Sign-ups are now open for two popular missions initiatives for Illinois students.

CMD 2016CMD registration open now

Children’s Ministry Day for kids in grades 1-6 is Saturday, March 12. Leaders can register their groups for a project at http://www.IBSA.org/kids. This year, volunteers can choose from 14 sites: Bourbonnais, Bridgeport, Carbondale, Carlinville, Carrier Mills, Chicago, Crystal Lake, Decatur, Hamel (on March 19), Mt. Vernon, Peoria, Quincy, Rockford and Springfield.

Several hands-on projects are planned at each location. Projects will close once the maximum number of registrants is reached. The cost per participant is $15, which includes a T-shirt, lunch, and some ministry supplies.

Children’s Ministry Day begins at 9:30 a.m. with orientation, and concludes at 3:30 p.m. following a celebration service at each site. Register at IBSA.org.

GO Team deadline March 1

GO TeamsFor older students, IBSA’s GO Teams are accepting applicants for four international summer mission trips. In 2016, GO Teams will travel to Italy, Haiti, Jamaica and Guatemala.

“We believe that one of the best ways to help students develop a missionary heart is to give them an opportunity to leave their comfort zone and put their feet on the international mission field,” said IBSA’s Rex Alexander. “GO Teams give students that opportunity.

“We see God begin to create a passion for the lost and a heart for the nations that will stay with them throughout their lives.”

In Guatemala, students will work with deaf children, teens and adults, doing Vacation Bible School-type activities in schools for those with special needs. VBS is also the focus of the Haiti and Jamaica trips, where students will work alongside local churches.

The project in Trieste, Italy, is a new GO Team opportunity for 2016. The team will partner with a local congregation for a school painting project and kids camp, and also will prayer walk the community and work to build relationships on behalf of the church.

The GO Team application and information about each project are available at www.IBSA.org/students. The application deadline is March 1. For details about all upcoming missions opportunities, contact IBSA’s Church Resources Team at (217) 391-3138 or go to www.IBSA.org/missions.

 

Evangelicals coalesce around Cruz in Iowa
The BriefingEvangelical voters in Iowa helped propel Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to victory over business mogul Donald Trump in the Iowa caucuses Monday night, as Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., finished a strong third, officially breaking into the top ranks of a crowded field for the GOP nomination for president.


Cruz, Clinton and ‘Undecided/ preferred by pastors
Ted Cruz is the favorite presidential candidate of Protestant pastors who lean Republican. Hillary Clinton leads among Democratic pastors. And Donald Trump is near the back of the pack. But “Undecided” is by far the most popular choice of America’s pastors according to a new telephone survey of senior pastors from LifeWay Research.


Illinois lawmakers fight for student privacy
State Representative Tom Morrison (R-Palatine) introduced the bi-partisan Pupil Physical Privacy Act (HB 4474), which if passed would require school boards to designate each student restroom, changing room, or overnight facility accessible by multiple students simultaneously. The bill defines “sex” as the physical condition of being male or female, as determined by an individual’s chromosomes and identified at birth by that individual’s anatomy.


Americans view sports gambling as moral, but illegal
Less than a week before the Super Bowl, a new study from LifeWay Research shows widespread belief that sports gambling is morally acceptable. Nearly two-thirds of Americans disagree that it’s morally wrong to bet on sports. Yet 49% think sports betting shouldn’t be legalized nationwide, while 40% say it should be. 11% of Americans aren’t sure.


Prison task force mirrors SBC resolution
The recommendations of the Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections, a bipartisan congressional task force on reducing the federal prison population, have drawn praise from some evangelicals and parallel at several points the recommendations of a 2013 Southern Baptist Convention resolution on “America’s growing prison population.”

Sources: Facts & Trends, Illinois Family Institute, LifeWay Research, WORLD Magazine

The Forgotten Side

Lisa Sergent —  February 1, 2016 — Leave a comment

Metro East prepares for the Southern Baptist Convention | June 14-15, 2016

Brook's Catsup

The World’s Largest Catsup Bottle may not be as tall as the Gateway Arch (it’s only 170 feet tall from base to cap), but the big monument in Collinsville, Illinois, is older, by 16 years. It was erected over the Brooks plant in 1949. The Brooks bottle has its own website and fan club. Catsupbottle.com

People from elsewhere are confused when I say I am from Illinois, near St. Louis. For many, Illinois means Chicago. But our state is much bigger than that.

