By / Nov 7

Free, downloadable bulletin insert for use by your church on Orphans and Widows Sunday. 

In the days and months following the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs, pro-life
organizations redoubled their efforts to care for vulnerable mothers and infants.
One of the ways that churches can step into this new post-Roe landscape is by creating a culture of adoption in their churches. Below are some ways to help minister to families considering adoption or walking through the process.

Celebrate adoption

Never stop celebrating and championing orphan care. Adoption is not the only answer to fulfilling James 1:27, but for some children it is exactly right. In the church, we need to be intentional about celebrating adoption and championing adoptive families in healthy ways in order to send a clear message that adoption does not have to be perfect to be something that we affirm and praise the Lord for.

Allow for grief and sadness in adoption

Just because adoption is good doesn’t mean that it is always all good. Give people the grace to experience the full range of emotions around their adoption, including pain and difficulty. There is no one right way to feel or experience the layers of emotion around the broken relationships and sad stories that are part of adoption. Just sitting with our hurting friends in their grief can be more powerful than any words we have.

Provide resources

Years ago, researchers did a survey of Christian adoptive families, and what they found was striking. They discovered that the first place they want to go for help and resources, and the last place they are likely to turn to, is their church. When the church becomes among the safest and the best prepared places to care for the uniqueness brought by adoptive families, we become a living picture of the grace of God to a world that is dying to know and follow Jesus.

To see additional SBC event dates, visit sbc.net/calendar.

By / Oct 3

Southern Baptists have a long history of following in the footsteps of the faith and serving those in need. When Jesus was on Earth, he did not bypass physical needs but met them and used them as a way to share how he was meeting the greatest need of all—the salvation of our souls. Likewise, Send Relief, a collaboration between NAMB and the IMB, seeks to address needs that arise from various circumstances while also sharing the hope of Jesus. One focus of the work at Send Relief is foster care and adoption, which is all the more important in a country without Roe. Josh Benton, vice president of North American ministry at Send Relief, answered a few of our questions about this aspect of their ministry and how churches can be involved. 

Lindsay Nicolet: How does foster care and adoption ministry fit within the mission of Send Relief? 

Josh Benton: Send Relief is the Southern Baptist compassion ministry which seeks to meet physical and spiritual needs in Jesus’ name. Working alongside churches, we care for the vulnerable and strengthen communities around the world. Caring for families and children is one of our five ministry focus areas. Our work in this area includes developing and supporting ministries focused on crisis pregnancy, serving at-risk families, and helping churches develop or support ministries to vulnerable families within their communities. 

LN: What projects is Send Relief involved in as you seek to engage in the foster care and adoption space? 

JB: Send Relief engages foster care and adoption in two specific ways. First, is through our ministry centers. We have 20 Send Relief ministry centers across North America. Two of them, Valdosta, Georgia, and Quebradillas, Puerto Rico, are child placement agencies for foster care and adoption. In addition to child placement, these locations provide training for foster and adoptive families. We also work with churches to help support vulnerable families in their communities with resources, counseling, and respite care, along with providing an opportunity for churches to go on mission trips to learn more about and get hands-on experience with foster care and adoption ministry.  

Second, Send Relief helps churches start a Family Advocacy Ministry, which we call a FAM. FAM is a step-by-step ministry strategy that helps churches serve and advocate for vulnerable children and families as well as those called to foster and adopt. Send Relief helps churches implement FAMs so they can have a gospel-centered impact on the lives of vulnerable children and families.

LN: How does God’s Word drive your work in this key area? 

JB: Scripture is clear about the call to care for vulnerable families. Genesis 1:26-27 establishes that all people are created and designed by God, in the image of God, and are therefore valued by God. Genesis 2 describes God’s intentional design for the family. Then, Genesis 3-4 shows the damaging impact of sin on all creation but, specifically, how sin creates brokenness in families. 

From Deuteronomy 10 to James 1 and several references in between, God not only calls his people to remain committed to his design for the family but to also care for the those without stable, intact families. Romans 8 also beautifully portrays adoption as a picture of our redemption through Christ.

With this in mind, we can sum up how Scripture provides the truths that cultivate Send Relief’s perspective on serving in foster care and adoption ministry with a few statements:

  • Every person is created in the image of God, therefore, all people have value.
  • God designed the family and desires all to be in a family.
  • Christ calls us to reflect his compassion and care for the vulnerable.
  • Foster care and adoption portray how God redeems through a personal faith in Christ. 

LN: What challenges arise with serving children in need and families in today’s culture? And how have/will these change in a post-Roe era?

