EQUIP tackles cultural challenges churches will face

July 24th, 2018 / By: Kay Adkins / comments

EQUIP tackles cultural challenges churches will face

NORTH RICHLAND HILLS The Leadership track of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s Aug. 11 EQUIP Conference will feature sessions on two ‘hot topic’ issues challenging churches today: the foster care crisis in Texas and human sexuality. 

Saturday morning, Cindy Asmussen, the SBTC’s Texas Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee advisor (TERLC), will conduct a two-part workshop, “Foster Care: How Can Your Church Be Part of the Solution?”

Asmussen has served for more than 10 years in legislative and director roles with Concerned Women for America in Texas. Mother of two adult sons, and recent adoptive mother to a 7-year-old daughter, she will share her and her husband’s story of fostering and adopting, explain the urgent need for more foster homes in Texas. She will also share how to be sufficiently prepared for foster/adoption care. 

In April 2016 more than 31,000 children were in foster care in Texas. In January 2017, 3600 children were waiting for adoptive families. More than 1,000 each year “age out” of the foster system, losing state care without ever having a permanent place to call home. The shortage of foster homes results in many Texas children being relocated hundreds of miles from their communities, and some have had to sleep in Child Protective Services offices, Asmussen said. 

Attendees will also learn ways to establish ministries that undergird foster and adoptive parents and to advocate for foster children. “It is a full-time mission field, but the rewards are eternal and this is the mission of Christ,” Asmussen said. “It’s messy and sometimes overwhelming, but we are called to bring order into chaos, light into darkness, and minister wholeness to the distraught and broken-hearted. Together, we can do this.”

Brooke Stembridge of Texas Baptist Home for Children will address how to foster or adopt children through the Waxahachie-based ministry.

During the Saturday afternoon EQUIP Leadership track, Benjamin Wright, TERLC chair and pastor of Cedar Pointe Baptist Church in Houston, will moderate two sessions on ministry challenges related to human sexuality.

“I do think there’s a real possibility that our churches are going to be pressured into compliance with the agenda of absolute sexual freedom. And I do think there’s a real possibility that our churches are going to be pressured to conform with our culture’s confusion on gender,” Wright said.

He added, “People who have lined up as our cultural opponents are fundamentally people we need to love . . . so our sessions at EQUIP are designed to take a step forward in helping our churches understand the issues in light of Scripture, anticipate the future, respond biblically, and advance our mission.”

Evan Lenow of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary will present the first afternoon workshop entitled “Gender Identity and Human Sexuality.” 

Lenow, an associate professor of ethics, teaches the courses Christianity and Human Sexuality and Ethics of Marriage and Family. He said, “[Gender identity] is where conversations are going—what people are talking about. I am covering what ‘gender’ means biblically. Gender is part of who we are. It is the biological reality of creation.”

He added, “Then I’ll address the cultural reality we are in.
I want pastors and leaders to understand that the Bible is actually our friend. I want them to be proactive in their understanding of what gender is, and know how to speak positively.”

Lenow hopes to build awareness in pastors and leaders of the questions they need to be prepared to answer, and the policies they may need to think through regarding this issue.

“What do you do with your bathroom policy? How do you address where kids are sleeping at youth or children’s camp? These are questions we have to ask,” Lenow said, adding, “I’m wanting us to not live in fear but to use these opportunities to proclaim who God made us to be.”

In the fourth breakout session attorney Ray Kaselonis from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) will present “Gender Identity: Engaging People with the Mind of Christ.” Kaselonis serves as senior counsel for Church Alliance with ADF.

According to the ADF website, “Kaselonis represents and advises churches belonging to the ADF Church Alliance to protect their right to minister freely and to engage in defense of religious liberty.” 

Hosted by North Richland Hills Baptist Church, EQUIP will offer 21 ministry training tracks including: age-group ministries; men’s, women’s and family ministries; ethnic specific ministries; worship, technology, evangelism, and more. 

The wide variety of breakout sessions within each track aims to strengthen, inspire, and educate any church leaders in their specific roles.

“Every church wants more leaders. Every church wants to see their current leaders develop into better leaders,” states the EQUIP 2018 web page. The conference is open to anyone. The registration fee which includes lunch, is $10 per person through Aug. 6 and $15 thereafter. 

For a complete conference agenda, and to register, go to sbtexas.com/equip