When James Eads built the first bridge across the Mississippi in 1874, downtown St. Louis was connected to Illinois as never before. We love our giant city to the north, but much of our state is closer to St. Louis.

If you live near enough to the S-T-L, you know that our region is called Metro East. Let me tell you some of the Metro East story.

The Metro East is five counties on the Illinois side of the river. With 700,000 residents, it’s about one-fourth of the population of metropolitan St. Louis, which comes in at 2.8 million. It includes places like East St. Louis, Alton, Belleville, Edwardsville, Columbia, Collinsville, Fairview Heights and, yes, my town of O’Fallon.

We are diverse, but sometimes segregated. For example, East St. Louis is 98% African American, while O’Fallon is 82% white.

We are old towns, but there is a lot of new growth. Many of us work downtown, but new jobs are being created on our side of the river as well. And Scott Air Force Base has a large influence here. We have poverty and wealth. We have struggling churches and churches that are growing rapidly. We have challenges and opportunities.

Our relationship with St. Louis is complex. We love the city, the sports teams (at least those who don’t move away!) and the many things to see and do there. But we feel forgotten by the Missouri side. We go to the west side of the river often. They rarely come to the east side. We love and need St. Louis, but we identify closely with our own towns and schools.

Our area has many Catholics, but Baptists have a strong influence as well. St. Louis was founded by French explorers and Catholic missionaries. About half of the people in St. Louis consider themselves religious because they have a Catholic background, but the other half don’t claim to be anything.

New Design Baptist Church

The first Baptist church in Illinois was founded at New Design near present day Waterloo in 1796. This log meeting house dates back to 1832.

The first Baptist church in the state of Illinois was in a community called New Design. It was formed in 1786 near the Metro East city of Waterloo. Colonists traveled from Virginia and Kentucky to that spot near the Mississippi River. Among their number were two preachers, James Smith and David Badgley, who preached at New Design. The colony had more than 200 residents by 1800 and was the largest settlement in Illinois at the time.

Since that day, Baptists have impacted the region with the message of the gospel. Many of the strongest churches in IBSA are in Metro East and there are numerous new church plants here.

When the Southern Baptist Convention comes to St. Louis this summer there will be many Metro East Baptists in attendance. We will work and host many of the events that precede the convention. Our churches are planning to host and participate in Crossover events during the weekend before the convention. And my wife is president of the Ministers’ Wives luncheon that will be held on Tuesday of the convention week. She will be very busy!

Okay, we get it. Metro East isn’t Chicago. It isn’t even St. Louis, exactly. But it is a great place to live and we have a great view of the Arch. And God is at work here. And that makes it pretty great!

Doug Munton is pastor of First Baptist Church of O’Fallon. (Illinois, that is, not the one on the Missouri side of the river.) This is part of a series of articles on the Illinois side of the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention meeting in St. Louis.


Come to Metro East for Crossover

What do you get when 5,000 or more Southern Baptists descend on your town for a week? Outreach partners!

Crossover is the SBC’s concentrated evangelistic effort in the days just before each Southern Baptist Convention. Often, it’s a focused outreach day on the preceding Saturday. Churches from all across America bring workers and witnesses to meet needs and share Christ.

And local churches and new church plants find a ready supply of helpers, if they will simply put them to work.

Matt Burton, associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Mascoutah says they have a “two-fold Crossover plan.”

  • Tuesday through Friday of that week we will be doing a “Mascoutah Changers” where our students will use the skills they’ve learned in four years of World Changers to make an impact on the community. Included in our light construction or clean-up projects will be evangelism training and prayer walking.
  • Then on Saturday, the actual Crossover day, the church is planning a block party. We will host a health fair offering such things as school health exams, pregnancy screenings, blood pressure checks, eye exams, etc. And during the day, we will separate out adults from children and give each a clear gospel presentation with an intentional follow-up plan, Burton said.

What to do now:

For Metro East churches, start planning your strategy. Either host a Crossover event or make plans to support another church with theirs. Partnerships formed now can last for years, and advance the gospel in many communities.

For churches outside Metro East, now is the time to make contact with a church in the St. Louis region and form a partnership. Churches will offer different types of ministry events, depending on the demographics and needs of their communities.

Illinois Crossover projects are listed on the Metro East Baptist Association website—meba.org/crossover-st-louis-2016. Most of the projects are scheduled for Saturday, June 11, but some, like the week-long construction initiative in Mascoutah, start earlier.

