candidates

After Iowa and N.H., will faith-based voters coalesce?

No one really expected New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary to serve as a predictor of evangelical voting patterns, since only 9% of the state’s voters call themselves “evangelical.” But after strong support from the Christian right in Iowa, Texas Senator Ted Cruz’ dropped to third place in the Republican presidential race raising questions whether Cruz regain his footing among Christians.

I Voted ButtonAccording to a Washington Post article from the morning after the New Hampshire primary, Cruz, and perhaps other evangelical-friendly candidates, need not worry. While Gallup polling found New Hampshire to be the least religious state in the country, upcoming Super Tuesday states in the heavily evangelical South are predicted to tip the balance.

Before Illinois votes on March 15, the question of the “evangelical bloc” may have been decided. On Super Tuesday March 1, six of the 11 states holding primaries have large numbers of evangelical voters. Before that is the February 20 South Carolina primary, and more primaries take place March 5, 8, and 15 in heavily Christian or evangelical states including Kansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and North Carolina.

As these primaries approach, are evangelical voters pitching their lot with frontrunner Donald Trump, sticking with other frontrunners Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, or have they found a new candidate in Ohio governor John Kasich, who finished second in New Hampshire? Kasich has written about his faith in a book called Every Other Monday, describing his 20-year participation in a men’s Bible study group.

Florida senator Marco Rubio, who evangelicals helped to a third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, stumbled in the New Hampshire primary and finished fifth behind former Florida governor Jeb Bush.

Faith isn’t the only apparent gap in this election cycle. Analysts point to an education gap in supporters of Trump and the other Republican candidates. Among people with only high school degrees, Trump leads Cruz 46 % to 13%; while among people with higher degrees, the gap closes to only 13 points.

In a poll of Protestant pastors conducted in January, LifeWay Christian Research found considerable disparity in the support for Trump. Only 5% of self-identified Republican pastors support the real estate mogul.

“One of the most surprising findings of our survey was the poor showing of Donald Trump (among pastors)”, said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research. “When it comes to Mr. Trump, there seems to be a huge gap between the pulpit and the pew.”

As of the time of that survey, four-in-ten Republicans and three-in-ten Democrats were still undecided about which candidate they would support. LifeWay found that older pastors (those over 64) are more likely to be undecided (54%) than those 18 to 44 (44%). Older pastors were more likely to favor Trump (8% percent), while Cruz performed well with pastors 45 to 54 (21%).

Among U.S. pastors of all denominations, LifeWay found 54% identified as Republican while 46% were Democrats.

Democrats are not making much appeal on the basis of overt faith-based values. Religion News Services describes frontrunner Hillary Clinton as a “social-justice-focused Methodist,” and Senator Bernie Sanders as culturally Jewish and “unabashedly irreligious.” Clinton’s thumping by Sanders in New Hampshire is likely to be balanced by support from a more diverse electorate elsewhere, including Black Protestants in the South.

“Simply put, it’s a bizarre election season,” Stetzer said.

– IB Staff with additional reporting from Baptist Press and RNS

Evangelical voters mobilize for NH primary
With the nation’s first presidential primary election taking place today, pastors across New Hampshire are hoping to surprise the Republican establishment by turning out many thousands of religiously minded voters who have mostly ignored the political world. Just 22% of the state’s Republican primary voters described themselves as evangelicals in 2012.


NARAL angry at Doritos for ad ‘humanizing fetuses’
The National Abortion Rights Action League took to Twitter Sunday night to express outrage after a Doritos commercial during Super Bowl 50 gave personality to an unborn baby who simply wanted some of his dad’s cheesy tortilla chips. In a tweet following the commercial, NARAL argued that the advertisement used “antichoice tactics of humanizing fetuses.”


Wheaton, Larycia Hawkins agree to part ways
Wheaton College and Larycia Hawkins, the political science professor who started a furor over theology and academic freedom after declaring on social media that Christians and Muslims serve the same God, announced Feb. 6 they are amicably parting ways.


Obama tells of personal faith at prayer breakfast
President Obama used his final National Prayer Breakfast address as America’s chief executive to explain how he has combatted fear by drawing on his personal Christian faith and by looking to people of all faiths for inspiration.


NASA bans the word ‘Jesus’
The name of Jesus is not welcome in the Johnson Space Center newsletter, according to a complaint filed on behalf of a group of Christians who work for NASA. The JSC Praise & Worship Club was directed by NASA attorneys to refrain from using the name ‘Jesus’ in club announcements that appeared in a Space Center newsletter.

Sources: Baptist Press, Christian Post, Fox News, Wall St. Journal, WORLD Magazine

Increased missions support is encouraging, but it’s just a beginning.

The new year brought encouraging news to the IBSA office: In 2015, churches gave more than $6.2 million through the Cooperative Program, which funds missions and ministry in Illinois, across the country, and around the globe.

That’s $93,914 more than in 2014, an increase of 1.53%.

“We certainly are grateful to each IBSA church that continues to prioritize missions and ministries beyond their church by giving through the Cooperative Program,” said IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams, in response to the increase.

Founded in 1925, the Cooperative Program works when churches send a percentage of their tithes and offerings to their state convention, which then forwards a percentage—Illinois sends 43.25%—to support and train more than 4,000 international missionaries, plus 5,600 missionaries and chaplains in North America.

The remainder—56.25%—stays in Illinois to help get the gospel to eight million people who don’t know Christ, to strengthen nearly 1,000 existing churches, and to help start new congregations in neighborhoods with little to no evangelical presence.

Over the past several years, cooperative giving has been hampered by economic downturn. Adams noted that 2015 giving still fell behind 2012 and 2013 (and IBSA’s peak year of 2009).

“Throughout most of 2015, Cooperative Program giving in Illinois was running one to two percent behind 2014, so when giving surged in December and ended up higher than 2014, we were very encouraged,” he said. “I know a number of churches that have been struggling in various ways, and I hope this upturn in giving is an indication of greater church health and strength in 2016.”

The Southern Baptist Executive Committee shared its own good news in October, when they reported a 1.39% increase in nationwide CP giving over the previous fiscal year. The increase can be credited at least in part to the “1% CP Challenge” issued to churches by Executive Committee President Frank Page.

Last year, Baptist Press reported more than 4,400 churches have met or exceeded the challenge to increase their giving through CP by 1%. Page has said that if every SBC church accepted the challenge, CP giving would increase by $100 million.

Looking into 2016, Adams echoed the challenge. “I would join our national SBC partners in urging churches to embrace percentage giving from their annual budgets, and to consider a 1% increase in CP giving this next year.”

For Cooperative Program promotional resources, contact IBSA’s Church Communications Team at (217) 391-3127 or Communications@IBSA.org.

 

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

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.