JB: The challenges for serving vulnerable children and families are significant. Here are a few key statistics from Adoptuskids.org and the Administration for Children and Families

  • Each year more than 250,000 children enter the foster care system in the United States.
  • At any given time, there are on average over 400,000 children in the foster care system.
  • Each year more than 23,000 children age out of the foster care system when they turn 18 or 21, depending on a state’s laws.
  • Currently, more than 115,000 children in foster care are waiting to be adopted.
  • The average age of a child in foster care is 8 years old.
  • Troubling statistics for children who age out of the system:
    • Likely to experience job loss and homelessness
    • 70% of human trafficking victims spent time in foster care
    • 71% of women who age out experience pregnancy within one year 
    • 65% of individuals who are incarcerated aged out of the foster care system

These challenges will likely intensify in our post-Roe world. These are all harrowing statistics, but one of the most significant issues is that there are more children in need provides an opportunity for churches to fill the gap. With more than 115,000 children in the foster care system who are waiting to be adopted each year, churches can play a role by recruiting families to foster and adopt, mentoring vulnerable families, and providing communities of care for those who are fostering and/or adopting.

LN: How can pastors and ministry leaders create a culture of equipping families to care for children?

JB: No matter what community, city, or state you are in, vulnerable families are present. This isn’t a ministry opportunity that is somewhere else; it’s everywhere. Pastors and church leaders have an important role of recognizing the need that exists, articulating the biblical call to meet the need, and blessing those in their congregation who are led to pursue the ministry opportunity. Send Relief has resources on our FAM page to help pastors and churches pursue ministry to vulnerable families and children.

LN: What are some practical things that local churches can do to come alongside this mission to serve families and those involved in foster care and adoption?

JB: There are several ways churches join Send Relief to serve vulnerable families. One of the most important things is to recognize that there are many ways to serve. There is a great need for families to foster and adopt. Encourage those who are called but also understand not everyone feels that call, and there are multiple ways to serve outside of adopting and fostering. Here are specific ways churches can serve:

  • Praying diligently and consistently for vulnerable children and families
  • Developing a relationship with a local child welfare office
  • Raising awareness about the needs of vulnerable children and families
  • Recruiting families to consider adopting or fostering
  • Providing resources, as well as emotional and spiritual support, to biological families experiencing crisis
  • Helping to meet physical and financial needs of foster and adoptive families
  • Mentoring single mothers
  • Supporting and encouraging local child welfare workers
  • Providing meals or respite care to foster and adoptive families
  • Going on a mission trip at a Send Relief ministry center that serves vulnerable families

For more information on the Dobbs decision and its effects, visit erlc.com/dobbs

By / Mar 24

It is estimated that Americans lost $161 billion to all forms of gambling in 2018, with $306 million of that going to online gambling.1Ultimate USA Gambling Facts & Revenue (Updated 2022), www.onlineunitedstatescasinos.com/usa-gambling-facts/ While this amount is for all types of gambling, the fastest growing kind of gambling is online. Online gambling has been increasing each year, and the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated that gain. As brick-and-mortar gambling sites saw a decrease in activity, online gambling venues took up the slack. Often, people turned to online gambling during the pandemic for entertainment during long days and nights of being stuck indoors. This created the perfect storm for gambling on the 2022 Super Bowl. It is estimated that 31 million people bet more than $7.6 billion on Super Bowl LVI, an increase of 35% over 2021.2Erich Richter, Superbowl Odds 2023: Live Sportsbook Odds, March 2, 2022, www.bonus.com/odds/super-bowl/

With 71% of Americans believing that gambling is morally acceptable, and only 36% of Christians believing that sports betting is morally wrong, it is clear that America has a gambling problem.3Lisa Cannon Green, Is sports gambling moral? You bet, Americans say, January 22, 2016, www. News.lifeway.com/2016/01/22/ is-sports-gambling-moral-you-bet-americans-say. It isn’t only sports betting online that is exploding. The internet offers practically any kind of gambling that someone could desire. 

The internet has certain built-in features that make gambling more dangerous for people, too. Gambling is available 24/7 to anyone with a computer and an internet connection in their homes, which is more than 77% of Americans, or more than 250 million people.4Catherine McNally, Nearly 1 in 4 Households Don’t Have Internet—and a Quarter Million Still Use Dial-Up, August 17, 2021, www.reviews.org/internet-service/how-many-us-households-are-without-internet-connection. In addition, anyone who wants to gamble can easily circumvent age requirements by lying about their age. The fact that people can gamble in the privacy of their homes increases the likelihood that they will gamble more often and for longer periods of time. Furthermore, it is nearly impossible to restrict access to online gambling for people who know they have a gambling problem. 

Regrettably, most governments have succumbed to the constant barrage of gambling lobbying and voter initiatives. The vast majority of Americans can buy lottery tickets, play the standard forms of brick-and-mortar gambling like poker, roulette, and even slots, and bet on multiple sporting events all from the privacy and anonymity of their home computer screens. 