Go to meba.org and click on “Crossover St. Louis 2016” in the right column for more information, or contact the association at (618) 624-4444.

 

The Rescuers

Lisa Sergent —  January 28, 2016 — Leave a comment

Massive cleanup is underway after December floods. Illinois teams put their backs—and hearts—into the work.

Disaster Relief mud-out work in Arnold, Missouri.

During their mud-out work in Missouri, a team from First Baptist Church of Galatia, IL, reporting leading five flood victims to faith in Christ.

 

When the Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief (DR) team arrived at the home of an elderly Missouri couple, they were initially received with some hesitancy.

“The couple was tormented with questions about why God did this to them,” said Debbie Porter, a member of First Baptist Church, Galatia, and a IBSA Disaster Relief volunteer for the last 11 years. “Also, other groups had already visited them and left much of the work unfinished. They thought we would be there for an hour and do the same, but we stayed until the job was done—nearly 24 work hours.”

The couple’s home was one of thousands impacted by Christmas floodwaters in communities like Arnold, located just south of St. Louis, as well as in Illinois and throughout the Midwest. Porter and her husband, Butch, were part of a team of 13 DR volunteers from Galatia, Carlyle, Eldorado, Carterville and Hamilton County who answered God’s call to help Missouri homeowners with flood damage.

DR garage

Volunteers from FBC Galatia were on the scene in Arnold, Mo., following winter rains that affected thousands of homeowners.

 

The team spent a week doing “mud-outs,” a process of debris removal, drywall removal, power washing and sanitizing homes. Equipped with a tractor and a homemade platform, Porter said the team was able to pull out even the heaviest and most water-soaked items.

“We went to the home of a retired Baptist minister who has diabetes,” she said. “The guys removed all of his Bibles and his entire ministerial library, as well as six or seven desks and big filing cabinets, all ruined.”

Along with Illinois, DR volunteers from Kansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Michigan, New Mexico and Nebraska have joined the cleanup effort. Dwain Carter, director of Disaster Relief for the Missouri Baptist Convention, said though the floodwater has receded, the need is still great.

“Since Jan. 1 we’ve had 362 accepted work orders and we’ve completed 202,” Carter said. “We’ve had teams come from multiple states into two different areas of St. Louis, some doing mud-outs and some cooking for the Red Cross.”

But though the work has been messy and difficult, Porter said the Lord is working through the muck.

“We meet and pray with the homeowners, but we also come across people and we’re able to tell them about what we’re doing,” she said. “We are staying at First Baptist Church, Arnold, so we get to tell how the church is providing for us and how it’s a great church to get plugged into.”

Porter said working with DR is both an honor and a blessing and she prays that other Illinois Baptists would consider going through the training and join this important and powerful ministry.

“When we come back to our home church from a mission like this, we are enthusiastic and recharged and eager to recruit others to join with us the next time,” she said. “I want to encourage people to not let age or health restrictions stop them.

“Get the training and go where there is a need. It may be one of the greatest joys in your life. We work around medical issues, taking breaks when we need breaks and we don’t push beyond what we know we can do. There is power in numbers.”

As the work continues and more DR teams come to Missouri to help, Carter said all Southern Baptists are able join in the cleanup effort through prayer.

“We need prayers for safety,” he said. “People have been working here for weeks and are getting tired and they need energy and strength. Also, one of the greatest things is that we’ve had at least five people that I know of accept Christ during this time. Please pray for more opportunities to share God’s love.”

For more information about IBSA Disaster Relief, visit www.IBSA.org/dr or call Rex Alexander, IBSA Disaster Relief Coordinator, at (217) 391-3134.

Kayla Rinker is a reporter living in Missouri.

ILS16 Bumgarner_Tuesday

Bob Bumgarner

The two-day Illinois Leadership Summit kicked off January 26 with nearly 250 leaders from around the state filling the IBSA Building in Springfield.

Keynote speaker Bob Bumgarner led participants through the first two phases of IBSA’s four-phase leadership development process: leading self, leading followers, leading leaders, and leading the organization. Bumgarner, a leadership expert, is executive pastor of Chets Creek Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida.

He shared that character is the focus of leadership development. “Leading myself is a growing self-awareness of who I am, what my strengths are and where I am headed coupled with the character, commitment, and competence required to get there.”

More simply, he said, “We have to understand that before we can lead others well, we have to learn to lead ourselves.”

