News from the Baptist Press

Formed in 1946 by the Southern Baptist Convention, and supported with Cooperative Program funds, Baptist Press (BP) is a daily (M-F) international news wire service. Operating from a central bureau in Nashville, Tenn., BP works with four partnering bureaus (Richmond, Va.; Atlanta, Ga.; Nashville, Tenn.; and Washington, D.C.), as well as with a large network of contributing writers, photographers and editorial providers, to produce BP News.

Click on the title to view the full article at the Baptist Press website.


Friday, September 23, 2022 - 4:28pm

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary announced Friday (Sept. 23) that president Adam W. Greenway has resigned from his post effective immediately. The announcement follows an all-day meeting of the executive committee of the seminary’s board of trustees and the seminary administration on Thursday (Sept. 22).

“In receiving President Greenway’s resignation, we express our deepest appreciation for his more than three and one-half years of service to his alma mater,” said Danny Roberts, chairman of the board of trustees and executive pastor at North Richland Hills Baptist Church. “He came to Southwestern Seminary during a difficult time of transition and has worked tirelessly to lead the institution to serve well the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. Among his other accomplishments, President Greenway has assembled an impressive faculty of scholar-ministers who are daily impacting the lives of their students. He also provided steady leadership during the COVID pandemic, which dramatically altered the delivery of theological education.”

Greenway was elected president of the institution in February 2019 and succeeded Paige Patterson, who was removed from the post in May 2018. Prior to coming to Southwestern, Greenway served as dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

O.S. Hawkins

Roberts also announced former GuideStone Financial Resources president O.S. Hawkins will serve as acting president of the seminary. Hawkins, a two-time SWBTS graduate, recently retired from GuideStone after 25 years at the helm of the institution.

In the announcement, SWBTS stated Greenway had accepted a position with the International Mission Board. No specifics were given about the position.

“We will continue to serve Southern Baptists as we have throughout the course of our lives and ministry,” said Greenway. “We believe our next assignment is not a departure from but a continuation along the journey God has always had us walk. We are thrilled that we are going to help prepare Southern Baptist missionaries for their work of addressing the world’s greatest problem—spiritual lostness—with God’s solution, which is the gospel of Christ. As we look forward to beginning a new chapter with Southern Baptists’ favorite entity, the International Mission Board, we ask for your prayers for us in this season of transition, and we pledge our continued prayers and support for our beloved ‘crown jewel.'”

The SWBTS release also stated that the Board of Trustees is expected to name a Presidential Search Committee during its next meeting, Oct. 17-18, in Fort Worth.

Friday, September 23, 2022 - 2:38pm

Longtime Missouri Baptist paper editor Don Hinkle dies

JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri (BP) — The longtime editor of the Missouri Baptist Convention paper The Pathway has died. Don Hinkle founded the paper and led it for more than 20 years. Hinkle announced Sept. 13 that he was planning to step down on Jan. 1, 2023.

In a tweet on Friday morning (Sept. 23), Ben Hawkins, associate editor of The Pathway, wrote, “During his two decades of service at The Pathway, Don deeply loved serving the Lord and serving Missouri Baptists through Christian journalism and through his public policy work with the Missouri Baptist Convention.”

The story on The Pathway on Sept. 13 praised Hinkle, “An Air Force veteran, Hinkle has been a reporter for The Daily Press in Newport News, Va., The Tennessean in Nashville, The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., and was editor of The Daily Herald in Columbia, Tenn. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Christopher Newport University, Newport News, Va., and master’s degrees in Christian education and theology from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute and is a fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.”

Funeral arrangements are incomplete at the time of publication.

HBU changes name to Houston Christian University

By HCU Communications Staff

HOUSTON (BP) – Houston Baptist University has changed its name to Houston Christian University, President Robert B. Sloan announced during a Sept. 20 open forum with faculty, staff, past and present trustees and students.

“Houston Christian University more accurately epitomizes our student body and reflects the faculty, staff, alumni and community we serve,” Sloan said.

“We are committed to being a distinctively Christian university that welcomes all Christians to benefit from our excellent academic programs. This historic university appeals to people all across the spectrum of Christian denominational life, and this new name clarifies who we are.”

The renaming is part of a growth campaign to expand the university’s residential campus to 4,200 students and online campus to 5,800 students.

“We want to extend the influence of our mission while also appealing to as many students as possible,” Sloan said.

The university has considered a name change several times over the last 16 years, Sloan noted. A task force of trustees arrived at this new name after two years of consideration, research and prayerful review, he noted. On May 17, the board of trustees officially approved the change.

The university is partnering with Carnegie, a leading higher education marketing and enrollment strategy firm “to take our brand of traditional Christian higher education to the next generation of students,” Sloan said.

During the forum event, Sloan also affirmed the university’s core convictions, saying its historic Christian commitments have not and will not change.

