grow more like Christ, discern their gifts and deploy to work in God’s mission of sharing the gospel.

“We try to be very aware about getting outside the walls of the church,” Reiff said. “We believe theology ought to be practical, and that everybody ought to

have a role or group where they meet outside the building in order to be intentional about sharing the gospel.”

One of the ways members are able to serve their community is through the Joy Program. This ministry is dedicated to teaching English as a second

“When it comes to sharing the gospel, we need to be willing to be uncomfortable.”

language by engaging people from other cultures in different activities. Ranging from Bible studies, cooking classes and dancing, the Joy Program seeks to provide an environment where people from different countries feel welcome into the church.

“We are mainly trying to be hospitable and friendly. We try to care for a need that they have,” Reiff shared.

In addition to being intentional about going out and making disciples, Reiff explained how listening and loving people from different cultures has helped Rice Temple Baptist Church grow and learn.

“When it comes to sharing the gospel, we need to be willing to be uncomfortable,” Reiff said. “Don’t let there be any barriers. We need to ask ourselves, ‘What would I not do for the sake of the gospel?’ The answer better be: ‘Nothing.’ We have to get there.”

While Rice Temple Baptist Church is located in a community where there is a lot of cultural diversity and international influence, Reiff encouraged congregations everywhere to be welcoming and intentional about engaging with different cultures.

“Welcome everyone into your home, treat them the way you’d like to be

treated,” he said. “Rather than inviting people in to share your culture with them, invite them in and give them a voice. Just hear who they are and enjoy their perspective.”

Rice Temple Baptist Church is a part of the Texas Baptists Cooperative Program, which has helped Reiff and his congregation minister to members of their community even after they move back to their home countries.

“This program has allowed us to do missions in a way that we could’ve not done on our own,” Reiff said. “The fact that we can come together as individual churches and reach out for a common goal – the sharing of the gospel of Christ – is hugely important and grossly underestimated.”

“This program has allowed us to do missions in a way that we could’ve not done on our own.”







SOUTH PADRE ISLAND – It isn’t her first time, so Haley, a college student from Nebraska, thinks she knows the reason why the vans provide free rides, anywhere on the island, during spring break.

“It’s about your religion,” she says.

A student from UT-Tyler nods. That’s it, she says, sort of – and in explaining the purpose for the “Jesus vans,” a gospel conversation unfolds.

It’s one of nearly 10,000 similar moments during Beach Reach, the annual effort, led by Baptist Student Ministries from Texas Baptists, to reach college students for Jesus.

Every March, as tens of thousands of college students flock to Texas’ Gulf Coast, looking for a party during spring break, hundreds of other college students are there, as well, volunteering to serve, hoping to show the love of Christ – and to help them come to know Him, too. Joe Osteen, director of Baptist Student Ministries at UT-Tyler and one of the coordinators of Beach Reach, calls it a “concentrated gospel opportunity” and a “strategic moment in the rhythm of college life.”

From March 4-17, when most colleges and universities were on spring break, 1,017 Beach Reach volunteers from BSMs and churches across Texas and several other states provided 17,765 safe rides. They had 9,670 gospel conversations. They prayed with 7,229 people.

There were 183 college students who professed faith in Christ, and 91 more prayed to recommit their lives to Him. Forty-nine students were baptized in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The light shines brightest where it’s darkest,” says Reid Burkett, director of the BSM at UTSA. “They’re so open to hearing about Jesus.”

derisively, but very few of the spring breakers will turn down the offer of free rides anywhere on the island. Many make use of the service by calling a central hotline and reaching a call center set up in a second-floor classroom at the church.

Most rides last only a few minutes –maybe a half hour at the longest. Early in the week, many spring breakers don’t know what to make of the vans filled with peers who are eager to talk. But as the week goes on, meaningful moments occur.

Beach Reach is a massive operation. During the two-week period, teams of volunteers from Texas Baptist Men (TBM) served 18,737 free pancakes during very late breakfasts in the parking lot of Island Baptist Church and in the wee hours of the mornings outside one of the island’s most popular bars. They also served first responders.

Each day, teams of Beach Reach volunteers hit the beaches, too. But instead of soaking up the sun, they helped clean them and spread out looking for opportunities for evangelism.

But there’s never such a concentrated gospel opportunity as in the van rides. They’re known as “Jesus vans” –sometimes affectionately, sometimes

“Sometimes it’s a spring breaker’s fourth, fifth, sixth time on a van, and they’re ready for a spiritual conversation,” Osteen says. “Or sometimes on a Wednesday night, they’ll say, ‘OK guys, why are you doing this?’”


One night, BSM students from UT-Tyler are squeezed into the van dubbed “Orange VANta.” (Part of Beach Reach tradition involves nicknaming the vans – usually with a pun on the word “van” – and decorating them. There’s “Apollo Ele-van,” “VANtom Menace,” “VANimal Crackers” and so on.)

“The light shines brightest where it’s darkest."

Driven by Amber Bader, associate director of the UT-Tyler BSM, “Orange VANta” traverses the island’s streets from 11 p.m. until a little after 1 a.m., picking up spring breakers and dropping them off. Most often, the spring breakers are headed out to find a party. On their way, they’re introduced to Jesus. Many are very open to listening.

“It’s a little weird, but spring breakers are here to meet people,” Osteen says. Like Haley, the student from Nebraska.

Around 11:15 p.m., she and some friends climb into “Orange VANta.” They’re headed from their rented condo to Louie’s, one of South Padre’s most popular clubs. Yes, Becca Langley tells Haley, the vans are here because of religion – or actually, because of the relationships the students from UT-Tyler have with Jesus Christ. She explains that they hope Haley and her friends can have the same relationship.

“We do it,” says Becca, a freshman at Angelina College in Lufkin, “because Jesus is the ultimate gift.”

Macy Weatherford, a sophomore from UT-Tyler, asks: “Would you consider yourself a believer?”

“I don’t know,” Haley says. “I’m more wishy-washy. When times are tough, I usually pray.”

A few minutes later, she asks: “How do you know when you’re saved? How do you know when God knows you?”

Meanwhile, in the back, Alex and Eli are talking with Derek, one of Haley’s friends. “There’s this big hole in your heart,” Alex is saying. And the conversation goes on, street by street, until the van pulls to the side of the road about a block from the club. But Haley isn’t ready to get out just yet. For another five minutes, she talks, asking questions.

Finally, her friends say it’s time to go. But first, Macy asks: “Can we pray for you?” And the van gets quiet as she asks God to protect the students from Nebraska and to show them the truth of who Jesus is.