Bumgarner shared, “When we develop our heart we are accepting our assignment. The goal for personal responsibility is accepting responsibility for our actions when we lead… We don’t do that because it’s our job, we do that because it’s our calling.”

Stressing the importance of good leadership, Bumgarner noted, “Our impact on the people we lead either makes them better or worse.”

The job of the leader is to help the people your leading see and shape the future. “These are people who said I will trust and follow you,” he said. “What do you really want to accomplish? Until you tell them what you want to accomplish, they don’t know how to contribute.”

The Illinois Leadership Summit is part of IBSA’s ongoing leadership development plan. The conference features 27 speakers in 32 breakout sessions, including some Illinois pastors sharing experiences from their churches.

The Summit continues January 27. For coverage of the event, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. #ILS16

Update: Saeed Abedini has returned to Boise, Idahio, and has seen his children. In developing news, Saeed’s wife Naghmeh has filed a domestic relations case against him today (Jan. 27).

Saeed Abedini was released last week after more than three years in an Iranian prison. Upon his release he was taken to a U.S. Air Force Base in Germany for debriefing and medical assessment, then to the Billy Graham Training Center (the Cove) in Asheville, NC,  for a period of rest and time with his parents. The pastor from Idaho next planned a reunion with his wife, Naghmeh, and their children.

His freedom, part of a prisoner exchange with Iran following that nation’s nuclear disarmament agreement with the U.S. was announced January 16.

In his first media interview since his release from an Iranian prison was announced Jan. 16, Abedini told FOX News’ Greta Van Susteren of the brutal physical and psychological torture he suffered in Iran for three and half years. Abedini prayed hours at times to survive years of abuse and unjust imprisonment in Iran for his Christian faith, and described his prayers as a “wonderful time with the Lord” which he enjoyed.

“I was beaten within to death kind of,” he told Van Susteren in broken English. “God saved me over there.” During a botched trial, the judge closed him in a room where guards beat him so badly with their fists that he suffered internal bleeding in his stomach. And at another time, he said, he was beaten on the face and body with a heavy metal chair.

Abedini’s wife Naghmeh has twice been delayed in seeing him since his prison release. She cancelled plans to visit him in Germany, where he was treated at a U.S. military hospital before his Jan. 21 arrival in the U.S., to give him more time to recover before reuniting with their children Rebekkah and Jacob. She told Baptist Press of plans to meet him Jan. 25 at the Cove, but according to news reports, that visit had also been delayed, Reuters News reported.

“We are ready to welcome him home,” Naghmeh said in a January 17 interview with FOX News, noting that the couple’s young children were making welcome home signs.

Leaders who have long called for the pastor’s release, including Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore, were quick to respond to the news. “Praise God,” he posted.

“The prayers of the Body of Christ all over the world have been answered,” Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said later in a statement released by the ERLC. “This day of celebration should remind us to pray and work all the more for the multitudes still persecuted for their faith all over the world, including in Iran. We hope and long for the day when Iran, and nations like it, are free from those who wish to enslave the conscience at the point of a sword.”

Abedini was serving an eight-year sentence after being arrested in 2012. The pastor, who was raised in Iran and later became an American citizen, had organized Christian house churches in the Muslim country.

The ERLC gave Abedini a religious liberty award in 2014, which his wife accepted on his behalf at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Baltimore. Naghmeh returned to the SBC in 2015, where pastors prayed for her family and her husband’s release during the annual Pastors’ Conference.

During much of his imprisonment, Naghmeh advocated publicly for Saeed, organizing prayer vigils for him and sharing updates on social media. Late last year, though, she stepped back from the public campaign after e-mails she sent to supporters were leaked. The messages noted “physical, emotional, psychological and sexual abuse (through Saeed’s addiction to pornography)” that had marked the couple’s marriage. After her husband’s release, Naghmeh confirmed to the Washington Post that the abuse had started early in their marriage and grew worse during Saeed’s imprisonment.

“When he gets home, we can address the serious issues that have happened and continued,” she said. Naghmeh also told Washington Post religion reporter Sarah Pulliam Bailey that it’s unclear whether her husband will continue to be a pastor.

“I think he would have to deal with a lot of issues,” she said. “There will need to be a time of healing for him and his family.” Evangelist Franklin Graham is “coming alongside our family through the next steps of the difficult journey ahead,” Naghmeh posted on Facebook January 20.

The American Center for Law and Justice, who had lobbied extensively for Abedini’s release, credited God’s intervention for his freedom. “We want to rejoice that the Lord has set these individuals free,” said Chief Counsel Jordan Sekulow.