“We believe that authentic and faithful Christian higher education, rooted in a scriptural worldview, is ever more critical in a fractured society in need of reconciliation, hope, and healing,” he said.

“By changing to Houston Christian University, we are striving to be even clearer about our convictions. We are committed to Jesus Christ. We are committed to the Scriptures. We are committed to the Gospel and its power to draw all people to Christ. And we are committed to being ‘salt and light’ in the world.”

Houston Christian University’s mission statement is “to provide a learning experience that instills in students a passion for academic, spiritual and professional excellence as a result of our central confession, ‘Jesus Christ is Lord.’”

The recent name change marks the second time university leaders have changed the institution’s name. Originally launched in 1960 as Houston Baptist College by Stewart Morris Sr., the university was renamed Houston Baptist University in 1973.

Morris, one of the university’s “founding fathers,” voiced enthusiastic approval of the name change.

“I believe the name Houston Christian University is perfect. I am especially proud that the word ‘Christian’ will be in the name, since it truly represents who we are, a university where everyone is welcome,” Morris said.

“I am excited about the progress and plans, and I believe the founding fathers would have all approved as well. I applaud Dr. Sloan and the trustees. God bless HCU!”

Read the full story here.

Seminaries are textual communities, Vanhoozer says in annual Norton Lectures

By Travis Hearne/SBTS

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) – A seminary should foster a culture of theological reading that will help form Bible-literate disciples, theologian Kevin Vanhoozer told the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary community at the annual Norton Lecture Series, held September 12-14 in Heritage Hall.

Vanhoozer is Research Professor of Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and is the author or editor of more than 20 books, including Is There a Meaning in this Text?; The Drama of Doctrine; Faith Speaking Understanding: Performing the Drama of Doctrine; and Biblical Authority after Babel: Retrieving the Solas in the Spirit of Mere Protestant Christianity

He delivered three lectures on “Mere Hermeneutics: A Proposal for Transfiguring Biblical Interpretation.”

Battles over what it means to be biblical have raged throughout church history. But Vanhoozer’s proposal of “Mere Hermeneutics” attempts to unite Christians over a shared understanding of biblical interpretation. The interpretive key, according to Vanhoozer, views the redemptive storyline of Scripture as the primary frame of reference for interpreting the Bible.

“We as Bible readers not only need to test the spirits but we must test the hermeneutics,” Vanhoozer said. “The Bible is a human instrument in what is ultimately divine discourse, and we should approach it that way. The Bible is God’s personal address to His chosen people and contains everything we need to know as God’s people to become a holy nation.”

Mere Christian Hermeneutics, therefore, focuses on the response of the reader as well as the meaning of the text. Readers should become like Christ and expect to encounter him through a right interpretation of Scripture, he said.

“Seminaries should cultivate biblical literacy – teaching what every Christian needs to know to read the bible rightly,” he said. “A seminary is a reading culture to create disciples who are literate citizens of the Gospel. Disciples who know how to follow Jesus and represent Him on earth as He is in heaven.”

To read the Bible rightly requires a theological reading of Scripture that presupposes a Christ-centered frame of reference. As divine speech, believers should read the Bible as authoritative, as communicating the light and knowledge of God.

“Biblical interpretation is an uphill climb,” Vanhoozer said. The mountaintop is the place where one is most likely to hear the voice of God. We read Scripture to hear, know, and meet God. We must get the text right and then read God’s word in a way that we can stand in the light and become children of light.”

Vanhoozer pointed out two dangers common with theological readings of Scripture: limiting the divine or theological layer to the text or drifting into allegory by straying from the literal meaning of the words.

Read the full story here.

Friday, September 23, 2022 - 2:17pm

(RNS) — The Department of Homeland Security has announced the appointment of a new, 25-member faith-based advisory council to assist Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in finding ways to protect houses of worship.

The council consists of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh clergy plus some law enforcement and nonprofit faith group leaders.

The safety of religious congregations has been a growing concern for a decade — since the shooting at the Oak Creek, Wis., Sikh temple in 2012. It was followed by the massacre at Emanuel AME in Charleston, S.C., a mostly Black congregation, in 2015; the killing of nearly two dozen worshipers at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas; the killing of 11 Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018.

And those are only the most notable mass killings. Other acts of violence, include the 2017 and 2019 firebombings of mosques in Victoria, Texas, and Escondido, Calif.

The council is expected to help the department evaluate the effectiveness of existing security-related programs and improve coordination and sharing of threat and security-related information.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, an agency of the Department of Homeland Security, has a Nonprofit Security Grant Program that provides federal funds for nonprofits and houses of worship to beef up security on their premises.

Funding for the program was increased to $250 million in 2022, up from $180 million in 2021. But not all houses of worship that apply get the grant. This year, just over half of the 3,470 applications received were approved, the Jewish Insider reported. Several religious groups are advocating for $360 million in funding in 2023.