In the moments afterward, the BSM students debrief. Whether the students listen or seem more interested, like Haley, gospel seeds are sown – and for more than 40 years now, that has been the overarching purpose and goal of Beach Reach.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to share with people,” says Elija McClain, a UT-Tyler senior. “I have a heart for God, and it’s one of my earnest pleas for people to know Christ.”


Before arriving on the island, the teams of Beach Reachers go through five weeks of training in evangelism. And before climbing into the vans each evening, the Beach Reachers gather at the South Padre Island Convention Center for worship and a brief message. Osteen reminds the volunteers that the conversations might be difficult.

As some of the students pile into vans, headed into the streets, others gather at Island Baptist Church, which serves as the nerve center for Beach Reach. Upstairs, a dozen students wearing headsets take calls and dispatch vans around the island, using computers to know which are available.

Many others pray.

“Beach Reach,” Osteen says, “runs on prayer.”

He is referring to two weeks of continuous prayer in the worship center, as students take turns in prayer – but also the prayers of Texas Baptists and others during the run-up to and during Beach Reach.


It’s a little after 2 a.m. – closing time –at Louie’s, a block off Padre Blvd., the island’s north-south artery. In various conditions, spring breakers emerge from the bar, pour out onto the sidewalk and spill into the parking lot across the street, where many get in one of two lines. Some want rides home; vans are lined up, waiting. Others want “midnight pancakes.”

A misty rain is falling, but no one seems to mind. As they wait in either line, they talk with Beach Reachers. Burkett, the


“Beach Reach runs on prayer.”

BSM director at UTSA, is coordinating the van pickups, but he also regularly engages in long, deep conversations.

“It looks like a mess,” Burkett says, “but it’s a funnel. You’re funneling to gospel conversations.”

Jake Stratton, a sophomore from Sam Houston State, finds himself in one with a student named Andrew, who’s in the line for pancakes. They talk for 15 minutes before Andrew’s friends pull him away.

And a few minutes later, Andrew texts Jake, hoping to grab lunch later. There’s more gospel conversation ahead.

Earlier in the night, Jake bumped into some of his high school buddies as they were headed into Louie’s. He says it reminded him of who he was before meeting Jesus, and it motivated him to share Christ with others whenever he can.


Early Wednesday morning, Lily Carnes, a junior at UTSA and a member of First Baptist Church of Castroville, is in the

worship center at Island Baptist. She spends time praying for each member of her San Antonio-based team in the van “Bidi Bidi VAN VAN.” Around 2:30 a.m., she sees a tweet hit the prayer wall. Her van has picked up six young boys at Subway.

She begins praying: “God, you can totally bring every single one of them to salvation. Lord, let them accept you and want to follow you.”

Of the six boys, four are teenagers. One is 20. One is 11. In the van, they are joking around, seemingly uninterested in serious conversation. But Cesar Montoya, a senior at Baptist University of the Americás, speaks up.

“I want to share my heart with you,” he tells the boys in Spanish. “Suppose we had an accident right now and everyone died? There is a heaven and a hell. Where do y’all see yourselves?”

The atmosphere is suddenly solemn.

“I don’t know,” one of the boys says. “We have done many bad things, but we know about Jesus.”

When they begin discussing the good things they’ve done, Cesar shares the gospel and explains from Ephesians 2 that salvation comes by grace through faith, not of works. A few minutes later, he tells them, “Y’all are in this van because you need to hear this. I want y’all to know Jesus. Do you want to accept Jesus?”

One by one, each boy prays, professing his trust in Christ.

“It was word for word what I was praying for,” Lily says. “It’s incredible. I was just totally bawling. It’s amazing!”

The boys literally change directions, too. Instead of the beach bar that was their original destination, they get dropped off at McDonald’s. Before leaving the van, though, they make plans to meet Cesar to talk again, desiring to know more about how he came to know Christ and how he follows Christ.

Similar stories of transformation unfold every year during Beach Reach. People pray. Students sow seeds. The Holy Spirit opens spring breakers’ hearts.

“It’s amazing how God works to show them there’s a better option,” Osteen says.

Also amazing are the ripples outward in the weeks and months after Beach Reach, when the volunteers return to their hometowns and their college campuses. BSMs regularly report an increase in people coming to Christ because of participants who return home with increased fervor for evangelism. Beach Reach often becomes Campus Reach.

“All these students come back to campus feeling different, talking different and living different,” says Nathan Mahand, BSM director at Houston Christian University. “They have a burden for the lost.”

As @VANtomMenace, the twitter handle of the San Antonio BSM, tweeted as Beach Reach ended: “… please pray that we can take the gospel far and wide back home. #brspi23”




When Wes Brown planted the church on 16 acres of farmland, there wasn’t much nearby but wide-open space. Now, 15 years later, there are houses going up everywhere. The rapid growth of Collin County, just north of Dallas, has arrived – or at least, is nearing, the Cowboy Church of Collin County.

And yet, the church, located in a pastoral setting a couple of miles south of Princeton, continues to thrive – proving, to Brown, that what’s important isn’t so much the style but the message.

“People ask me, ‘What is a cowboy church?’” Brown said. “I just tell ‘em, ‘We’re a church that worships Jesus.’”

Cowboy Church of Collin County offers a laidback Western heritage cultural vibe and an intentionally rural aesthetic. They offer worship music with country and western flair, and many of the congregants come wearing hats, jeans and boots. Beyond Sunday services and other familiar church activities, they offer opportunities to rope and ride. For people who may not have been to church in many years, they’re offering a new beginning. Above all, they’re offering Jesus.


“The draw,” according to James “Mac” McLeod, Western Heritage Consultant for Texas Baptists, “is lowering the barriers. It’s a more relaxed atmosphere. It’s a ‘come as you are’ deal.”

According to McLeod, there are almost 200 cowboy churches in Texas affiliated with Texas Baptists. While the roots of the concept are difficult to pinpoint, McLeod said the concept really took root and sprouted in the late 1990s and the churches share a common mission: “Reaching people in the Western culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ and providing a church home where they can grow.”

“Most cowboy churches are growing,” Brown said. “I think it’s the culture. Don’t get me wrong, there’s certainly a place for traditional church, absolutely. … But the cowboy church really extends its arms to those who’ve been detached from the church, for whatever reason. The cowboy church is almost a rebirth to them. It’s a new beginning, a new start for them. And people like that.”

McLeod sees a growing challenge in contexts like Collin County, with its rapid population growth and the corresponding shift from rural to suburban population. Like their urban and suburban cousins, some cowboy churches, he said, might

soon need to consider revitalization to connect with their changing community.