“At the end of the day, this was a move of God, because so many circumstances had to line up correctly for this to happen, and it did. And that’s not humans doing that; that is the Lord and we were just instruments to do our part.

Eric Reed with additional reporting from Baptist Press.

Split ticket

Evangelicals are divided going into the presidential primaries, and few candidates are courting them.

If there is a nexus of evangelical politics so far in the 2016 presidential election, it may be the platform at the Liberty University arena in Lynchburg, Virginia. The conservative Baptist school founded by Moral Majority leader Jerry Falwell has hosted Democrat Bernie Sanders, Republicans Ben Carson and Ted Cruz (who announced his candidacy there), and most recently Donald Trump.

“Evangelicals love me!” Trump declared. “I’m big with evangelicals.”

With those words Trump reminded Christian and conservative voters of what didn’t seem possible a year ago: Polling shows the New York businessman and former reality TV star is the candidate more evangelicals favor than any other. Perhaps it’s because few candidates are overtly courting “the evangelical vote.” And while Trump and Cruz are leaders among likely evangelical voters, the bloc is split.

Evangelicals’ influence was still a factor in the presidential election four years ago, when pundits wondered whether they’d get behind a Mormon, Mitt Romney, and whether he would miss their support if they didn’t.

With faith seeming to be less at issue in this campaign cycle, some surmise the waning evangelical influence wondered about in 2012 is a reality in 2016. “You cannot, if you’re a Republican [candidate] ignore the evangelical bloc, because it’s such a large percentage of the Republican voting electorate,” Andrew Walker, director of policy studies for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, told the Illinois Baptist.

But, “I think that our issues as a share of the electorate have tragically become less influential,” he added. For example, when President George W. Bush won the Republican nomination and then ree

The Trump factor

FOX News released a poll Jan. 9 that showed Cruz (33%) leading Trump (26%) among voters who call themselves “very” conservative. But among evangelical Christians, the poll showed Trump at 28% over Cruz’s 26%.

Another poll released Jan. 12 by The New York Times and CBS showed evangelicals supporting Trump by 42% over Ted Cruz at 25%.

The New York Times reported Jan. 18 it had interviewed “dozens of evangelical voters in 16 states” about their support for Trump. According to the Times, the voters called him “a decent man who simply wanted to get things done.”

They also believed “that his heart was in the right place, that his intentions for the country were pure, that he alone was capable of delivering to a troubled country salvation in the here and now.”

But Trump’s stump stop in Lynchburg raised more questions than it answered. Trump told the audience Christianity is under attack and as president he would defend it. “You look at the different places, and Christianity, it’s under siege. We’re going to protect Christianity. If you look at what’s going on throughout the world—you look at Syria, where if you’re Christian, they’re chopping off heads.” That drew cheers. But when Trump quoted Liberty’s theme verse, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” from 2 Corinthians 3:17, he said “Two Corinthians” rather than “Second Corinthians” and drew chuckles from the student-audience and guffaws on social media.

Washington Post religion writer Sarah Pulliam Bailey later pointed out “Two Corinthians” is a common British pronunciation and Trump’s mother is of Scottish origin. Trump describes himself as Presbyterian, but not as born again.

CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Trump if he regrets past remarks he made about his faith—that he has never asked God for forgiveness—and whether he believes those remarks hurt his chances with Christian voters.

Trump replied he has no regrets.

“I have a very great relationship with God, and I have a very great relationship with evangelicals, and I think that’s why I’m doing so well with Iowa,” Trump said.

“This would be hilarious if it weren’t so counter to the mission of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” ERLC President Russell Moore tweeted during Trump’s presentation. Moore later talked to CNN’s Erin Burnett about his sharp response to the candidate’s speech.

“I think the problem was this is someone who as recently as yesterday has said that he has nothing to seek forgiveness for,” Moore said, noting Trump’s marital history, involvement in the gambling industry, and use of racially charged language.

Last September, Moore wrote an op-ed piece for The New York Times that asked, “Have evangelicals who support Trump lost their values?” Perhaps the question now, a few months later, is exactly which evangelicals are supporting him?

“I would say that Ted Cruz is leading in the ‘Jerry Falwell’ wing, Marco Rubio is leading the ‘Billy Graham’ wing and Trump is leading the ‘Jimmy Swagger’ wing,” Moore told Roll Call for an article which asked, “Can Marco Rubio appeal to evangelicals?”

