HEARTLAND | Nate Adams

It feels like I have had more than a few challenging days of ministry recently. But today is an especially good Sunday, and I’d like to tell you about it.

I leave home very early, to drive almost 200 miles to an IBSA church where I know the pastor, but have never attended on a Sunday morning. It’s their 70th anniversary, and I have a nice plaque from IBSA to present to them. In all those regards, it’s not really an unusual Sunday.

Nate_Adams_July28What’s a little more unusual is that my wife, Beth, is traveling with me. Our youngest son Ethan is leading the worship team at our home church in Springfield, and Beth would like to be there too. But by evening we will be at the church where our middle son Noah is youth pastor, and so she has decided to come along. So it’s already an especially good Sunday.

We drive past one, two, three IBSA churches, and eventually past the one where I recall speaking three years ago when my oldest son Caleb also shared his testimony. He had just returned to the Lord after years as a prodigal. And as I realize that today my wife is with me, and that all three of our sons are worshiping and serving in an IBSA church, I realize that this is an especially good Sunday.

At the church celebrating its 70th anniversary we are greeted warmly, with appreciation for both IBSA and for our long drive that morning. I watch as an effective pastor loves his people, and they love him back. I meet a 93-year-old former church planter and pastor, who tells me he helped plant one of the first SBC churches in northern Indiana. He’s surprised I don’t recognize his former supervisor’s name, until I remind him I wasn’t born yet.

Later when I’m presenting the plaque, I tell both the 93-year-old church planter and the 70-year-old church that my wife and I are on our way, after church, to IBSA’s first “ChicaGO” student camp at Judson University. It’s a pilot church planting camp that we hope will continue to produce church planters, church plants, and eventually 70-year-old churches. And as I describe this picture of church planting across the generations – I realize that this is an especially good Sunday.

We arrive at Judson University late in the afternoon, and help greet students and chaperones from 11 different IBSA churches. Then a bus-load of IBSA All State Youth Choir students unload, and I remember they are there for a couple of days too, to join the ChicaGO mission week, and share a couple of concerts in the area.

That night the choir sings at Calvary Baptist Church in Elgin. In addition to being my mom’s and son’s church, this is also the church where Wilma and Jack Booth are members. During the concert, IBSA Worship Director Steve Hamrick reminds us that Wilma was one of the leaders that started the IBSA All State Choir 36 years ago. And as I reflect on the blessing of tomorrow’s worship leaders being equipped for churches across the generations – I realize that this is an especially good Sunday.

I will have to wait until my next column to tell you about the “week in the life of church planters” that follows this special Sunday. But let me punctuate this account by telling you that as the All State Youth Choir led us in singing “Jesus Messiah,” I found my eyes welling up with tears. God was reminding me that, though there will be challenging days, He is steadfastly building churches and growing leaders across the state and across the generations here in Illinois. And whenever I can see that as clearly as I do today, well, it’s an especially good Sunday.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.

Editor’s note: This is the final story in a series of three testimonies about Super Summer, an annual discipleship week for students sponsored by the Illinois Baptist State Association. Click here to read how Hannah Batista met Christ at Super Summer, and here for why youth minister Tim Drury takes his students to Greenville for the week every year.

Zaxxson_NationHEARTLAND | Zaxxson Nation spent Super Summer 2014 teaching high school seniors the most practical parts of discipleship— finding a mentor, building intentional friendships, and investing in a local church. As assistant dean for the green school, which is focused on discipleship, Nation helped transfer to his students some of the same principles he learned as a Super Summer student.

Assistant dean is just one hat Nation has worn since his first week in Greenville 12 years ago. As a 16-year-old student leader from Rochester First Baptist, he realized at Super Summer that his Christianity was based more on head knowledge than faith that had taken root in his heart.

“God really changed everything in my life” that week, Nation said. “And at that point I was ready to serve, to do whatever it took to just serve Him.”

Part of what makes Super Summer different from some other camps is the laser-like focus on knowing Jesus more, Nation said. At his first Super Summer, “When we had free time, we were talking about Jesus. And when we went to bed at night, we were joking around, but we were also sharing our testimonies.”

Years later, he said, “I think it’s the same now as it was 12 years ago when I was a student. It’s still people coming together for the same reason; it’s still students that are serious about their faith.”

Nation acknowledged that Super Summer creates an environment that’s impossible to recreate once students get home and the distractions of life flood back in. Being cut off from regular life for a week is both a blessing and a curse, he said. “God uses it, though; He used it for my life,” he said.

“The other big thing about Super Summer is it’s pretty much where I got my standard for being a godly man,” Nation remembered. He met pastors and leaders who had memorized large chunks of the Bible and shared their faith regularly.