“How are cowboy churches going to reach the communities they’re in, especially when the communities are becoming more suburban America?” McLeod said. “You look at Collin County, and people are flooding in there like crazy – and they’re not cowboys! So we have that same challenge of trying to stay on mission with why we started.

communities, showing Christ’s love to others. Brown believes that as long as the church is connecting with people, it will continue to grow, regardless of how the community may change.

“It has to be personal,” Brown said. “You can’t just put a sign out there that says, ‘Y’all come’ – which we do too! We say, ‘Come as you are, and invite people’ –but it has to be personal. You’re out meeting people, shaking hands, getting them to know you and trust you.”

Church members are involved in area civic events and organizations. Brown serves as chaplain for the Princeton police department. He regularly makes the rounds at feed stores and spends time in coffee shops.

Brown’s formula for growing Cowboy Church of Collin County has always revolved around being an active part of the community. He and other members of Cowboy Church are out in the community rather than waiting for people to come to them. They’re serving their

“A pastor in today’s world and ministry, you have to get out of your box, out of your office,” Brown said. “You have to get out where the people are. I think that’s what Jesus did. He went to lunch with them. He was out among them. They saw him in town.

“For ministry to work today, you’ve got to be out among them.”

“Reaching people in the Western culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ and providing a church home where they can grow.”








SOUTH PADRE ISLAND – No es su primera vez, por lo que Haley, una estudiante universitaria de Nebraska, piensa que conoce la razón por la cual las camionetas proveen transportación gratuita, a cualquier lugar de la isla, durante el receso de primavera. “Se trata de su religión”, dice ella.

Un estudiante de la Universidad de Texas en Tyler asiente con su cabeza. Eso es, lo que ella dice, algo así—al explicar que el propósito para las "camionetas de Jesús" es que sucedan conversaciones hacia el evangelio.

Es uno de casi 10,000 momentos similares durante Alcance en la playa, un esfuerzo anual dirigido por los Ministerios de estudiantes universitarios bautistas de los Bautistas de Texas, para alcanzar a jóvenes universitarios para Cristo.

Cada mes de marzo, miles de estudiantes universitarios acuden a la Costa del Golfo en Texas, buscando festejar durante el receso de primavera. Cientos de otros jóvenes universitarios también están allí como voluntarios para servir, esperando demostrar el amor de Cristo—y ayudarlos a que le conozcan. Joe Osteen, director de los Ministerios de estudiantes universitarios bautistas de la Universidad de Texas en Tyler y uno de los coordinadores de Alcance en la playa, se refiere a esto como "oportunidad concentrada para el evangelio" y un "momento estratégico en el ritmo de la vida universitaria".

Desde el 4 al 17 de marzo, cuando la mayor parte de colegios y universidades tiene su receso de primavera, 1,017 estudiantes bautistas voluntarios de iglesias por todo Texas y otros estados proveyeron 17, 765 viajes seguros. Tuvieron

9,670 conversaciones acerca del evangelio y oraron con 7,229 personas.

Ciento ochenta y tres estudiantes hicieron profesión de fe en Cristo, y 91 oraron re-comprometiendo sus vidas. Cuarenta y nueve estudiantes fueron bautizados en el Golfo de México.

“La luz alumbra más cuando está más oscuro", dice Reid Urkett, director del Ministerio de estudiantes universitarios en la Universidad de Texas en San Antonio. "Están muy abiertos a escuchar acerca de Jesús".

populares de la isla. También sirvieron a los oficiales de servicios de emergencia.

Cada día, equipos de voluntarios de Alcance en la playa van a la playa. En vez de asolearse, ayudan a limpiar y se dispersan buscando oportunidades para evangelizar.

Sin embargo, no hay mejores oportunidades hacia el evangelio que el transportar en las camionetas. Se conocen como "camionetas de Jesús"—a veces afectuosamente, a veces como burla, pero muy pocos rechazan la oferta de transportación gratuita a cualquier lugar en la isla. Muchos usan el servicio al llamar a una línea telefónica central en un centro de llamadas en el segundo piso en la iglesia.

Alcance en la playa es una operación masiva. Durante dos semanas, equipos de voluntarios de los Hombres Bautistas de Texas sirvieron 18,737 panqueques gratuitos durante los desayunos en el estacionamiento de Island Baptist Church y en las horas de la madrugada afuera de uno de los bares más

La mayoría de los viajes duran solamente unos minutos—tal vez una media hora. Temprano en la semana, muchos estudiantes no saben de qué se tratan las camionetas llenas de compañeros dispuestos a hablar. Pero al pasar los días, ocurren momentos significativos.

“A veces es el cuarto, quinto, o sexto viaje y están listos para una conversación espiritual", dice Osteen. "O, a veces un miércoles en la noche, preguntan, '¿Por qué hacen esto?'"

“La luz alumbra más cuando está más oscuro."


Una noche, los estudiantes bautistas de la Universidad de Texas en Tyler se subieron a la camioneta apodada la camioneta "Naranja". (Parte de la tradición de Alcance en la playa incluye poner sobrenombres a las camionetas y decorarlas.)

Amber Bader, directora asociada del Ministerio de estudiantes universitarios bautistas en la Universidad de Texas en Tyler, conduce la camioneta "Naranja" por las calles de la isla desde las 11 p. m hasta un poco después de la 1 a.m., transportando estudiantes. Con frecuencia, los estudiantes van en busca de una fiesta. En el camino, se les presenta a Jesús. Muchos están abiertos a escuchar.

“Es un poco raro, pero los estudiantes están aquí para conocer a otros", dice Osteen. Al igual que Haley, la estudiante de Nebraska.

Alrededor de las 11:15 p.m., ella y unos amigos se suben a la camioneta "Naranja". Se dirigen a Louie's, uno de los clubes más populares en la isla. Becca Langley le dice a Haley que las camionetas están allí debido a la religión—o en realidad, debido a la relación que los estudiantes universitarios tienen con Jesucristo. Ella explica que espera que Haley y sus amigos puedan tener una relación similar.

“Hacemos esto", dice Becca, una estudiante de primer año en Angelina College en Lufkin, "porque Jesús es el don máximo".

Macy Weatherford, una estudiante de segundo año en la Universidad de Texas en Tyler, pregunta: "¿Se consideran creyentes?"

“No lo sé", dice Haley. "Estoy indecisa. En tiempos difíciles, oro".

Unos minutos después, pregunta: "¿Cómo saber que uno es salvo? ¿Cómo saber cuándo Dios nos conoce?"

Mientras tanto, en el asiento trasero, Alex y Elí hablan con Derek, uno de los amigos de Haley. "Hay un hueco muy grande en tu corazón", le dice Alex. La conversación continúa, calle tras calle, hasta que la camioneta se estaciona cerca del club. Sin embargo, Haley no está lista para bajarse. Durante otros cinco minutos hace preguntas.