While we can’t prevent people from accessing these myriad gambling opportunities, we can help them understand that God has a better way. This should be especially true for Christians. We who have professed Jesus Christ as Lord have committed to live faithful lives before him and the world. We must look to God’s Word for guidance in all things, including whether or not to gamble, and why. 

Getting to the heart of gambling

To know what the Bible has to say about gambling, it can be helpful to know why people gamble and then look at what Scripture has to say about that. People gamble for a variety of reasons, but regardless of the reason, the Bible points to a better way. Below are the principal reasons that people gamble and the Bible’s better answer to the need they are trying to meet with their gambling.

Some people gamble to get money. This is the primary reason most people gamble. It is a demonstrable fact that more people gamble as the jackpot increases or they place a high value on the prize. The Christian who gambles in order to win money has failed to understand or accept that God desires to be their provider. Scripture says God will supply all the needs of the person who puts his trust in God (Matt. 10:31; Phil. 4:19). The person who gambles out of greed or for worldly wealth is valuing the wrong thing (Luke 12:15). The person who gambles out of financial desperation is trusting in the wrong source for his need. Even if he wins enough to escape his destitution, which is highly unlikely, he has chosen to reject God’s way to meet his needs (Matt. 6:33).

Some people gamble for entertainment. This is another primary reason people gamble. People will often gamble online because they are bored or they are looking for a distraction. And some people argue that gambling is just a form of entertainment, like going to a movie or a restaurant, but that is not true. No one will lose all of his retirement savings by visiting a restaurant or going to a movie, but some people will lose that and more from gambling. Christians need to consider what they are supporting and empowering when they spend their God-provided money. God calls Christians to be good stewards of their possessions, that includes their money (Luke 6:10-13). When we empower gambling venues with our money, we help keep them in business to prey on people with gambling addictions. Empowering institutions that ruin people’s lives for a few moments of entertainment is not something that Christians should take part in (Eph. 5:11).

Some people gamble to feel important or special. Casinos, whether brick-and-mortar or online, specialize in selling an illusion to people. They make them feel important in exchange for their money. Some people crave this attention and return over and over because it feeds their sense of importance and value. Any anything we rely upon apart from the Lord for our value is an idol (Psa. 135:18). The Bible tells us that God is best able to tell us of our worth and importance. Jesus can give a person a permanent realization of her worth. We are so loved by God that he sent Jesus to die a gruesome death on a cross in order to redeem us for himself (John 3:16). Through Jesus, the Christian is a child of God. That is a permanent status that should see any Christian through feelings of inadequacy or self-doubt (2 Tim. 2:13).

Some people gamble to compete against others. There is nothing wrong with healthy competition. However, when that competition threatens to destroy another person, it is no longer healthy. The Bible reminds us that we are our brother’s keeper and that we should love others as ourselves (Matt. 22:39). We have a responsibility to look out for each other. Gambling encourages the exact opposite. The only money available through gambling is the money that someone else has lost. Neighbor love calls on Christians to think of others more highly than we think of ourselves (Mark 12:31; Phil. 2:3). Gambling makes us predators rather than protectors.

Some people gamble for the thrill. Again, there is nothing in the Bible that tells us to live boring, uneventful lives. In fact, Jesus told his disciples that they would have joyful, meaningful lives through faith in him (John 10:10). The question that a thrill-seeking gambler needs to ask is whether or not the thrill of gambling is the best source of joy, happiness, excitement, or meaning. Gambling’s thrill often comes at someone else’s expense. Your involvement can perpetuate the predatory nature of the gambling industry. And while the thrill of gambling might last for a few seconds, in the end it is replaced by disappointment. If a person wins, it will not satisfy the longings of her soul (Eccl. 5:10). If a person loses, which he almost always does, he is left with emptiness and a potentially significant loss of resources. When the thrill is placed in the prospect of winning and the result is the opposite, that is a sucker’s bet. Jesus offers true and lasting joy (John 15:11).

Some people gamble to escape their problems. Gambling offers escape for a short while. In the end, however, it adds to people’s problems. Once gambling’s distraction is gone, the person’s problems remain and are compounded by the loss of money, which may very well be a principal reason the person was seeking a distraction in the first place. Jesus called on people to admit their problems and place them on him, not run from them (Matt. 11:28-30). The Apostle Peter wrote that Christians can place all their cares on the Lord because he cares for them (1 Pet. 5:7). Christianity encourages people to acknowledge their problems and sins and turn to God for help with them. He is ready and able to help those who admit their need and seek him. Anything else we run to for help will fall short. 