“Super Summer puts you under those guys’ teaching for an entire week, and you leave inspired. And I left personally saying, ‘Wow, I want to be like that.’

“Because as a student I saw that and was challenged by those high standards, I want to go back and work under those guys, and be peers to those guys and continue to learn from them. That’s a huge motivator for me, to think that one day a student could look at me and my life and say that I’m inspiring them in the same way that those guys inspired me.”

SUMMER | Check out these great photos from Tim Starner of IBSA’s co-ed missions camp in northern Illinois.

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The U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 30 in favor of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, deciding that the companies do not have to cover abortion-inducing drugs in their employee health plans.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 30 in favor of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, deciding that the companies do not have to cover abortion-inducing drugs in their employee health plans.

COMMENTARY | Lisa Sergent

The recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case allows employers with religious objections to opt out of providing contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act. On the surface, one could read that sentence and assume that Hobby Lobby will not provide any contraception coverage to its employees. In talking with friends who only get their news from mainstream media, I found this is what they actually believe.

I will admit that as a self-described “news junkie” I may be better informed on the issue than they are. I read the daily newspaper as an elementary school student, was an early viewer of CNN, read Time and Newsweek magazines in the school library, and became a fan of talk radio in college. The advent of the Internet opened up a whole new world of news for me, beyond the big three networks.

This exposure to a wider variety of news and opinions widened my worldview. As the years have passed, I’ve become less trusting of the old news sources and prefer to investigate more myself.

In this case, I knew from sources I trusted, including the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and Baptist Press, that the Food and Drug Administration has approved 20 contraceptives that are required to be covered under the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate. Four of these are considered abortifacients. These four drugs are the only “contraceptives” Hobby Lobby was refusing to provide for its employees.

So, when the high court’s ruling was announced, I understood what it meant and explained it to a couple of friends in an animated discussion: Hobby Lobby and similar “closely held companies” would continue to provide contraceptive coverage for their employees, but would not pay for abortion-causing drugs.

My friends, who rely on the old guard media, were outraged by the ruling.

None of the mainstream media really explained what the ruling means, or that it is a victory for religious liberty. Instead, the Christians in these cases have been portrayed as bigots who want to deny women their rights and are surprisingly finding new allies in the male justices of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Is this inaccurate portrayal purposeful? I know what I think, but I’ll let you decide. In the meantime, I’m putting on my earbuds. I have a podcast to listen to.

Lisa Sergent is director of communications for IBSA and contributing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.

SUMMER 2014 | It’s camp season! IBSA’s co-ed missions camp for kids is happening this week in northern Illinois at Streator Baptist Camp. The southern version, which shared the “Gotta tell it!” theme, was in June at Lake Sallateeska. Click through this slideshow for photos from both sites, and check in at Facebook.com/IllinoisBaptist this week for more from Streator. Photos by J.C. and Carla Vaca Diez, Mark Emerson, Carmen Halsey and Meredith Flynn

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The_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | A new survey shows 21% of same-sex couples in Illinois have opted to wed since it became legal in the state June 1, but a second survey asks how long those marriages will last. And two more new polls cast doubt on the percentage of homosexuals in the U.S.

Equality Illinois, a group that advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues in Illinois, surveyed the state’s 102 counties and found at least 3,274 marriage licenses have been issued to same-sex couples and 1,694 civil unions have been converted to marriages. According to the most recent U.S. Census, 23,409 same-sex couples reside in Illinois. Using this data, 21.2% of same-sex couples in the state have married or plan to marry.

The group stated the exact number of licenses issued or civil union conversions is difficult to determine because not all of the state’s county clerks recorded whether licenses were issued to same-sex couples, while others recorded conversions together with licenses, not separately.

Nine counties reported no licenses issued to same-sex couples or civil union conversions and five counties did not respond to the survey.

What might the future hold for these couples? The National Review’s online blog, The Corner, reported this month in a new Scandinavian study of civil unions (more heavily equated to marriage than in the U.S.) over the nearly two decades that they have been legal in that region of the world. The study reported male couples were 35% more likely to divorce than heterosexual couples, and female couples were over 200% more likely to divorce. It also found, whether or not the couples had children made little difference in the divorce rate.

Gay, more or less

In related news, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported July 15 that less than 3% of the U.S. population identify themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual. It’s the first time the government has measured American’s sexual orientation through the National Health Interview Survey.

According to the 2013 survey just out, 1.6% of adults self-identify as gay or lesbian, and 0.7% consider themselves bisexual.