Por último, sus amigos dicen que es hora de salir. Pero, primero Marcy pregunta: "¿Podemos orar por ustedes?" Hay silencio en la camioneta mientras ella le pide a Dios que proteja a los estudiantes de Nebraska y les muestre la verdad acerca de quién es Jesús.

Un poco después, los estudiantes bautistas evalúan. Si los estudiantes escuchan o se muestran interesados, como Haley, se siembran semillas del evangelio—y durante más de 40 años hasta hoy, ese ha sido el propósito y la meta de Alcance en la playa.

“Es una oportunidad maravillosa poder compartir con las personas", dice Elija McClain, un estudiante de cuarto año en la Universidad de Texas en Tyler. "Amo a Dios y uno de mis deseos más fervientes es que las personas conozcan a Cristo".


Antes de llegar a la isla, los equipos de Alcance en la playa pasan por cinco semanas de entrenamiento en evangelismo. Cada noche, antes de subirse a las camionetas, se reúnen en el Centro de Convenciones para adorar y escuchar un breve mensaje. Osteen les recuerda que las conversaciones pueden ser difíciles.

Otros estudiantes se reúnen en la iglesia que sirve como el centro principal para Alcance en la playa. En el segundo piso, una docena de estudiantes llevan audífonos para recibir llamadas y despachar las camionetas alrededor de la isla, usando computadoras para saber cuáles camionetas están disponibles.

Muchos otros oran.

“Alcance en la playa”, dice Osteen, “funciona con oración”.

Se refiere a dos semanas de oración continua en el santuario donde los estudiantes toman turnos para orar—pero también las oraciones de los Bautistas de Texas y otros durante Alcance en la playa.


Un poco después de las 2 a.m. es hora de cerrar en Louie's, en la calle nortesur principal de la isla. Estudiantes salen del bar en diversas condiciones y llenan las aceras y el estacionamiento al cruzar la calle. Algunos buscan transportación; las camionetas estacionadas esperan. Otros buscan "panqueques de media noche".

Está lloviznando pero a nadie parece molestarle. Mientras esperan hablan con los estudiantes de Alcance en la playa. Burkett, el director de el Ministerio de estudiantes bautistas en la


Universidad de Texas en San Antonio, coordina los viajes de las camionetas, y también comparte conversaciones largas y profundas.

“Parece un desorden", dice Burkett, "pero es un embudo. Canalizamos conversaciones acerca del evangelio".

Jake Stratton, un estudiante de segundo año de la Universidad Sam Houston, se encuentra con un estudiante llamando Andrés, esperando por los panqueques. Hablan durante 15 minutos antes de que los amigos de Andrés se lo lleven.

Unos minutos después, Andrés le envía un texto a Jake, pidiendo almorzar juntos. Otra conversación acerca del evangelio.

Temprano en la noche, Jake se encuentra con sus amigos camino a Louie's. Les dice que le recuerdan cómo era antes de encontrarse con Cristo, y esto lo motiva a compartir el evangelio con otros cada vez que puede.


Temprano el miércoles por la mañana, Lily Carnes, estudiante de tercer año en

la Universidad de Texas en San Antonio y miembro en First Baptist Church de Castroville, está en el santuario de la iglesia. Ella pasa tiempo orando por cada miembro del equipo de San Antonio. Cerca de las 2:30 a.m. ve un texto en la red de oración. La camioneta ha recogido a seis jóvenes.

Ella comienza a orar: "Dios, puedes llevarlos a salvación. Señor, que te acepten y deseen seguirte".

De los seis jóvenes, cuatro son adolescentes. Uno tiene 20 años. Uno tiene 11 años. En la camioneta bromean aparentemente sin interés en tener una conversación seria. Pero César Montoya, un estudiante de cuarto año en la Universidad Bautista de las Américas, les habla.

"Quiero compartir algo con ustedes", les dice en español. "Supongan que tienen un accidente ahora mismo y todos mueren. Existe el cielo y el infierno. ¿A cuál irán?"

La atmósfera se vuelve solemne.

“No sé", dice uno de los jóvenes. "Hemos hecho muchas cosas malas, pero sabemos acerca de Jesús".

Cuando comienzan a considerar las cosas buenas que han hecho, César comparte el evangelio y les explica de Efesios 2 que la salvación viene por gracia por medio de la fe, no por obras. Unos minutos más tarde, les dice: "Están en esta camioneta porque necesitaban escuchar esto. Quiero que conozcan a Jesús. ¿Desean aceptar a Jesús?"

Uno a uno, cada joven ora, profesando su confianza en Cristo.

“Fue lo que oré, palabra por palabra", dice Lily. "Es increíble. Lloré de la alegría. ¡Es maravilloso!"

Los jóvenes literalmente cambiaron de dirección. En vez de llegar al bar en la playa, su destino original, se bajaron en un restaurante McDonald. Antes de dejar la camioneta, hicieron planes para reunirse con César para hablar de nuevo, deseando saber más acerca de cómo él llegó a conocer a Cristo y cómo seguirle.

Historias de transformación similares suceden cada año durante Alcance en la playa. Las personas oran. Los estudiantes siembran semillas. El Espíritu Santo abre los corazones de los estudiantes.

“Dios obra de manera maravillosa para mostrarles que hay una mejor opción", dice Osteen.

Además, los resultados durante las semanas y los meses después de Alcance en la playa son sorprendentes cuando los voluntarios regresan a sus ciudades y sus recintos universitarios. El Ministerio de estudiantes bautistas informa con regularidad un aumento en el número de personas que vienen a Cristo debido a estudiantes que regresan a sus hogares con un mayor fervor por el evangelismo. Alcance en la playa con frecuencia se convierte en Alcance en el recinto.

“Estos estudiantes regresan a sus recintos sintiéndose, hablando, y viviendo de manera diferente", dice Nathan Mahand, director del Ministerio de estudiantes universitarios en la Universidad Cristiana de Houston. "Tienen peso por los perdidos".

“Alcance en la playa funciona con oración.”

Join us at the table

When we worship together, we witness on Earth a glimpse of the unity we will one day see in Heaven. Join us for this joint session of the Texas Baptists Annual Meeting and African American, Hispanic and Intercultural fellowship gatherings in one place, at one time, for His purpose.



Coach to pastors, Kārooso Richardson,Ministries TX


THONG LUN Senior pastor,Greater Houston Burmese Christian Fellowship Houston, TX



Senior pastor, Cornerstone Baptist Church Arlington, TX


Senior pastor, FBC Garland Garland, TX




To see a full list of mission opportunites and learn how you can take part in serving the community visit txb.org/am or contact Cesar Zamora.