The advisory council’s mission will be broader than advocating for more money through the grant program, said Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, who was appointed to the council.

Sunday night marks the start of the Jewish High Holy Days, beginning with Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. The holidays draw the highest attendance at synagogues across the country. While services in the last two years saw lower attendance because of the coronavirus pandemic, Jewish leaders are expecting a return to record attendance this year. With that comes a degree of anxiety about security.

“There’s a sense of both joy and return and renewal and fear,” Pesner said.

Earlier this year a gunman entered a Colleyville, Texas, synagogue and took several congregants hostage as he demanded the release of a person in prison. The congregants and their rabbi managed to escape and the gunman was killed by an FBI hostage rescue team.

Mosques and predominantly African American churches face their own threats.

This is not the first council to address the issues. Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said he served under a previous Homeland Security advisory council during the Trump administration. He was also appointed to the new council.

“Part of the experience is understanding what other communities are going through,” said Al-Mayarati. 

For example, not everyone will be served well by a large law enforcement presence, Pesner said. 

“There’s a real danger of overpolicing and of policing in such a way that does harm to communities of color that have historically been on the wrong end of overpolicing,” Pesner said. “We have to be thoughtful and sensitive to all those who are suffering from violence and make sure policing and security are appropriate to the threat.”

The advisory council’s first meeting will take place online Oct. 6.

From Religion News Service. May not be republished.

Friday, September 23, 2022 - 2:16pm

NORTH CLARENDON, Vt. — Six ironman triathlons, six consecutive days in six New England states sounds impossible, but church leader Jason Hodges has been anticipating and planning for this challenge the last two years.

The goal: to glorify God by encouraging pastors and church planters by emphasizing longevity in their ministries.

Hodges serves as a church planting leader in New England for Send Network, the church planting arm of the North American Mission Board (NAMB). He has supported Southern Baptist church-planting efforts in the region for the last several years. His focus during this challenge is to support pastors and leaders in each state where he will be completing a triathlon.

Jason Hodges, Send Network’s church planting leader in New England, rides in St. George, Utah as part of the Ironman World Championship held in 2022. Hodges got hooked on endurance events and now seeks to use his hobby to motivate pastors and other leaders. Photo by David Newkirk

“About 10 years ago, I said I wanted to run a marathon in every decade that the Lord gives me,” Hodges said. “It’s always bothered me that I never got to meet either of my grandfathers. Even to this day, it’s a hole in my heart.”

Both of Hodges’ grandfathers died at relatively young ages before Hodges ever had the chance to meet them, and he developed a resolve to do everything in his power to live longer and be part of the lives of his grandchildren.

“I might die tomorrow, but I’m going to die healthy, strong and giving God my all,” Hodges said.

When he started running marathons, Hodges became hooked and decided to take his training to the next level by competing in an Ironman triathlon, but he wanted to find a way to connect his new hobby with his lifelong passion of serving pastors and leaders.

Over the years, that developed into highlighting the importance of health and discipline in achieving longevity in ministry. It requires mental, spiritual and emotional health, not just physical. So, Hodges began setting out reach the goal of running six triathlons in six days to encourage ministers to persevere.

“It’s called the One More challenge: one more opportunity, one more day, one more moment,” Hodges said. “Since today is all I’ve got, I’m giving God my all. What does it look like to live each moment like that?”

That message meets pastors in a particularly dire season following the turmoil and continued fallout of 2020. Barna released a study in 2021 that indicated a significant percentage of pastors were nearing burnout with 38 percent sharing that they considered leaving pastoral ministry in the last year.

Jason Hodges, Send Network’s church planting leader in New England, with his wife, Rachel, and his two sons, Josiah (left) and Levi (right). Jason Hodges photo

Based on their surveying and analysis, Barna discovered that only one in three pastors can be considered healthy in terms of their overall well-being. The “October 2021 data show that many pastors are not faring welling in multiple categories of well-being, including spiritual, physical, emotional, vocational and financial,” the study said.

Hodges launched his challenge to remind ministry leaders that the goal of perseverance is achieved by focusing on taking one more step. Along with his plan of swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles and running 26.2 miles to complete a triathlon each day, he will also be sharing a message that he hopes will motivate leaders.

A friend will be following along, creating a short documentary that will highlight six themes for enduring through difficult seasons and challenges, and he will not be traveling alone.

“The running and the biking and the swimming are a simple illustration of how hard life is,” Hodges said, “and I want to use that opportunity to, moment by moment, give God glory and tell my story.”

The states Hodges will be visiting comprise New England – Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Maine – the region Hodges serves as a Send Network church planting leader. Several pastors and church planters will come alongside him at different points along the way to swim, ride or run with him.

The One More challenge begins Monday, Sept. 26, at Radiant Christian Church in Warren, R.I. Hodges and the team supporting him have put together a detailed plan.

