The_First_Thanksgiving_Jean_Louis_Gerome_Ferris

The First Thanksgiving Jean Louis Gerome Ferris (Public domain)

Images from the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving Day feast are easy to call to mind—black hats, wide white collars, Native American guests, and an idyllic feast bringing together two very different cultures. But historian Robert Tracy McKenzie—along with others in his field—say that many of those images are, to put it simply, not true.

The Pilgrims often wore bright colors, for example. And while the 1621 feast did include Native Americans, the dynamic between the two groups was likely tense.

McKenzie, chair of the history department at Wheaton College, explores the Pilgrims’ journey from England to Holland to America in his 2013 book “The First Thanksgiving: What the Real Story Tells Us About Loving God and Learning from History.”

The Pilgrims, he writes, wouldn’t have been given to celebrating very many holy days. This set them apart from the Catholic and Anglican Churches. Aside from a weekly Sabbath, the Pilgrims had two distinct reasons to call for a holy day: a day of humiliation and fasting, and a day of thanksgiving.

Both happened in 1623, as new settlers arrived while the existing colonists were already struggling to survive. Food was scarce, and now there were more mouths to feed. And on top of all that, McKenzie writes, they faced a two-month drought that summer.

The Pilgrims called a day of humiliation “to seek the Lord by humble and fervent prayer.” They prayed for eight or nine hours, McKenzie writes, during which the sky became overcast. Then, it rained for the next 14 days.

And then the Pilgrims saw reason for another holy day—a day of thanksgiving. McKenzie writes this particular day was very different from what we traditionally think of as the first Thanksgiving, which historians generally consider to have been a kind of harvest festival. The real first Thanksgiving, he says, was “called to acknowledge a very specific, extraordinary blessing from the Lord.”

The current vestiges of Thanksgiving Day celebrations are very different than what the Pilgrims embraced, McKenzie says. “In their view, an annual Thanksgiving taught human conceit and divine predictability and could easily degenerate into a meaningless ritual that reduced God’s provision for human news to his creation of the crop cycle.

“By observing Thanksgiving irregularly, on the other hand…the Pilgrims reminded one another to look with expectancy for God’s ongoing, direct intervention in every aspect of their lives.”

– The First Thanksgiving (IVP Academic, 2013)

Supreme Court will hear pregnancy center case
The Supreme Court announced this month it will rule on a California law requiring pro-life pregnancy centers to inform clients of abortion options available elsewhere.

The FACT Act, passed in 2015, shares some similarities with an Illinois law that requires pregnancy centers and pro-life physicians to discuss abortion as a legal treatment option and, if asked, to refer clients to abortion providers. Multiple pregnancy centers in Illinois sued Gov. Bruce Rauner earlier this year over the law, and were granted a preliminary injunction.

Dockery elected to lead theologian group
The annual meeting of the Evangelical Theology Society focused on the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The group also elected David Dockery, a Southern Baptist and president of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, as president.

Zimbabwe’s Christian leaders see unrest as ‘opportunity’
The conflict between Zimbabwe’s president and its military could be resolved by a “winner-takes-all-mentality,” many of the country’s religious leaders wrote in a letter following President Robert Mugabe’s military arrest. But it doesn’t have to, they said, calling the the situation an opportunity for “permanent healing” in Zimbabwe.

Hillsong pastor won’t change marriage views, despite Australian vote
While Australian voters decided in November to legalize same-sex marriage, Brian Houston, who pastors Sydney megachurch Hillsong, said his view of marriage as between a man and a woman “will not change.”

Coming to the big screen: Apostle Paul
A silver screen version of Paul’s life is set for release next Easter. “Paul, Apostle of Christ” tells the story of a persecutor of Christians who became the world’s most famous missionary and martyr. James Faulkner stars as Paul, and “Passion of the Christ” actor Jim Caviezel is Gospel-writer Luke.

Cabin churn side

Step into 1818: Log cabin houses early Baptist history

The urgent need to get the gospel to more people was a driving theme of the 111th Annual Meeting of the Illinois Baptist State Association (IBSA). Churches were challenged to make four “Pioneering Spirit” commitments in the areas of church planting, evangelism, giving, and leadership development.

The Pioneering Spirit theme also coincides with 200th anniversary to be celebrated in 1818. In keeping with the state’s bicentennial, IBSA is asking 200 or more churches to make each of the four commitments.