(214) 828-5375



With our updated app, you'll have everything you need to make the most out of Family Gathering. Keep track of schedules, speakers, maps and more all on your phone! No more worrying about carrying around paper schedules or maps.



JULY 2023 / TEXAS BAPTISTS LIFE 25 3 p.m.–6:30 p.m. Registration Open 4 p.m.–6:30 p.m. Exhibits Open 4:30 p.m.–6:30 p.m. Dinners 6:30 p.m. Worship #1 8 p.m. Receptions 8:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Registration Open 8 a.m.–5:30 p.m. Exhibits Open 8:30 a.m.–9:30 a.m. Workshops #1 9:45 a.m.–10:45 a.m. BGCT Business Session #1 11 a.m.–12 p.m. Worship #2 12 p.m.–1 p.m. Lunches 1:30 p.m.–3:30 p.m. Convención Business Session 1:30 p.m.–2:30 p.m. Workshops #2 2:45 p.m.–3:45 p.m. Workshops #3 4 p.m.–5 p.m. Convención Workshops 5 p.m.–6:30 p.m. Dinners 7 p.m. Worship #3 9 p.m. Receptions 7 a.m.–8 a.m. Breakfasts 8 a.m.–12 p.m. Exhibits Open 8:30 a.m.–10:30 a.m. Registration Open 8:30 a.m.–9:30 a.m. Workshops #4 9:45 a.m.–10:45 a.m. BGCT Business Session #2 11 a.m.–12 p.m. Worship #4 12 p.m.–1:30 p.m. Lunches 1:30 p.m.–3:30 p.m. Convención Business Session
p.m.–5:30 p.m. Convención Fellowship Meetings
txb.org/am for more information.

Statewide Evangelism conference offers training for pastors, lay leaders

Saying the church’s “evangelism has fallen short of our calling,” Pastor Tony Evans urged attendees at the Texas Baptists Statewide Evangelism Conference to go and make disciples. The conference, which took place on Jan. 23, saw 1,128 pastors, lay leaders and other attendees registered for a time of equipping and training at First Baptist Church of San Antonio.

Likening the gathering to a huddle in a football game, Evans reminded congregants that the conference was not the main objective, but rather a time to come together and strategize. What was important was “what difference the huddle makes –having huddled, can you now score?” Evans said.

Evans’ exhortation, given during a sermon on the Great Commission in Matthew 28, capped the end of the conference. The event – with the theme “Can I Ask You a Question?” – was Texas Baptists’ first statewide evangelism conference following a hiatus of 15 years.

Large crowds filled the worship center for each of the seven sessions. Along with sermons and presentations, the conference included a Q&A panel with speakers, with the audience encouraged to ask their own questions.

“That’s what this conference is about,” Leighton Flowers, director of Evangelism for Texas Baptists, told attendees. “To equip you and train you, to give you tools so you can go back to your churches and to your homes and spread the gospel to your friends and neighbors.”

The 2024 Statewide Evangelism Conference will be held Jan. 21-22, 2024 at Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas.

Two thousand years after Jesus told us to make disciples of all nations, there are over 2,000 people groups who do not have the Bible in their heart language – and that’s just not right,” said Julio Guarneri, Texas Baptists president, during his address at the May 2023 Executive Board meeting May 22-23. “The global church needs to step up its game, and Texas Baptists need to take their place in this mission of God that is global and that is about His kingdom.”

The meeting was conducted virtually and broadcast from East Texas Baptist University in Marshall.

In addition to Guarneri’s address, the board also heard a financial report from CFO/Treasurer Ward Hayes and an update from the Executive Director Search Committee, stating that nominations for a new executive director closed on May 7 and the search committee has prayed for and about each person who was nominated.

Business was also approved during the meeting, including a recommendation to create an Executive Board Task Force to study and recommend guidance on matters of responding to sexual abuse issues within Texas Baptists churches.

The Executive Board also ratified a Memorandum of Understanding between Baylor and Texas Baptists regarding a land gift from Baylor adjacent to the campus for the construction of a BSM building and approved a recommendation from the Finance Committee to allocate $500,000 of available investment and undesignated endowment earnings to the construction of the new BSM building.

Texas Baptists Executive Board considers wide-ranging business ahead of Family Gathering

Dick Maples and Dorso Maciel honored at 2023 Texas Baptists Legacy Awards

Dick Maples, a longtime pastor and devoted Baptist denominational leader, and Dorso Maciel, a faithful pastor and community leader, were recipients of the 2023 Texas Baptists Legacy Award. The awards were presented during a worship service on June 4 at Independence Baptist Church.

“Texas Baptists breathe easier today because of these men,” said Alan Lefever, director of the Texas Baptist Historical Collection.

Maples and Maciel were chosen by a selection committee for their lifelong Christian service. Pavers commemorating Maples and Maciel were laid in the courtyard of Independence Baptist Church.


James Richard (Dick) Maples has served as pastor of four churches, including First Baptist churches of Texas City, El Paso and Bryan, and First Baptist of Waynesville, N.C. Additionally, he served in Texas Baptists staff roles including coordinator of minister/ church relations and associate executive director.

After retirement from the state convention, Maples served as special assistant to the president and adjunct professor at Dallas Baptist University. He was named pastor emeritus of First Baptist of El Paso.

Maples also served Texas Baptists as Texas Baptists president and first vice president, and as a member of the Executive Board, the Administrative Committee and the Christian Life Commission, as well as a trustee for several Baptist institutions.


Called to pastoral ministry as a teenager, Dorso Maciel was a student at Baylor University when he took his first pastorate May 30, 1959, at Primera Iglesia Bautista Marlin. Now in his sixth church, he is in his 31st year as pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista in Laredo.

Maciel has served on Texas Baptists Executive Board and in various capacities in the Baptist associational life (with the Blanco and Rio Grande Valley Baptist associations) and the South Texas Children’s Home. He has also served in various civic leadership roles including school boards and other civic boards. He has served with the Salvation Army, the Laredo HIV/AIDS Services Consortia and the Webb County Emergency Food and Shelter Board.

Todd Combee has joined the Center for Cultural Engagement as the new director of Chaplaincy Relations for Texas Baptists and Baptist Chaplaincy Relations.

"As we prayerfully considered who the next director of chaplaincy needed to be, it was clear the Holy Spirit was leading us to Todd Combee for this new chapter in the chaplaincy story, and I am thrilled for the days to come,” said Katie Fruge, director of the Center for Cultural Engagement.