Leading up to the race, Hodges trained with renowned endurance athlete James Lawrence. Known as The Iron Cowboy, Lawrence completed 50 Ironman races in 50 days across 50 states. He has been coaching Hodges in what it takes both mentally and physically to tackle such a feat.

An accomplished nutritionist has also been working with Hodges to provide him with a strategy to remain properly nourished and hydrated during his six-day trek.

“This isn’t a game,” Hodges said. “I’ve taken this process very seriously because there’s risk involved in taking on a challenge like this. If you do it right, it’s not dangerous. If you don’t do it right, there’s no way you can finish these triathlons.”

Those interested can follow along with Jason’s journey on Facebook and Instagram.

Friday, September 23, 2022 - 2:15pm

America’s education system has been at the center of public debate for decades, if not centuries, but the nation’s current cultural and political climate has brought pressures unlike the past for many of our country’s public school teachers. From national teacher shortages to contentious school board meetings to the learning loss created by COVID-19, the challenges facing America’s teachers are immense. As a parent of three children in public schools and a friend of many public school teachers, I have witnessed these things firsthand and prayed along with friends for the realities they face.

Though numbers are hard to measure, many faithful Christians teach and lead within the public school system. While expressions of their faith are limited, the Supreme Court recently confirmed once again the religious liberty rights of teachers and school officials. As the school year is now underway, it is important to hear from Christian teachers in our public schools about their different experiences and how and why they engage in their communities through teaching. 

We have chosen to keep them anonymous. The following are answers from “Beth,” a kindergarten teacher in her 8th year; “John,” a middle school teacher in his 20th year; and “Jason,” a high school teacher in his 15th year. Their answers have been edited for clarity and brevity. We understand experiences vary across the nation and various districts, but hope that their stories will encourage you to consider how you might support individuals like them, as well as the students they serve, in your community. 

Jill Waggoner: Why do you teach in the public school system? Why do you think it is important for believers to be in these environments?

Beth: I teach public school because they need me here. As a believer, although I can’t explicitly share about Jesus or God’s Word with my kids, I share the Spirit with them because He is with me in our classroom. I try to view them as our Father does and love them in spite of their home lives, income, personalities, beliefs, etc. 

John: It is my belief that the public school system is one of the biggest mission fields in the United States. I teach in order to impact students in a positive light to follow their dreams. The opportunity to inspire, motivate and challenge young people is a privilege and honor. The value of believers being in these environments is evident on a daily basis. Students learn so much by simply observing their surroundings and the actions of other people. Being able to witness positive examples of respect and honor displayed to people from all walks of life is a tremendous testimony.

Jason: I grew up in the public school system, so it is all I know. I had a great experience growing up in it. I never thought about not teaching in the public system. I think it is good to have stable people who will hold you accountable. In a world where it is easy to pass blame, students need to learn to take ownership of their learning and the choices they make. I also think it is important that Christians show that there’s hope in the world. 

JW: What cultural pressures have you seen creep into the classroom since you began teaching?

Beth: I have encountered lots of different lifestyles including same-sex marriages, home cultures where drug use is considered normal, abuse situations, parents in prison/jail, and the use of language that is deemed appropriate in front of and out of the mouths of children. Recently, I have encountered my first experience with gender identity issues, as well. 

John: Pressures from the culture we live in have filtered in at an increasing rate over the years in education. Change is clearly inevitable in students and education. And with the dependence on technology becoming more mainstream, the pressures have increased in frequency the past few years. Students have constant access to opinions and beliefs from a variety of sources. This rarely allows them to experience a break from the pressures that accompany growing up. 

Jason: I think apathy is more widespread than what I remember as a teenager. There’s definitely more of a LGQT movement amongst teenagers. Kids talk like they have everything figured out and regurgitate what they have seen and heard on social media. Kids have more excuses made for them. Honestly, I think we have made education easier for them now, yet the students do not feel that way.

JW: How do you hope to influence your students?

Beth: More than anything, I want them to know that they are valued. They are more than the world, or maybe even their caretakers, tell them that they are. They are loved, not because of what they can offer, but loved simply because they were created by the Lover of the World, in his image. I want them to remember that at least one person thinks they are smart and capable, even when things are hard. We have certain phrases we are not allowed to say in our classroom. We don’t say: “I can’t do this,” or, “This is too hard.” We are allowed to say, “This is hard,” and, “I need help.” I’m hopeful that these principles will carry them on throughout their lives when things inevitably get hard and they need to persevere. And hopefully they will turn to their Creator for guidance. 

John: It is my hope that the students experience an inspirational leader that encourages them to influence others also. The ability to teach and then see others pay it forward is an amazing gift. The legacy left by teachers is immeasurable and has the power to affect others for many years to come.