Some people gamble to feel hopeful. It is hard to carry on when hope is lost. Gambling offers a temporary hope that seldom rewards the person who leans on it. Until the ball falls in the slot on the roulette wheel or the last card is turned over, the gambler feels all the hope in the world. Anything is possible in that moment, but then all that hope is dashed and even greater fear and hopelessness rushes in. God, on the other hand, is the God of second chances. He has demonstrated in the Bible and in countless lives all around us that those who put their trust in him will never be disappointed or hopeless (Rom. 15:4). God is greater than any problem someone might have and greater than any obstacle that stands in their way (Phil. 4:19). 

Whether someone is gambling online or at a casino,, the Bible makes it clear that any activity that replaces trust in God with luck dethrones God in that person’s life. God ordained work as our means of support. From the beginning, when God put our original parents in the Garden, he revealed that he designed us to work (Gen. 2:15) as a means of his provision for us. Gambling perverts that design and promises something for nothing. That promise is as empty as the serpent’s first deception. Luck is the sand that will not support a life. God is the rock that will (Matt. 7:24-27).

There is more to be said about gambling, yet regardless of why someone gambles, God is the better choice. Gambling is a false idol. It destroys, perverts, and lies to people who look to it for anything. The true source of happiness and meaning in life is found in God. He alone can deliver what he promises. He alone is dependable and trustworthy. We must all learn to trust him and place our hope and futures in him. When we do that, we will never be disappointed. May Jesus be Lord in our lives.

  • 1
    Ultimate USA Gambling Facts & Revenue (Updated 2022), www.onlineunitedstatescasinos.com/usa-gambling-facts/
  • 2
    Erich Richter, Superbowl Odds 2023: Live Sportsbook Odds, March 2, 2022, www.bonus.com/odds/super-bowl/
  • 3
    Lisa Cannon Green, Is sports gambling moral? You bet, Americans say, January 22, 2016, www. News.lifeway.com/2016/01/22/ is-sports-gambling-moral-you-bet-americans-say.
  • 4
    Catherine McNally, Nearly 1 in 4 Households Don’t Have Internet—and a Quarter Million Still Use Dial-Up, August 17, 2021, www.reviews.org/internet-service/how-many-us-households-are-without-internet-connection.
By / Dec 6

Chelsea Sobolik welcomes Ambassador John Cotton Richmond, the former U.S. Ambassador to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons from 2018 to 2021 to human trafficking, forced labor, how Christians can get involved in caring for vulnarble people, and how the Lord led Ambassador Richmond into this work.

Listen to part one here.

Guest Biography

Ambassador Richmond’s career has taken him to the front lines in the global battle against human trafficking. As a Partner at Dentons, the world’s largest law firm, he focuses on the intersection between business and human rights. John advises companies on how to keep their supply chains free of forced labor and their workforces free of sex trafficking.

Before joining Dentons, the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed John, and he served as the U.S. Ambassador to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons from 2018 to 2021. Serving in the nation’s highest-ranking position dedicated to human trafficking, John led U.S. foreign policy related to modern slavery and coordinated the U.S. government’s response to the crime.

Prior to his appointment as Ambassador, John served for over a decade as a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, where he prosecuted numerous victim-centered labor and sex trafficking cases. He also co-founded the Human Trafficking Institute and lived in India for three years pioneering International Justice Mission’s slavery work.

John has received numerous honors and commendations, including being named a “Prosecutor of the Year” and receiving the David Alred Award for exceptional contributions to civil rights. His work caused the former head of the FBI’s human trafficking program to call him “every trafficker’s worst nightmare.”

John received his undergraduate degree from the University of Mary Washington and his law degree from Wake Forest University. Ambassador Richmond is a writer and frequent speaker on topics of faith, justice, vocation, and parenting and is a Fellow at the C.S. Lewis Institute. He lives outside Washington, D.C., with his “Lovely and Talented” wife and their three robust and remarkable children.

Resources from the Conversation

By / Nov 29

Chelsea Sobolik welcomes Ambassador John Cotton Richmond, the former U.S. Ambassador to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons from 2018 to 2021, to talk about human trafficking, forced labor, how Christians can get involved in caring for vulnerable people, and how the Lord led Ambassador Richmond into this work.

Note: This is part one of a two part episode. Listen to part two here.

Guest Biography

Ambassador Richmond’s career has taken him to the front lines in the global battle against human trafficking. As a Partner at Dentons, the world’s largest law firm, he focuses on the intersection between business and human rights. John advises companies on how to keep their supply chains free of forced labor and their workforces free of sex trafficking.

Before joining Dentons, the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed John, and he served as the U.S. Ambassador to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons from 2018 to 2021. Serving in the nation’s highest-ranking position dedicated to human trafficking, John led U.S. foreign policy related to modern slavery and coordinated the U.S. government’s response to the crime.