Combee served for 34 years as a military chaplain in the Virginia Army National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserve. Combee

served for 18 years as pastor of Bethesda Baptist Church in Mechanicsville, Va., before retiring after 36 total years in local church ministry. Combee and his wife, Susan, have been married since 1982. They have two sons and three grandchildren.

“I am excited and humbled to be leading Baptist Chaplaincy Relations as the new director/endorser,” Combee said. My goal is really a team goal: To carry on the great work the Baptist Chaplaincy Relations has become known for and continue to build our program into the premier chaplain endorsing program in the country.”

Todd Combee named director of Chaplaincy Relations for Texas Baptists

@EHM_Apologetics Kicking off our [un]Apologetic Evangelism Conference this morning! Over 500 registered from around the state!

#apologetics #evangelism


@congreso There were many who made decisions this past weekend. Some were to accept Christ while others accepted the call to ministry. Let us continue to pray for those who took these huge steps!

#txcongreso #txcongreso23

#illuminate #txbch

3 baptisms and celebrated VBS.


@BOUNCE First day at the job sites went well! Great work out there BOUNCERS! Another great night of worship as we focused on God's promise to always be with us.

##txbounce2023 #txbme

Tag Texas Baptists on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and use #gc2 for a chance to be featured in our next magazine.


Day!! We are beyond excited to bring 4 New Pastors/ Churches into TXB_African American Ministries Texas Baptists Great days ahead for these phenomenal Leaders.

Go Now June 16, 2023

#gonowmissions #gonowsoletosoul #TXBSM

AAM Signing #InHimWeServe Oza Jones May 16, 2023 @gonowtexas PHOTO OF THE DAY: Tarleton BSM just returned from Tanzania where they helped lead student conferences. Eric Hernandez Feb 25, 2023 Congreso April 12, 2023
@joseaguilarjr. Felt good being at my home church today. They had #TXBMH #GC2 Jose Aguilar Jr. June 11, 2023
Bounce Student Disaster Recovery June 14, 2023

Where there's a will, there's a way

People may know that God has a will. Most also strive to live in God’s will every day; nothing is more important! So, if you are in “God’s will,” is God included in yours? The Texas Baptist Missions Foundation exists to connect God’s mission and your legacy.


For most Texas Baptists, the “gift of a lifetime” happens through a simple will. This is by far the most common and convenient way to include God’s mission in your legacy.

Why doesn’t that happen more often?

You may be surprised to learn that every year two out of three people die in the state of Texas with no will whatsoever. When you die without a valid will, the state of Texas has a “not-so-wonderful” plan for your estate – all at a very high cost, including:

• The cost of your choices – without a valid will, you’ll have no say in decisions regarding your family or possessions.

• The cost for your family – the level of stress and the degree of conflict increases radically when there is no will.

• The cost of time – settling an estate without a will typically takes additional months or even years.

• The cost in money is very real –the probate process without a will can cost as much as 10% of the value of the total estate.

Here’s a better surprise for you: The Texas Baptist Missions Foundation has made it possible for every Texas Baptist to create a legally valid will for free. Because of the generosity of TBMF donors, we have contracted with FreeWill to provide this opportunity.

Incidentally, “FreeWill” is not a theological position; it is the price point (free) for a vital legal document (will).


Go to freewill.com/missionsfoundation. Using your email address and a personal password you create, you will have an opportunity to connect God’s mission with your legacy by providing for your family, preserving and passing on the resources God has entrusted to you, and perpetuating God’s Kingdom through your church, the Missions Foundation or other Baptist causes.

In about 30 minutes of your time, you can complete the process. Then, download your will, print it and have it notarized in the presence of a couple of witnesses. It’s that simple and costs you nothing. Once you’ve downloaded the document, you will have access to a portal you can use to create the powers of attorney, advanced directive and guardianship documents

you may choose. You’ll also have an opportunity to mirror your will and your spouse’s. Your will can be edited at any time using your password, and you can download the revised will, print and sign it with a notary.

There is no obligation to include Texas Baptists or your church in your will, but if you have faithfully supported them as family in your lifetime, why wouldn’t you bless them the same way with your estate?

Should you feel you need something more sophisticated than a simple will because of your specific situation, the exercise of completing the FreeWill can not only save you considerable time and expense when you meet with your attorney, but will protect your family and estate until you are able to work with your attorney to replace the simple will.

Connect God’s mission and your legacy: Get started today at freewill.com/missionsfoundation or contact the Texas Baptist Missions Foundation office at missionsfoundation@txb.org

president of Texas Baptist Missions Foundation
"It's that simple and costs you nothing."

Advocacy Day promoted Texas Baptists’ public policy priorities for the 88th Legislative Session

The Texas Baptists Christian Life Commission (CLC) gave ministry leaders an opportunity to connect with policy experts and legislators to discuss issues relevant to faith-in-practice, from a political level during the 88th Texas Legislative Session, during Advocacy Day on April 20.

“I really hope the people who came today feel comfortable and familiar with the democratic process so they feel empowered to come back with or without me,” said John Litzler, public policy director for Texas Baptists. “That they know how to let their legislators know about the things they care about."

Faith motivates action in the life of believers and very often the ripple effect has the potential to change lives and reorder systems. Historically, that’s been the case as Texas Baptists, who are compelled by the gospel, go to the steps of the state legislature and advocate for the communities they love and care about.

Morgan Hammer, who is from First Baptist Church San Marcos, said the experience was new for her, and that time with policy experts was particularly helpful.

“I think it was great to hear, from a Christian standpoint, about the bills and how they are important to our mission to take care of one another,” she said. “Low income communities are constantly in debt because of how restricted (financial) opportunities are. Seeing the difference in the way other states handle APR limits, and Texas doesn’t – it shouldn't be that way.”

Morgan and Monica Followell, missions and outreach minister for First Baptist Church San Marcos were planning to meet with their representative about predatory lending policies that afternoon.

“I know there’s people here at the Capitol fighting for these things,” Followell said. “But these decisions have major


implications on our communities, ministries and the missions of our churches.”

Chris McLain, pastor at First Baptist Church Bandera, said he came to meet with Rep. Pete Flores (R-24) about the importance of adequate school funding and his concern for the temperature inside Texas prisons.

“When we talk about an issue like providing AC and heating in prisons – basic living conditions for anybody living anywhere. To me that’s a pro-life issue,” McLain said. “It’s more than about protecting the unborn, it's from conception to death. Scripture is very clear about having concern for those in prison and marginalized by society, and so this is a simple way we can care for people who are made in the image of God.”

That particular theology is a guiding factor for the CLC during this session as policy priorities centered around issues of religious liberty, pro-life legislation, predatory financial practices and public education funding.