Jason: I am a math teacher. I hope that I can show them that they can face adversity because they will face a lot of it in Algebra 2. Adversity is not necessarily a bad thing if you allow yourself to grow from it. I do not expect everyone to like me, but I do hope they feel I tried my best to educate them and help them learn to think for themselves. I want them to be overcomers and problem solvers, and stop thinking everything has to be catered for you. 

JW: What do you think are the challenges for Christians who work in the public school system?

Beth: We are definitely in the minority. We see more than data and numbers; we see souls. We don’t see an individual; we see families. We see what purposes God may have in store and simultaneously see the evil trying to interfere with those purposes. It is a battlefield in our classrooms every day. And on top of all of that, there’s a curriculum of course! 

John: A specific challenge seen is maintaining a consistent focus. In public education there are many distractions and demands that can easily move the spotlight from the main purpose of teaching children. The ability to keep the main goal as the emphasis is a gift that the best educators truly have to work at constantly. 

Jason: Again, my job is to teach math. I do not dive into social conflicts or those type of matters in my classroom. If a student asks a question about a social issue in class in a whole group setting, I deflect. If a student wants to speak one on one, I will entertain that some, but my job is to teach. I do pray with my teams that I coach. It is easy for one’s words to be used out of context, so I never want to be the topic of a social media post. There’s always this fear that I could shed a negative light on my wonderful Savior. I think one thing that has changed in my new district where I have been for over two years is that I now have more co-workers that are not Christian or “religious.” I think that has shaken me more.

One memory I have where I did feel that my beliefs were being challenged was when there was an email sent to the whole school asking if we wanted “Safe Space” stickers with the pride flag on it. I felt it would single out the teachers that did not want to condone homosexuality, but still wanted to be a trustworthy person for students who want to talk in times of difficulty. It has not been an issue that my door does not have the safe space sticker on it, and I did have to have some conversations with people around my school about it. 

JW: How regularly do you interact with students who are struggling with issues of sexuality and gender identity?

Beth: Gender identity has not been as prevalent for me (as a kindergarten teacher). However, I do have students who already show signs of sexuality issues, especially in terms of already being “over-sexualized.” 

John: Interactions relating to these issues in the public education system are quite often. The frequency of these struggles that students experience often fluctuates, but I have seen an increase over the past few years.

Jason: My first two years in this new district, I have averaged about a student per class that was transgender. I try to use wisdom in how I handle each of these situations. 

JW: How can Christians pray for public school teachers? How can we be involved in our communities’ schools?

Beth: Pray for our minds and hearts to stay focused on the “big picture.” Pray that the Holy Spirit stays ever near us throughout our days. There is a lot thrown at us from all directions, and it’s easy to get “jaded” and to see these children as products of their parents and environments, rather than those made in God’s image. You can become involved by volunteering time to work in the copy rooms and such, bring in goodies for teachers, and ask if your local school needs food for weekend bags that are sent home. 

John: Volunteering in a variety of ways is meaningful to both students and educators. Additionally, collaborating with leaders in the community to create volunteer ideas to support students is a growing need in education. Educators are grateful for the support from volunteers, and simple commitments can reap great rewards for the students.

Jason: Pray for strength. There is already pressure to try to hit education standards that districts and governments set. Now these social issues bring a whole wave of things. Sometimes you can feel like you are walking on eggshells. Pray that we continue to see these students, parents, and co-workers as God sees them and understand that we are placed in this space for a reason. Pray that we make the most of the opportunity to represent Jesus. 

Teachers love food. Churches can volunteer in and around the school as much is allowed. Be at events. Amazon gift cards, care packages, or something that a teacher can use to buy more school supplies help so much. Morale is often low, so personally, even a nice note can go a long way, especially if it is from a student. 

JW: Is there anything else you’d like to add or say to our readers?

Beth: Just continue to pray, pray, pray. We are on the front lines, quite literally, and it is hard and draining. But don’t just pray for us while we’re at school. I ask that you pray for all aspects of our lives because so many of us are leaving here and going home to our families, sometimes with what we feel is not much left to give. Pray for our days to be extended and that grace fill our homes. And thank you, God’s people, for your willingness to do so. We feel each and every prayer! 

Jason: I often tell people that one of the biggest differences that I notice from when I was in school, nearly 20 years ago, is perspective. The only world I knew was my high school and maybe the city that was nearby. Students today are exposed to a much bigger world now from the time they wake up till they go to bed. They are still teenagers—kids that are looking for something to cling to and for someone to pour into them. 

We, as Christians, still have the opportunity to be a light for these kids. We cannot expect them to just show up or to come to us like they did 20 years ago. You have to be intentional and sincere with them. I know there are extremes on social media that have people thinking schools are the worst place right now, but I do not see those extremes where I have worked (though there are some teachers that share their beliefs on social issues). I still see high school as an opportunity to have an influence on the future. It is a bit tougher than when I started, but it is awesome when you have a breakthrough. I am still seeing where positive influencers are making a difference in the classroom and sport fields.