Prior to his appointment as Ambassador, John served for over a decade as a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, where he prosecuted numerous victim-centered labor and sex trafficking cases. He also co-founded the Human Trafficking Institute and lived in India for three years pioneering International Justice Mission’s slavery work.

John has received numerous honors and commendations, including being named a “Prosecutor of the Year” and receiving the David Alred Award for exceptional contributions to civil rights. His work caused the former head of the FBI’s human trafficking program to call him “every trafficker’s worst nightmare.”

John received his undergraduate degree from the University of Mary Washington and his law degree from Wake Forest University. Ambassador Richmond is a writer and frequent speaker on topics of faith, justice, vocation, and parenting and is a Fellow at the C.S. Lewis Institute. He lives outside Washington, DC with his “Lovely and Talented” wife and their three robust and remarkable children.

Resources from the Conversation

By / Nov 4

In December, 127 Worldwide will celebrate a decade of ministry. We exist to connect and equip the global body of Christ to restore hope to orphans, widows, and vulnerable communities. And we work with Christians and churches in the West and with respected, driven, and visionary local leaders in Kenya, Uganda, and Guatemala who are taking care of vulnerable people in their communities. 

God has exceeded every expectation I had for starting a nonprofit organization in 2011. This was certainly not my plan in life. I used to think this was a unique element of my story, but does anyone’s life actually turn out exactly the way that they plan? The last 10 years have been full of  the hardest and simultaneously most rewarding adventures that God has ever invited me to join. 

Recently, someone on our team suggested that I reflect on 10 lessons that God has taught me during 10 years of leading our organization. This list is not exhaustive, but I hope it will be encouraging and useful to you as you seek to live out true religion in the various ways God has called you (James 1:27). 

1. Trust that God will open and shut appropriate doors

As an executive director of a nonprofit organization, so many decisions wait for your input. Many times I have prayed, “God, you know me, and you know where I most need help. Please make it obvious to me what you’d have me do.” I rely on the faithfulness that God has demonstrated in the past to grow my trust that he will open and shut the correct doors in his perfect timing. I have learned to walk through open doors and not to push through shut doors. Sometimes this has not been easy to learn, but my confidence in God’s faithfulness has definitely grown in the last 3,650 days.

2. Self-awareness is key and will keep you humble. 

Vulnerability is somewhat tied to this lesson, too. I have degrees in counseling and psychology, so I have always enjoyed personality inventories to learn more about myself. I’ve learned that you have to be honest with yourself and your team as you consider what is the best use of the time you devote to your work. I know where I am strong, and (just as importantly) I know where I am weak. I make it a goal to spend 80% of my time working in areas where I am the best qualified person on staff to do the task. I want to invest my time wisely in things no one else can do as well. Likewise, I am very aware of the areas where I am not the best person for the job. 

3. Surround yourself with people who are gifted in your areas of weakness. 

This was a lesson that my dad taught me at an early age, but it has been consistently reinforced in the last 10 years. It takes self awareness and vulnerability to admit your weakness. However, this has been a huge shaper of our culture at 127. I am quick to announce my weaknesses and even recommend other people on our team who would be a better fit for some tasks. Just as Paul explained in 1 Corinthians 12, we are one body with many members. We need each other to accomplish our best work. Humbly embrace that you need other people to work to your full potential.

4. Trust your gut

Now this isn’t an “always rule.” We know that the heart is deceitful above all else (Jeremiah 17:9) apart from Christ. Of course, we have to examine what the Holy Spirit might be doing and walk confidently in the way that we sense God leading us. There have been times, though, when the logical solution didn’t feel like the best solution. I have learned what “trust your gut” looks like for me. It is not a card that I play very often, but I have grown in confidence when this tactic is appropriate. 

5. The (lack of) rhythm is going to get you. 

Healthy rhythms in ministry leadership are a must. It’s okay to calendar time for reading, writing, and spending time with God, family, and friends. Boundaries are healthy. Saying no is healthy. Maintaining rhythm in your life and work is crucial. The quickest way for me to spiral downward is to lose sight of the disciplines that are tethering me to a firm foundation. Solitude, prayer, and journaling are just a few habits that encourage routine. Prioritize routines as much as possible. 

6. Stop. Collaborate. And Listen

Technically, these could be three separate directives. Before executing your new and fresh ideas, wisdom and maturity requires you to pause, see who else is doing similar work, and make an attempt to work together if possible. Ask good questions, but then do less talking and more listening. Ministry should not be a competition. Find like-minded people who make you better as you spend time with them. Learning this lesson has been truly life-giving for me.