“Under my direction at the Christian Life Commission, our north star is that every human being was made in the image of God. Without any caveats or challenges there,” said Katie Frugé, director of the CLC. “We bear God’s image to one another. So we have equal dignity, value and worth – starting in the book

of Genesis, all the way through. As we navigate what [policy] issues we want to weigh into, one of the lenses I’m looking through is what issues validate or affirm the dignity that our fellow humans have.”

Frugé gave testimony the night before at a hearing for a bill that would remove use of the r-word from Texas laws and replace it with the term intellectual disability.

“It’s become so outdated, and it really belittles the value, dignity and worth of individuals with intellectual disabilities,” she said. “People use it as a derogatory term. People use it to indicate, ‘I'm superior.’ So in my testimony last night, I wanted to give them a central figure. This is a 9-year-old little girl. I shared with them that my daughter is not stupid. She’s passing every class in her gen ed public school classroom. I couldn’t be more proud of her.

“So I asked the senators to validate the dignity of a 9-year-old little girl by taking out this outdated, antiquated word, and replace it with a more appropriate term.”

That theological basis, coupled with the distinctive history Texas Baptists have

with advocacy in the public space has seeded a diverse response in this year's legislative session.


For the 88th Legislative Session, the CLC had four approved public policy priorities focused on religious liberty, pro-life legislation, predatory financial practices and adequately funding public education. During Advocacy Day, those in attendance received updates on some of these issues and had the opportunity to discuss them with policy experts and legislators.


Chris Hughes, pastor of Influence Church in Garland, Texas, has been mentoring local students for a while now.

“It started when I read that prisons can make their predictions based on certain student performance information,” Hughes said. “We wanted to partner with public schools because I think we had some things in common. If we could change kids’ outlook, their grades would follow.”

Texas Baptists has a history of mobilizing public action from a place of theological conviction.

“This session in particular was about clinging back to our roots. We’re Texas Baptists and we’re proud of that,” Frugé said. “We are who we’ve always been, and I think that’s a moral testimony to the character of Texas Baptists – we’re not going to get caught up in partisanship, we are going to be more about the Kingdom agenda and try to be faithful to that.”

"Our north star is that every human being was made in the image of God."

PAVE African American Ministries launches new cohorts of pastors to learn revitalization and church health techniques

Earlier this year, PAVE African American Ministries launched, with three new cohorts of pastors coming together to chart paths for revitalizing their churches. This is the first season of PAVE to focus specifically on revitalization in African American churches.

PAVE is a Texas Baptists Church Revitalization Strategy course designed to help pastors customize revitalization to their context. Pastors are placed in cohorts to be trained by a coach, equipped with resources and encouraged within a community of pastors.

“PAVE is all about discipling pastors in church health and church growth in a relationally rich environment,” said Jonathan Smith, director of Church Health Strategy.

Pastors meet once a month as a group, walking through the PAVE steps and discussing techniques for church revitalization. In addition, each pastor meets one-on-one with their coach to apply the course to their specific context.

“This is really the power of PAVE … these rich relationships that form where they start talking a common language around revitalization. That’s what’s making the difference,” Smith said.

Smith partnered closely with Oza Jones, director of Texas Baptists African American Ministries, to adapt the PAVE principles to fit the unique needs of the African American church.

“It’s been an awesome experience,” said one PAVE participant, Ronald Session, pastor of The Shiloh Church in Garland. “I have learned a tremendous amount of information that is relevant to our current situation, and it’s very easily adaptable to our context.”

This season of PAVE cohorts only recently began meeting, but these small groups of pastors will continue studying and growing together over the course of nearly two years.

“Those initial two days of learning, sharing, being vulnerable with each other and talking about where we need help were great,” said PAVE coach Deshun Avery, pastor of First Progressive Baptist Church in Lubbock. “We’re all transparent with each other … and that’s the place where our team started to come together. I’m excited about the connection of brothers that's in our cohort.”

Five seasons of PAVE cohorts have launched so far, drawing over 104

attendees. Smith shared the goal is to have more than 1,000 pastors trained in these PAVE principles by 2030. In November 2023, a PAVE cohort specifically geared for millennial and Gen Z pastors will launch and will work closely with Texas Baptists Pastors Common. Additionally, Smith is currently working with leaders from Texas Baptists en Español and Texas Baptists Intercultural Ministries to launch cohorts for Hispanic and Asian pastors seeking revitalization training.

The next season of PAVE African American Ministries is scheduled to launch this fall.

“Just this month, Texas Baptists counted 1,007 African American churches of our over 5,300 churches total," said Smith. "That’s a big piece, so it’s very important that we’re reaching this group with revitalization training to help their churches remain strong.”

To learn more about PAVE and Texas Baptists Church Health Strategy, visit txb.org/healthychurch.


Student Ministry at its best: My visit to the Baptist Student Ministry at UTRGV

Ivisited the Baptist Student Ministry at the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) in Edinburgh, Texas, hosted by Rev. Robert Rueda, Director, affiliated with Texas Baptists. Robert and I share friendship and fellowship from our days at Baptist University of the Americas. Robert invited me to speak at the Visionary Conference, designed to engage college students for leadership opportunities on campus and arranged for me to lecture at a Principles of Management Class with Dr. Azucena Herrera, at UTRGV.

What a delight it was to share leadership principles with these students. I had opportunities to present conferences to groups of students, including D1 track

athletes, freshmen and various groups of student leaders, reaching about 300 students over two days. This is what I expected to happen during my visit.

What I did not expect was to experience Robert’s passion and vision for his ministry at UTRGV, his innovative approach, his focus on leadership development, and his creativity to resolve issues facing students at this campus of 33,000 students.

In his ministry among UTRGV students, Robert learned about 48% of students are food-insecure, meaning they may not know if they will have three meals in a day. To address this issue, Robert created the BSM Global Café, featuring tasty food like sandwiches, soups, salads and a coffee bar.

The BSM Global Café is the first paywhat-you-can café on the UTRGV campus. The average amount paid for a meal is between $3 to $5. The café provides healthy food options and some of the best coffee I have ever tasted. Most of the café staff are student volunteers – baristas using their gifts and abilities to serve other students. Generous donations cover the fixed costs and expenses of the café, plus a good dose of faith.

Robert leads a team of 12 who raise their own support and has a vision to create student leadership to reach more than the 160 students currently engaged in the BSM UTRGV programs. Robert is a visionary leader in his own right. He is smart, creative, hard-working and shepherds an incredible team of leaders on this dynamic campus. Robert invited me to speak on leadership, and I gladly accepted.

I was also there to plant seeds in the hearts of student servant leaders who will graduate and become leaders in their chosen field, as well as potential volunteers, staff and donors. I was so impressed with the BSM students at UTRGV. The students expressed an interest in volunteering at the Buckner Family Hope Center in Peñitas, and I was not surprised. These are the kind of leaders Robert is encouraging – servant leaders, ready to serve.