Friday, September 23, 2022 - 2:11pm

Should parents be able to dictate what schools teach their children? Should schools be able to hide information about a student from their parents? What rights and responsibilities do parents have when it comes to engaging the public schools in their area? These are not new questions for Christian parents, but the frequency with which they are being asked seems to have grown significantly in recent years.

Three years ago, our family moved to a new ministry assignment in a familiar location. We moved to my wife’s hometown to work at our alma mater, but nearly 20 years had passed since either one of us had lived there. We weren’t the same people moving back either. When we left, we both had just earned college degrees and had not yet married. When we arrived back two decades later, we had married, lived in two other states, and had four children — all of whom were about to enroll in a different school for the first time. What lay before us was the monumental responsibility of choosing what the next stage of our children’s education would look like.

We are not alone in making these types of decisions. And our choice to enroll our children in the local public school system (a first for us) did not come without some fear in light of the unknown. For us the decision has been a good one. Our children have benefited from excellent academic and extracurricular opportunities. In addition, they have learned what it looks like to live out their faith in an environment that is not exclusively Christian. Even with these benefits, the most important part of our decision is that it came with intentional choices on our part to be involved parents.

So how should we exercise our rights as parents and engage our local school systems without burning bridges to these core institutions in our communities? Let me share a few lessons we have learned in the last three years as we have engaged a new school system.

Get to know your school’s leaders. When we moved back to my wife’s hometown, there was a sense that we would know everyone. In fact, our kids constantly rolled their eyes as we would walk into the grocery store or a local restaurant and run into people that we knew from college or that my wife knew growing up. But we also quickly realized that so much had changed. From the beginning, we made an effort to get to know leaders at every level of our schools. I had a phone call with the varsity girls’ soccer coach within days of moving here. We went to “meet the teacher” events. We eventually got to know the administrators at the various schools in town and even built relationships with some of the school board members. Today, if I had a concern with something at one of our schools, there is a teacher, a principal, a coach or a school board member that I can call because I have a relationship with them.

Ask questions. This can happen at any level of the school system. I’ve asked questions of teachers, coaches, office personnel, principals and school board members. Sometimes I get responses right away. Sometimes they say they need to get back with me. Because I have built relationships with them (see No. 1), I am confident they will reply with honest answers. These relationships mean that I have built a trust with them and they with me, so that these questions are received in good faith, not as hostile or accusatory, but aimed at what is best for my children.

Be constructive in your criticism. At the beginning of this semester one of our children brought home a form to be signed that listed potential books that would be read in class for the year. In reviewing the list with my wife, we came to the conclusion that a couple were not our preference, but one was certainly problematic. Rather than firing off a critical email to the teacher and talking about how this teacher could be corrupting the children in the classroom, my wife sent an email expressing our concern with the book in question and offering a few alternative options for our child that could stand in place of that particular book. The next day she received a kind response explaining that the teacher had decided not to assign that book to the class and that they would be reading something else that did not undermine our convictions. The teacher even thanked my wife for expressing her concern.

Stand up for your children. The previous three lessons all point to this one as the culmination. Building relationships, asking questions and constructive criticism all serve the purpose of standing up for your children. There is a time and place for various actions to meet this goal. This can mean making a public statement in a school board meeting. It could involve scheduling a meeting with a teacher. It could even reach the point of changing the educational option for your children. At the end of the day, these are your children whom God has entrusted into your care.

As we are experiencing with a senior in high school this year, we only have our children under our roof for a limited time before we launch them out as arrows into the world (Psalm 127:4). What they likely encounter in their schools and our neighborhoods and what they will face in the world requires that we diligently and prayerfully disciple and equip them with a biblical worldview to the best of our ability. We owe it to them and to our communities, and ultimately to the Lord, to engage the process of their education. And we can do so in such a way that prepares them for a life of worship — loving God and loving our neighbors — and demonstrates a healthy and biblical civic engagement at the same time.

Friday, September 23, 2022 - 2:10pm

Ten-year-old Mai was in the jungle near her home in Southeast Asia looking for food with her mother when a plastic bag dangling from a tree caught her eye. She quickly ran over and discovered printed Gospel material inside. Fascinated, she shared her findings with her father when she returned home. To her dismay, he told her to throw everything out.

In Mai’s country, most families follow Buddhism and worship their ancestors. There are very few Christians, especially in rural villages like Mai’s. Many are hostile to the Gospel or any faith teachings that contradict their cultural beliefs.

Mai wanted to respect her father’s wishes, so she got rid of all the material except one book. She put it under her pillow and read it over and over again in the years to come.