7. The leader in a group may be the quiet one. 

One might assume that the loudest voice in the room is the strongest leader. To that, I say one of the few French sayings that I know, “Au contraire mon frere!” A colleague once noticed that I direct conversations even though I am usually not the one who is doing the most talking. People love to talk about themselves, and you can learn so much if you learn to ask good questions. Also, if you are quiet until you really feel compelled to say something, then most of the time people will listen intently as you provide evidence to support that you have something worth listening to. 

8. Beware of burnout

Burning the candle at both ends will lead to a puddle of wax. I definitely learned this lesson the hard way. I hit the 7-year wall where I woke up one day realizing that I was spending most of my time doing things that I was not gifted to do and that I wasn’t passionate about doing. I was cranking out essential tasks purely out of obligation. Somewhere along the way, I lost my joy for the work. 

You will always have tasks in your job that you don’t love, but operating the majority of your time outside of your giftings greatly increases your chances of burnout. Compassion fatigue is a real struggle in this work of empowering local leaders who are serving vulnerable populations. Taking time out for rest and self-care is essential to prevent the previously mentioned puddle of wax.

9. Don’t shy away from hard conversations. 

I am markedly more comfortable with conflict and difficult conversations than I was a decade ago, and I am definitely better for it. God can use the process through difficult discussions to make both parties look more like Christ as the end result. Advance, don’t retreat. Spend time building trust and respect among your team and ministry partners. Then, when tough conversations are necessary, you have established a baseline for the message to be received on top of a firm foundation.    

10. Stay in a posture of openhandedness. 

Choose carefully the hills that you are willing to die on. These hills should be few and far between. The last few years have been years of growth and clarity for 127 Worldwide. As God has expanded our team, I’ve had to figure out my nonnegotiables for the direction of the ministry. One of my most important jobs as the executive director is to guard the mission and vision of the organization. It is okay if others are forging a path that looks very different than the one you would have taken. You should expect that. 

What is important is that the team is passionate about the work and equipped to succeed in building their path. The results are up to God. Freedom grows as open hands release people, plans, and expectations. Disappointment comes when we hold too tightly to any of these. Open hands are not capable of holding on to anything, but they can easily receive what God has for you.

I am grateful that God gives us opportunities to grow in Christlikeness through every step of obedience that we take. I look forward to seeing all of the new lessons that await me in the next decade. And I encourage you to pray about what steps of obedience God might be leading you to take. 

By / Oct 4

God calls the local church to tangibly love and support their communities and Send Relief is enabling them to do so in a radically important way. The ministry, a collaboration of the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board, aims to partner with local churches to equip them with the finances and supplies necessary to help those affected by a disaster or crisis. 

Send Relief and natural disasters

Right now, that means an intense focus on New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Ida and preparation to help resettle thousands of Afghan refugees who have recently arrived in the United States. 

Relief from Hurricane Ida requires immediate attention, and there were 18 Southern Baptist Disaster Relief sites that coordinated responses across southern Louisiana and the Northeast. Basic necessities like food, water, and generators, along with resources for temporary roofing and mold remediation comprise much of the current need. 

In response to Hurricane Ida in Louisiana and the Northeast, Send Relief has supported the efforts of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. Together, they have already tallied nearly 750,000 meals, 21,124 volunteer days, and volunteers have provided recovery work for approximately 1,700 homeowners. With two crises on their hands, they’ve been working overtime to ensure they are also prepared for the many Afghan families who will require assistance as we welcome them to the United States. 

Send Relief and refugees

Send Relief is not only focusing on natural disasters, but humanitarian crises that are international in scope and domestic in their implication.

“Southern Baptists are clearly being moved by the crisis in Afghanistan,” said Josh Benton, vice president of Send Relief’s National Operations. “They want to be prepared to serve Afghan families and share the gospel with them.” 

Thus far in 2021, hundreds of churches and individuals have given money, signed up as resettlement host homes and registered for training to help in a variety of ways. People appear to be eager to “carry each other’s burdens” -— as Christians are directed in Galatians 6:2. Send Relief is there to tangibly activate that desire. 

One of the most interesting opportunities is a chance to receive personalized coaching in evangelism, discipleship and cross cultural awareness from an Afghan refugee expert. Send Relief is also offering workshops on refugee care, as well as PDF downloads, video guidance and resources on ways to specifically pray for refugee ministry. 

The massive influx of refugees offers Christians across the nation an incredible opportunity to show love to the stranger and welcome them with open arms. Armed with the support of organizations like Send Relief, churches are paving the way for authentic Christian hospitality to envelop our Afghan friends. Such generosity and hospitality is key to the flourishing of the gospel in times of desperation. 