And these findings conflict with a new Pew Research Center survey that says there are more homosexuals in the United States than previously reported. The figure cited for years was 10%, based mostly on the Kinsey Report of 1948. Critics called Kinsey’s methods flawed, and said the number was more like 4% to 8%.

Pew used two survey methods, allowing for indirect responses. While the “direct report” method shows 11% of U.S. adults “do not consider themselves heterosexual,” the “veiled report” showed considerably higher numbers: 19% of U.S. adults said they “do not consider themselves heterosexual.” That’s 15% of men and 22% of women.

Using the “veiled method,” Pew also found that 27% of U.S. adults admitted having a sexual experience with someone of the same sex.

Overall, the public perception of the number of homosexuals in the U.S. has grown as same-sex marriage has dominated the news. A 2013 Gallup poll that found Americans believe 25% of the population is gay, lesbian or transgendered.

-Reported by Lisa Sergent for the Illinois Baptist

Other stories:

SBC leaders tour Texas border shelters
Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd and ethicist Russell Moore will today visit two border facilities tending to the needs of children detained after attempting to cross into the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security reports 57,000 such kids have been detained in the last nine months. The children “need immediate attention that elevates their health and safety above all,” Floyd wrote for Baptist Press last week. “From my point of view, the children must become our number one priority.” Read more at BPNews.net

Research guages ‘religious temperatures’
Americans view Jews, Catholics and evangelical Christians warmly, according to a new study from Pew Research that measures perceptions about different religious groups. Respondents ranked groups on a “feeling thermometer” of 0 to 100. The “warm” groups all received average rankings in the low 60s, while atheists (41) and Muslims (40) received the lowest numbers. Read more at PewForum.org.

Baptist school gets partial win in court
A California Superior Court ruled in July that a Southern Baptist university had the right to expel a transgender student for violating its code of conduct. Domaine Javier, a former California Baptist University nursing student who identifies as a female, sued the school for gender discrimination after being expelled for claiming to be female on his application.

Judge Gloria Connor Trask ruled the school didn’t violate the state’s Unruh Civil Rights Act because its on-campus activities do not constitute a “business enterprise.” But Trask did award attorney’s fees and $4,000 in damages to Javier because he was excluded from off-campus enterprises open to the public. Read more at BPNews.net.

Movies to explore Tolkien/Lewis friendship
Christianity Today reports on two upcoming movies that will look at the relationship between beloved Christian authors C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. The films “Tolkien and Lewis” and “Jack and Tollers” are expected in 2015, and another movie about Tolkien’s life also is in the works.

 

Students meet in their "family group" at Super Summer, IBSA's discipleship week for students in Greenville, Ill.

Students meet in a “family group” at Super Summer, IBSA’s discipleship week for students in Greenville, Ill.

HEARTLAND | When you ask him if students in his youth group are different after they experience Super Summer, Tim Drury pops open his laptop and pulls up a video of Hannah Batista sharing her testimony. Hannah came to Christ last summer during the annual discipleship week at Greenville College.

Most students are already Christians when they get to Super Summer, which is sponsored by the Illinois Baptist State Association. But the week is still life-changing. They grow, and they want to grow more, said Drury, youth minister at FBC Bethalto.

“My job as a student pastor is to take what they’ve learned, and for the other 51 weeks of the year, help them put it into practice.”

It’s something he’s been learning how to do since the early 2000s, when he first came to Super Summer as a youth pastor. He now serves as an assistant dean in the gray school, a group for students preparing to go to college in the fall. The dean of the gray school, Lakeland Baptist Pastor Phil Nelson, has been at every Super Summer since the beginning, more than 20 years ago.

The students aren’t the only ones being mentored, Drury said. He’s being discipled too, by pastors like Nelson who take a week away from their churches to come to Greenville.

Caleb Ellis was a student in Drury’s gray school this year. The 18-year-old, who’s also from Bethalto, likened his first Super Summer to drinking from a fire hose. But he learned “tools for practical, modern faith,” and was already talking in Greenville about how he could go home and start Gospel conversations with a friend from another culture.

When he came to Bethalto, Drury said, “I needed something that did heavy discipleship and challenged our kids to look more like Jesus.” Super Summer helps fill in the gaps caused by the time limitations he faces as a youth minister. He may only see most students once a week, for example, and it’s difficult to do intensive classes for specific ages or genders. But in Greenville, his students are “under the pressure of the Gospel” – it’s a refining process for them, an opportunity to evaluate their relationship with Christ.

And for him. The students are learning things here that he’s still learning, Drury said.

For more on Super Summer, read the July 28 issue of the Illinois Baptist, online later this week at http://ibonline.IBSA.org.