A couple of years later Mai’s neighbor started a church in their rural village. God was at work there – Mai not only had a neighbor who was a follower of Christ, she had a neighbor who wanted the message to spread. As a teenager, Mai started attending and learned more about the Bible. Eventually, after many years, Mai placed her trust in the Lord and became a believer. Her church helped her go to college and she became a teacher. The Good News of Christ and His faithful community forever transformed Mai’s life.

When Mai shared her testimony with Christian worker Ethan Chase, he realized that the Gospel tract she’d found so many years before had been left there by a prayer walking team he’d sent out. Because the rural villages are unreached with the Good News and are difficult to access, he often leads teams in broad seed-sowing evangelism activities, like leaving Gospel material anywhere it can be found – for example, dangling from a tree. It’s like scattering seeds in a field and trusting God to plant them.

“Other believers and I have done lots of prayer walking,” Chase said, “and really more than just walking. We’ve done prayer bicycling, kayaking and motorbiking. We must be creative to engage some of the more remote villages.”

God used that creativity to plant seeds that later bore fruit in Mai’s life. Not only is she now a believer, she also works with other Christians to help spread the Gospel.

Mai’s story is just one example Chase said he could tell about God at work in unexpected ways. After more than a decade serving overseas, he’s learned that patience and perseverance are essential. God knows and loves those like Mai in Southeast Asia’s unreached villages, and He is always moving to draw them to Himself.

“People come from these areas that we prayer walked to our city for work and are coming to faith as well,” Chase said. “They’re people that we would never be able to reach if they stayed in their village. But God has brought them to us.”

Pray for Mai and for the church in her part of Southeast Asia to be healthy and multiply. Pray for more workers to have longevity and persevere when the harvest might not seem plentiful, trusting the Lord will work in His time.

Friday, September 23, 2022 - 12:09pm

NASHVILLE (BP) – Financial leaders for the SBC Executive Committee (EC) are navigating seasons of uncertainty on the heels of the Guidepost investigation into the alleged mishandling of sexual abuse claims and the recent launch of an investigation by the Department of Justice.

“The Guidepost investigation is done. The investigation is paid for. That’s what the messengers asked for. Now, we’re moving to a new season,” said Archie Mason, chair of the EC’s Committee on Convention Finances and Stewardship Development.

In June 2021, messengers to the SBC Annual Meeting called for an independent third-party to be carried out by Guidepost Solutions. The result was a 288-page report leading to the formation of the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force by the messengers at the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting.

According to financial information emailed to Baptist Press on Sept. 7 by Twila Roberts, interim CFO for the EC, as of July 31 $3.8 million had been spent in the 2021-22 fiscal year on the investigation and related legal expenses.

An additional $176,865 was spent on the investigation and the work of the Sexual Abuse Task Force in the 2020-21 fiscal year.

At the Sept. 20 EC meeting in Nashville, Mason reported a $5.8 million net decline in total assets through June for the current fiscal year.

While Roberts says much of this the downfall is tied to the sexual abuse investigation and related legal expense, the remainder is connected to investment losses due to the decline of the stock market and increased costs related to the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting.

She says that the EC “is not in a critical situation” at this point as the entity has “enough capital for operating resources”. However, she is cautious because “we don’t know what the future holds.”

Roberts is currently under contract to serve as the interim CFO through the end of 2022.

Much of the caution is based on the recent announcement of an investigation of the SBC by the Department of Justice into allegations of the mishandling of sexual abuse claims.

“The DOJ investigation was a surprise,” Mason told Baptist Press. “I think Guidepost did an excellent job in that investigation … so I think it’s pretty well laid bare,” he said.

As fall begins, the EC is preparing for their annual audit, according to Mason.

He says “they go through all of the documents” to make sure “nothing falls between the cracks” when it comes to the EC’s financial accounting and integrity.

Interim president and CEO of the Executive Committee, Willie McLaurin, hopes the audit is especially helpful to Southern Baptists as the EC tries to regain trust.

“One of my responsibilities is to make sure that the fiscal, fiduciary and the executive responsibilities, which includes managing the finances, is done at the highest levels,” McLaurin told Baptist Press.

Since October 2021, the EC’s finance committee has been meeting monthly via Zoom to keep members informed and to prioritize transparency, according to McLaurin.

“The way we build trust is through one relationship at a time,” he said. “It doesn’t happen overnight.”

Mason says transparency is important to not only him and McLaurin, but to the entire EC.

“There are many of us that are here who went through the past couple years,” he said. He hopes keeping a closer watch on the finances builds credibility with Southern Baptists and helps them face the unknown.

Thursday, September 22, 2022 - 3:59pm

NASHVILLE (BP) – This weekly Bible study appears in Baptist Press in a partnership with Lifeway Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Through its Leadership and Adult Publishing team, Lifeway publishes Sunday School curricula and additional resources for all age groups.

This week’s Bible study is adapted from the MasterWork curriculum.