Partnering with Send Relief

For Southern Baptists seeking to engage the work of Send Relief, there are a number of ways to get involved. As for the Hurricane relief efforts, the best way to partner immediately is through a monetary donation. Physical needs are a priority right now. These physical needs, and the donations of Southern Baptists to meet them, provide an avenue for Send Relief volunteers and workers to meet spiritual needs. Regardless of the disaster at hand, Send Relief keeps the gospel at the forefront of what they call “compassion-focused ministries,” -— prioritizing evangelism within the meeting of physical needs. 

“[We] seek to meet the real and felt needs of people and communities,” said Benton, “So that the gospel can be proclaimed and a connection [made] to a local church.” 

There are arms and focuses that go beyond just disaster relief or immediate crises. Send Relief also has ministry locations planted to help those escaping from sex trafficking and families involved in foster care and adoption. They also provide clean water, education and medical care where it is needed most. 

With such a vast immersion into communities nationwide, it is clear that God is accomplishing much through the work of Send Relief. 

By / Aug 18

The Bible is clear that (1) Christians should care about injustice (Micah 6:8, 2 Chronicles 19:7, Prov 20:23) and (2) Christians should respect civil government and laws (Rom 13:1-2, 1 Tim. 2:1-2). Yet over the centuries, Christians have toiled over the dichotomy between a godly passion for justice and the biblical call to submission. 

Believers have often found themselves at odds with the rulers and laws of the land they live in. In America today, laws stand that threaten the lives of the unborn, diverge from the biblical understanding of gender and sexuality, and forsake the widow and orphan. Currently, the U.S. House of Representatives is considering 12 appropriation bills for FY2022 that propose the removal of pro-life riders from the budget such as the Hyde and Weldon Amendments. Thankfully, Christians living in the 21st century are not the first group of believers to find ourselves in disagreement with the laws and norms of their culture. Jesus prepared us to expect as much, when he prayed for the protection of his people in the garden of Gethsemane, “they are not of the world, even as I am not of it” (John 17:16). 

The book of 1 Peter was written as the church faced persecution and focused on instructing Christians about how to live faithfully in a time of extraordinary evil. Peter instructs believers to use good conduct and submission to those in authority as a testament to the gospel (1 Pet. 2:13). We have been made free by the blood of Christ, we must now use our freedom not to bring chaos but instead to show the world the gentleness and servant nature of our Savior (1 Pet. 2:16). This includes submission to human authority (1 Pet. 2:15). Peter gives us a beautiful framework for what living as a servant of God looks like, calling Christians to “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor (1 Pet. 2:17). 

Honor everyone. 

The first two principles at work in Peter’s framework inform how the Christian is to go about showing honor to those outside the church (the first principle) and those within the church (the second). The first portion reminds believers that we are to honor (or rightly respect) all people, which includes recognizing and standing up for their dignity as image-bearers. The way we treat people should reflect the inherent worth each individual possesses as one created by God. 

Regarding those who are particularly vulnerable, Proverbs 31:8-9 calls believers to: Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” The Bible is filled with accounts of brave men and women of faith who defied their rulers to hold fast to their faith and protect the innocent: the Hebrew midwives who resisted Pharoah’s command to kill the Israelite babies (Ex. 1), Rahab’s defiance of Jericho’s rulers and protection of the Israelite spies (Josh. 2), and Obadiah’s hiding of the prophets of God from the murderous queen Jezebel (1 Kings 18). This is rooted in the reality that the Lord is a God of justice, who hates abuses of the poor, vulnerable, and powerless.

Love the brotherhood.

The second principle — love of the brotherhood — calls Christians to love one another. This includes within our own local churches and Christian communities, but it also extends to the body of Christ across the world. This should also inform how Christians respond to cries for justice from within the church. It was the Black church and its advocacy, activism, and exercise of peaceful civil disobedience that called the United States to respect the full equality and dignity of Black Americans during the Civil Rights Movement. 

Christians should strive to see an expansion of God’s kingdom here on earth. We should seek justice in a way that displays the character of God and his compassion for the hurting, and especially those who are our brothers and sisters in Christ (Gal. 6:10). We should work to cultivate justice that points to the kingdom of perfect righteousness that is coming.

Practicing this principle can take many different forms. As we look to the Scriptures, we see that Paul spent a great deal of time collecting funds from other Christians for the relief of the church in Jerusalem (1 Cor 16:1–4; 2 Cor 8:1–9:15; Rom 15:14–32). We also see Paul instructing Philemon to treat Onesimus not as a slave but as a brother (Philemon 1:16). Today, showing love for the brotherhood could mean financially assisting a believer facing a medical crisis, volunteering for a Christian justice or poverty relief ministry, helping to repair a church building damaged by a natural disaster, or providing resources and support for a community of Christian refugees from another country. 

Fear God.