Moving from our current “flatland” to new heights in those areas will require a steep uphill climb, IBSA leaders said, but it’s the only option.

“We can’t be satisfied with the status quo, because the status quo is decline,” said Kevin Carrothers during his president’s message. Preaching from the book of Numbers, Carrothers, director of missions for Salem South Baptist Association, said no one remembers the names of the nay-saying Israelites who didn’t want to go into the Promised Land. Instead, the real legacy of pioneering spirit was left by Joshua and Caleb, the two spies who trusted God to provide.

Kevin Carrothers

Kevin Carrothers

“They recognized the will of God was more important to obey than the whims and the desires of men, even if the majority won,” Carrothers said.

In the meeting’s final session Thursday morning, Pastor Sammy Simmons offered an annual sermon full of encouragement for those weary from a difficult season of life and ministry. Rely on the Lord, said the pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Benton, Ill. And keep taking bold steps for the sake of the gospel.

“The conditions are too rough, the lostness is too great for us to continue to do business as normal,” Simmons preached. “The cause of the gospel causes us to make bold sacrifices for King Jesus.

“I’m all in for this pioneering spirit. Oh, how much our church needs it. Oh, how much I need it. Oh, how much our state needs it.”

New challenges
During his report, IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams gave messengers a progress report on IBSA’s four key goals:

  • Develop leaders: So far in 2017 more than 500 pastors and leaders have participated in IBSA-sponsored leadership development events, Adams said. About half that number are engaged in more in-depth leadership cohorts.
  • Inspire cooperation: Adams reported that giving through the Cooperative Program and the Mission Illinois Offering is up slightly from last year, and through October, IBSA staff has had direct connection or consultation with 70% of all IBSA churches.
  • Stimulating church health and growth: So far in 2017, IBSA staff has trained over 5,800 participants from 527 churches. Children’s camp offerings have grown from three weeks to seven, Adams said, and IBSA has made major capital investments in both IBSA camps. The 75th anniversary of Lake Sallateeska Baptist Camp was celebrated with a special video presentation during the Thursday morning session.
  • Catalyzing evangelistic church planting and missions: It’s been a busy year for Disaster Relief, Adams said, with volunteers responding to in-state disasters and hurricanes elsewhere in the country. IBSA anticipates long-term involvement in the Houston area hard hit by Hurricane Harvey.

Fourteen new churches were planted in the state in 2017, Adams reported, and IBSA welcomed 17 new churches for affiliation during the Annual Meeting.

Adams also pointed to other measurements, including membership, Sunday school attendance, baptisms, missions volunteerism, and missions giving, that have remained relatively flat over the past several years. He ended his report by encouraging churches to embrace one or more of the four “Pioneering Spirit” commitments designed to challenge IBSA to courageously depart from the status quo.

Throughout the meeting, the “Pioneering Spirit” commitments were detailed through interviews with Illinois Baptists who exemplify faithful service in four key areas:

  1. Go new places is a church planting challenge, asking at least 200 churches to commit to pray for new congregations, partner with a church planter to assist his work, or to lead in the planting of a new congregation.
  2. Engage new people is an evangelism challenge, which IBSA Associate Executive Director Pat Pajak described at the meeting. “We’re praying that 200 of our IBSA churches will baptize 12 people next year,” or more than the church’s previous three-year average. The hope is that churches will turn the decline in baptisms by setting evangelism goals and equipping members to share their faith, and by engaging lost people through evangelistic events and mission trips.
  3. Make new sacrifices. “We’re asking churches to make missions-giving a higher priority in your budget,” said Adams. “We’re asking would your church be willing to make CP a greater percentage of your budget—if the Lord would lead you to make new sacrifices to give through CP.” The Pioneering Spirit commitment is for 200 or more churches to increase CP giving (for example, 1% per year) with a goal of reaching at least 10% of undesignated offerings.
  4. Develop new leaders. Mark Emerson, associate executive director of IBSA’s Church Resources Team,urged pastors to commit to leadership development for current members and potential young leaders. The goal is for 200 or more churches to have intentional development processes in place.

Other business
– Messengers approved the 2018 IBSA budget of $8.7 million, with projected Cooperative Program giving of $6.3 million. IBSA forwards 43.5% of Cooperative Program gifts on to national SBC causes, the eleventh-highest among 42 state conventions.