The article went on to explain the comments:
‘…meaning that Cruz has largely followed the classic Moral Majority model that was the face of the conservative movement—he has received endorsements from figures such as Focus on the Family founder James Dobson—while Trump ‘tends to work most closely with the prosperity wing of Pentecostalism’ which tends to believe that God would financially reward believers.”

“I personally question the so-called fanfare that Trump has among evangelicals. I sense, instead, that Donald Trump’s main appeal is to a segment of the population that is burnt out and feels disenfranchised by an American culture and economy that has seemingly passed them by,” said Moore’s colleague Andrew Walker.

Walker called Trump’s appearance, and his apparent support by Jerry Falwell Jr., who has succeeded his late father, “embarassing.”

“It sets the maturing of Christian politics back and it alienates greatly younger evangelicals who are searching for a political identity as Christians, but know that what we saw at Liberty is not acceptable for them.”

Who will get their vote?

“You see definitely different strategies with candidates right now, and how they are lining up and trying to get the evangelical constituency,” Walker said.

For example, he noted, Cruz, a Southern Baptist, is reaching out to traditionalists who would have a “take back America for God” mentality, whereas Rubio, a Roman Catholic, “speaks the evangelical language as well as anyone, but he’s not doing it in a Christian America template.” His “common good Christianity” sees it less as recovering Christian America, and more as bringing Christian values into the public square, in order to shape the public square for righteousness’ sake, Walker said.

That mentality may fare better with younger evangelicals who are cynical about moral majority politics, he said. While no less political than their elders, “they’re trying to do Christian politics less through the vein of ‘let’s take back America for God,’ and more as ‘let’s bring our Christian values into the public square for the sake of the common good.’”

Democrats, meanwhile, are making no overt approaches to evangelicals in Iowa, where there is a substantial bloc, or in New Hampshire, where there is almost none. Other than his Liberty University appearance, where Sanders, who is Jewish, was received politely if not warmly, Democrats have kept quiet on religion.

Hillary Clinton, a United Methodist, commented when she was First Lady that she had Bible verse cards in her purse. Her most recent comment on faith was visual rather than verbal: On Face the Nation last week, Clinton wore a necklace with a cross that also appeared to have symbols of other religions. The strategy for Democrats, and many Republicans as well, is to keep it ecumenical, or better yet, keep it quiet on religion.

A Christian’s responsibility

“One of the things that is really important for Christians to realize is that we are both citizens of God’s Kingdom and our country,” Mark Quintanilla, history professor at Hannibal-LaGrange University in Hannibal, Missouri, told the Illinois Baptist. “In our political views we need to be searching for what God would have us to do.”

In Southern Baptist life, some leaders have spoken clearly about particular candidates. Others are saying simply, pray about it and do your duty.

The outgoing president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, Tommy Kelly, has endorsed Cruz. The ERLC has critiqued Trump among others, while some of their staff have tweeted favorably about Rubio. Saddleback Community Church pastor Rick Warren has served on Rubio’s advisory committee, but has declined to endorse him.

President of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Franklin Graham is traveling to the capitals of all 50 states this year. His “Decision America Tour” urges Christians to vote and to elect candidates who “stand for biblical principles and biblical truth,” Graham told NBC.

Frank Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, outlined the importance of Christian citizenship and participation in the election process in a recent Baptist Press article, citing Romans 13:3-7. “We know that God’s purpose through government is to aid the good and punish the evil…Assuming that the government fulfills its purpose, one reason for obeying our laws would be the fear of punishment. However, for Christians there is a more worthy motive, namely to be good citizens as part of being a positive Christian witness in society.”

Page said he is “aware that we are in the midst of one of the most interesting election cycles in our history. There is deep division in our country as to what needs to happen in the days ahead.” He urged Christians to be involved in the election process. “To relegate that responsibility to nonbelievers is irresponsible at best.”

Quintanilla cautioned Christians, “When we nominate or elect a candidate we must scrutinize which of them lives up to our Christian ideals. As nice as it is to vote our pocketbooks, I’m not sure that this should be our direction.” Analyzing comments from evangelicals in social media, he said, “It is concerning, the views people have and the lack of concern about our higher calling.

“We need to scrutinize the candidates and their views,” Quintanilla said. “As ambassadors of Christ, we are to be mindful that we are a reflection of God’s Kingdom.

– Illinois Baptist team report by Meredith Flynn, Lisa Sergent, and Eric Reed.