The final two principles are important because the first one controls the second. The fear of God is to take priority over our honor of the emperor, and it’s also our motivation for respecting the rulers he has set in place (Rom. 13:7). The same Peter who writes the epistle is the one who told the Jewish leaders in the early days of the church, “We must obey God rather than human men” (Acts 5:29). When the early church was forbidden from speaking or teaching in the name of Jesus, Peter and John refused and said, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:18-20). 

Similarly, during the reign of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, the young Israelites Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego courageously refused to worship the King’s statue and were thrown into a burning furnace (Dan. 3). Later, Daniel would be cast into a den of lions for his refusal to follow the king’s unjust command forbidding prayer (Dan. 6). 

Again, the Civil Rights Movement illustrates how Christians should be willing to accept punishment and consequences for refusing to obey unjust laws. Those who protested against the prejudiced treatment of African Americans under Jim Crow segregation were willing to face jailing (and often unlawful physical punishment) to demonstrate that the government’s policies were not only unconstitutional but unjust. It was in one such prison that Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his Letter from Birmingham Jail as a plea to forsake silence and delayed justice.

Early Baptists in England and North America also faced persecution from the government on account of their religious faith. Men like Thomas Helwys and Isaac Backus refused to attend state-sanctioned churches and suffered retribution from the state. Like the apostles in Acts, because of our fear of God, Christians should be unwilling to submit to unjust laws that deny justice and equality to our fellow human beings. 

Honor the emperor.

First Peter 2:11-17 identifies Christians as sojourners and exiles in this world and urges believers to “keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable” and to “be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” Therefore, Christians should instead give thanks and pray for those given authority over us “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way (1 Tim. 2:1-2).

Like Peter, Paul wrote Romans, his letter to the church in Rome, during a period of persecution from the Roman Emperor Nero, making his commands concerning government all the more powerful. Romans 13 clarifies that every person should be subject to their governing authorities because their authority has been instituted by God. Though we are often tempted to forget, government in general is a good gift from God intended to keep order and lead to the flourishing of society. And Paul warns that we risk incurring the wrath of God and violating our consciences when we disobey the civil authorities he has established (v. 5). As Christians, we should honor our rulers, pay taxes, and respect those in authority with our words and actions. And as we do so, we remember that we are actually submitting to and honoring our King.

So what now?

In his commentary of Acts 5, John Stott says, “We are to submit right up to the point where obedience to the state would entail disobedience to God. But if the state commands what God forbids or forbids what God commands, then our plain Christian duty is to resist, not to submit, to disobey the state in order to obey God.” 

As Christians, we should default to respect civil authorities and submit to the laws we are subject to. When a civil mandate contradicts our heavenly mandate, our allegiance to God’s kingdom should win. Christians should resist laws that command sin and constantly work within the existing rules to change evil laws and promote righteousness. Above all, we should do so as we remember that our effort and obedience is ultimately aimed at pleasing God.

By / May 13

Jeff Pickering and Brooke Kramer are joined by the Rev. Dr. Gabriel Salguero to discuss why Christians should care about ending the payday debt trap and how the Faith for Just Lending (FJL) coalition is advocating against payday lending. Salguero is the pastor at The Gathering Place, a Latino-led multi-ethnic Assemblies of God congregation in Orlando and also the president and founder of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NALEC).

“Payday lending is a form of economic predation and grinds the faces of the poor into the ground. As Christians, we are called by Jesus, by the prophets and by the apostles to care for the poor, individually, and also about the way social and political and corporate structures contribute to the misery of the impoverished. Groups across this diverse coalition don’t agree on every issue in the public square, but I am happy to work together on this issue to stand against unchecked usury and work for economic justice, human dignity and family stability.” — Russell Moore

Guest Biography

The Rev. Dr. Gabriel Salguero is pastor at The Gathering Place, a Latino-led multi-ethnic Assemblies of God congregation in Orlando, Florida. Salguero is also the president and founder of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NALEC), a coalition of several thousand evangelical congregations in the United States. He was the former Director of the Hispanic Leadership Program (HLP), and the Institute for Faith and Public Life at Princeton Theological Seminary. Salguero has been named as one of the nation’s most prominent Latino evangelical leaders by the New York Times, NBC Universal, Univisión, and many other outlets. In addition, his leadership on issues of young male education and criminal justice reform has been featured by the Discovery Channel and the Oprah Winfrey Network. Rev. Salguero has served on the White House Faith-Based Advisory Council, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), and the National Advisory Council of the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance. Salguero holds a BA in Spanish and History from Rutgers University, and M.Div (magna cum laude) from New Brunswick Theological Seminary, he pursued a Ph.D in Christian Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary, and holds a Doctorate in Divinity from Eastern Nazarene College. Rev. Salguero lives together with his wife, the Rev. Jeanette Salguero and their two sons in Orlando, Florida.

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