To learn more about the work Texas Baptist Ministries is doing on college campuses throughout Texas, visit txbsm.org.


Thankfully, there was not a precipitating incident. But when Jase Waller learned training from MinistrySafe was offered by Texas Baptists, he jumped at the opportunity.

Telephone Baptist, which Waller pastors, serves as a community hub in rural Fannin County in North Texas. It is both a vibrant gathering place and a place of refuge for students who are part of the Sam Rayburn Independent School District. As many as 80 children from first grade through high school attend activities every Wednesday night.

“I believe at times the church is probably one of the safer places for the kids,” Waller said – but because he wants to make sure of that, he instituted mandatory background checks of all student workers. Each worker also goes through regular MinistrySafe training.

“Whenever we first started it, there was a little hesitancy, but we have folks from (ages) 20 to 80 who have participated,” Waller said. “It’s been interesting to see the different reactions. In the end, they understand the importance for it.”

Texas Baptists have partnered with MinistrySafe for several years to provide free and discounted resources to churches that include awareness and education on the topic of sexual abuse prevention. According to Katie Swafford, director of counseling services for Texas Baptists, the effort grew out of conversations in 2015, with a resolve to be proactive in helping churches prevent sexual abuse.

“Providing education and awareness is so much better than having someone contact us after the fact,” Swafford said. “So we focused our efforts on trying to

make sure they had as much information as possible.”

That effort includes monthly online webinars on such topics as sexual abuse awareness training, skillful screening, monitoring and oversight, policies and procedures, background checks, sexual harassment training for ministry supervisors and more. Texas Baptists and MinistrySafe also collaborate to offer a free 90-minute online training and certification quiz to help equip staff members and volunteers to better understand the risk of child sexual abuse. There’s also a discount for Texas Baptists affiliated churches for the first year of MinistrySafe membership.

Greg Love, co-founder of Fort Worthbased MinistrySafe, likens the training to “reverse engineering.” His firm hears regularly from and works with churches and other organizations in crisis. The goal is prevention.

“This problem is solved at the church level,” Love said. “Not in Dallas. It’s not solved in Nashville, either. It’s solved at the church level. So the BGCT, like us, is asking the question: ‘How do we move the needle?’ And what we believe shapes what we do. So we provide training.”

Risk: Changes in the Landscape

Sexual Abuse
Importance of RecordKeeping: Best Practices and Pitfalls to Avoid Upcoming webinar topics include: Sept. 7 Oct. 17 Nov. 16
Reporting Abuse

On a recent spring morning, he and Swafford collaborated in a live webinar. As ministry leaders from across the state tuned in, Love provided Sexual Abuse Awareness Training, the first of MinistrySafe’s five-part safety system. The training allows individuals certification per Texas Camping guidelines.

Swafford said her hope is “to prevent this very tragic situation from happening to one other person.”

“We can’t force churches to do that. But we can certainly provide the education and information so that they can take that and do something with it,” Swafford said. “And if that ultimately will save a child from having this terrible experience, that’s really the goal.”

As the webinar concluded, Swafford informed participants of the network of trauma-informed counselors across Texas affiliated with Texas Baptists and encouraged them to email her at katie.swafford@txb.org for help or with questions.

“As you have listened to this presentation and this conversation today, I hope that you have not had this experience,” she said. “But I know statistically that there are likely some, either watching or maybe in your circle, that have had this experience. So if I and we as Texas Baptists can help to serve you in that way, please contact me. I would be glad to help you, and/or anyone that you’re working with, to start on that first step on the path toward healing.”

Waller said for churches like Telephone Baptist, the resources are invaluable. Once the church began offering (and requiring) MinistrySafe training, he saw “eyes open.”

“You talk about it and you know there’s issues, but until someone said, ‘Check this out,’ … Honestly you hope you never see anything like it or you never have to fall back on that training, but if you’re not aware of something before it happens, then you’re just shooting yourself in the foot.

“If we don’t share the salvation story and then say, ‘I’m not aware of it,’ it’s not an excuse. I think this is kind of the same thing.”

Similarly, when Mike Bryant arrived to begin a new season of ministry as family pastor of First Baptist Dalhart, he knew he wanted to equip those involved in children’s and student ministries.

“We didn’t really have any kind of program or training,” Bryant said. “As is typical for a lot of churches that haven’t really thought through these things, it’s just a background check and good to go. But we felt like we need to do something (more) in the world we live in. We can’t keep assuming. To my knowledge, we haven’t had any of those issues in the past. The flip side of that is, if my church has a predator, I don’t want that to go unnoticed. I want to know.”

It’s why on a Sunday night last fall, First Dalhart’s leaders and volunteers went through MinistrySafe’s Sexual Abuse Awareness Training, designed to help understand and reduce the risk of child sexual abuse.

“We want to keep an eye out all the time,” Bryant said. “There’s story after story after story.”

Bryant said the partnership between Texas Baptists and MinistrySafe has made it possible for First Dalhart to participate.

“It is absolutely incredible,” he said. “I think for a lot of churches now, the cost factor could prohibit the church from even considering it. But in the world we live in now, the ability to take advantage of (MinistrySafe training), it’s really helpful, especially for those smaller churches. For Texas Baptists to be offering that the way they are, I think is invaluable.”

Both Waller and Bryant encouraged churches to access the available resources. And while Love said he’s encouraged by participation from Texas Baptists churches, he knows there is much more work to be done.

FREE online offerings from Texas Baptists and MinistrySafe include:

Church Safety Workshop “Lite"

A two-hour presentation on the effective parts of a Safety System

Sexual Abuse Awareness Training

A 90-minute presentation is designed to equip leaders and workers to better understand the risk of child sexual abuse

Both trainings, links to register for webinars, and more can be accessed at txb.org/ministrysafe.

Those registered for live webinars will also be provided with access to a recording of the broadcasts.

“Some churches are way in the back side of the starting line, and they really need to lace up and get in this race,” Love said. “But I would encourage every Baptist church to do the next right thing. Take another step forward. Whether that’s additional training … or tightening up your policies and procedures or focusing on survivor wellness. Don’t ever stop addressing sexual abuse or think, ‘I’m done on that, now I can focus on something else.’

“This is a dynamic issue. And we’re supposed to be the balm. And we can’t be that unless we’re continuing to move forward. And I’m excited that Texas Baptists are just relentless about teeing up new opportunities to do the next right thing.”

To learn more about child sexual abuse prevention and to access resources and trainings, visit txb.org/ministrysafe.











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