Bible Books: Numbers 13 – 1 Samuel 8*

Discussion Questions:

  • What is your biggest regret in life?
  • What have you learned from a life regret?
  • When have you seen God redeem a life regret?

Food for thought:

You have probably heard some variation of the saying, “You will regret more the things you didn’t do than the things you did do.” What does your testimony of this philosophy include? For the Israelites in Numbers 13, the thing they didn’t do was enter the promised land when God intended them to. Their regret was that they never received a second chance to go into the land God had promised Abraham and his descendants.

You remember the story. God had worked miracles to free His people from slavery in Egypt, led them across sea and barren land, and taken them to the edge of the promised land. Moses sent in 12 leaders, one from each tribe, to spy out the new land. All 12 agreed the land held tremendous abundance, but only two encouraged the people to trust God to deliver the land into their hands. The other 10 feared the inhabitants and discouraged their own people. As so often happens, despite the efforts of Joshua and Caleb (the two faithful spies), the naysayers prevailed.

It didn’t take long for the regret to set in. God announced His judgment on those who had rebelled. Upon hearing the consequences for their unfaithful decision, the people reconsidered, acknowledged their wrong and proceeded to enter the promised land. But it was too late. God’s hand no longer rested on them, and they were severely routed, heaping more regret upon their earlier regret.

Forty years later, only Joshua and Caleb and those under 20 years of age at the time of first opportunity once again stood poised to make their way into the promised land. This generation would have their own regrets, but they would not repeat their parents’ mistake of failing to enter the promised land.

What promise or rebellion do you stand on the cusp of today? Will tomorrow – or 20 years or 40 years from tomorrow – find you celebrating what you did or regretting that you didn’t do it? Which Israelite generation will you emulate?

*MasterWork is encompassing an overview of the Bible in seven sessions.


MasterWork is an ongoing Bible study curriculum based on works from a variety of renowned authors and offers pertinent, practical messages that adults will find uplifting and enriching. The list of authors and their books to be studied in upcoming months can be found at

Thursday, September 22, 2022 - 3:58pm

NASHVILLE (BP) – In his new role as President and CEO of GuideStone Financial Resources, Hance Dilbeck’s goal is to match the lessons he learned as a local church pastor with the values of the organization.

Dilbeck became president of the entity in March 2022 after the retirement of O.S. Hawkins, who led GuideStone for 25 years. Dilbeck is the guest of this week’s episode of “Baptist Press This Week.”

A graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dilbeck most recently served as executive director-treasurer of Oklahoma Baptists before joining GuideStone’s staff in 2021.

Yet in his new role as president and CEO, Dilbeck hopes to apply lessons he learned from the very beginning of his ministry as a local church pastor in Oklahoma.

“I think it’s very important that we have people who have developed a shepherd’s heart come into these administrative leadership roles,” Dilbeck said in a video interview with Baptist Press.

“There’s nothing that quite shapes a man like pastoring a church and shepherding the flock of God. I’m grateful that God used that role to shape my perspective and my approach to leadership.”

These lessons build on the organization’s legacy, he said.

“I’ve discovered that really my calling to GuideStone had to do with a burden that was the very same burden that the founder of GuideStone William Lunsford had,” Dilbeck said.

“He wanted to see pastors finish well and had a burden for pastors who were reaching retirement years without the financial means to retire and felt like Southern Baptists could do something about that. As the GuideStone opportunity presented itself, I realized that’s what God was calling and preparing me for.”

Even more than leading financial endeavors, the presidential role also comes with a platform to help pastors learn how to take care of themselves and finish well. 

“Along with that stewardship also comes a platform,” Dilbeck said. “This is an opportunity for me to speak to pastors and to churches about the importance of financial security and resiliency for ministry over the long haul.

“We want to help our pastors advocate for their own financial benefits, but we also want to advocate on their behalf toward our churches and come alongside our state convention partners in helping our churches understand how they need to be taking care of their pastors and their families financially.”

Dilbeck went on to explain a few things the average Southern Baptist may not understand about GuideStone. Three things in particular – GuideStone is financially independent from the Cooperative Program; It is the largest Christian mutual funds system in the world; and it has more than 400 well-trained employees.

Dilbeck also highlighted Mission:Dignity, a program that provides financial assistance to retired Southern Baptist ministers and their widows.

GuideStone will help more than 2,600 Southern Baptists through the program this year, and it is a crucial part of what the entity does, Dilbeck said.

“We were founded as the Relief and Annuity board of the Southern Baptist Convention, and so along with helping pastors and churches and institutions plan and prepare for the retirement of those who are serving them, we’re also here to get relief to those who find themselves in the retirement years without adequate financial resources,” he said.

“Not only does it help them bounce back from adversity, but it also reminds them that their service is significant and the people of God care about them. I think it’s something that not only honors those recipients, but I think it honors Christ when we take care of those people that way. That’s what Mission:Dignity is all about.”