– Messengers approved a motion brought by the IBSA Board of Directors that all property currently held by IBSA for Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services be conveyed by deed to BCHFS in its entirety. This includes 17 tracts of property (744.9 acres) that were acquired for use and are used by BCHFS, but are currently titled to IBSA.

– IBSA’s ministry partners gave video reports throughout the business meeting, including Illinois Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) and President Jill McNicol. God has advanced the work of WMU and given them new opportunities to reach new people, McNicol said, noting three places—Southeast Asia, the Bronx, and Cairo, Ill.—where Illinois women have served on mission in the past year.

“To the women of WMU, missions is not just a thing. It’s people. It’s lost people needing a savior. And it’s teaching Christians how to live on mission for God, to reach those lost people.”

Officers

NEW OFFICERS – Each of IBSA’s four officers were elected by
acclamation: (Left to right) Sharon Carty, assistant recording
secretary; Adron Robinson, president; Adam Cruse, vice|
president; and Robin Mayberry, recording secretary.

– IBSA’s four officers for 2018 were elected by acclamation: Adron Robinson, president, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills; Adam Cruse, vice president, pastor of Living Faith Baptist Church in Sherman; Robin Mayberry, recording secretary, member of Bluford Baptist Church; and Sharon Carty, assistant recording secretary, member of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Carlinville.

The next IBSA Annual Meeting is Nov. 7-8, 2018, at First Baptist Church, Maryville. Tom Hufty, pastor of FBC Maryville, will bring the annual sermon, and Michael Nave, pastor of Cornerstone Church in Marion, will serve as the alternate speaker.

Illinois Baptist Team Report

Can it happen here?

ib2newseditor —  November 18, 2017 — Leave a comment

church pews

The 26 lives taken in an act of evil at a Sunday morning church service on Nov. 5 at Sutherland Springs, Texas shocked the nation. It was the largest mass shooting at a church in the history of the United States, but sadly, not the first. And it happened at a Southern Baptist Church, one named First Baptist, like so many around the country.

Still, many believe it won’t happen “here.”

It could and it already has. In March 2009 Pastor Fred Winters was shot and killed while preaching from the pulpit at First Baptist Church Maryville.

The Illinois Baptist interviewed Rich Cochran, director of leadership development at IBSA, who was minister of education and children at FBC Maryville that tragic Sunday morning.

“We ignore reality because we don’t want to face it and don’t know what to do,” he said. “We’d rather keep our heads in the sand.”

Cochran was just getting ready to enter the sanctuary when the shots rang out. The church had a security plan, but the gunman who was also armed with a knife and stabbed two church members who tried to restrain him, still managed to fire four shots before he could be subdued. The killer, who had no known connection to Winters or the church, was later found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Remembering that morning, Cochran said, “I don’t think there was a whole lot of second guessing. We had a plan and [after] we created a more detailed plan. There was a tornado threat that day and that was the plan that had been reviewed that morning.”

The repercussions are lasting, taking an emotional toll on the staff and congregation. “There are still dreams about and emotions from what happened,” he shared.

Cochran referenced Tom Hufty’s message at the IBSA Annual Meeting on Nov. 8., when Hufty said he “still runs into people with strong hurts that don’t go away.” Hufty took Winters place as pastor of FBC Maryville.

Hufty noted the different emotional responses that occurred within the congregation. According to Hufty, some said, “I can’t come back to that place. Others closed ranks — we’ve got to stick together we can’t let Satan win. And others needed a new start.”

When asked what advice he would give to pastors and staff thinking about putting a church safety plan together, Cochran said it’s important that pastors and staff process and walk through mentally and verbally would what they do were such a thing to happen.

“Review your risk, take an assessment, know where your vulnerabilities are, minimize those vulnerabilities, live out your mission,” those are the key things they can do.

He also noted, “It’s important congregations be extremely friendly, engaging everyone. Then, you can notice when something isn’t right. Then, it doesn’t seem like you have the National Guard in your lobby. The best way, is to train people to be nice and to welcome everyone.”

There is a danger in letting fear take hold he cautioned. “If we pat our heads and build mega-forts around ourselves we do a disservice to missionaries. If we protect ourselves so much it disrupts our mission we’re out of whack. There is a constant tension.”

Prayer does play a role. “We need to pray, yes, we need to prepare,” he nodded. “Yes, we need to live by faith. We live in a world where evil is present. Even Jesus said there would be troubles.”

In the simplest of terms Cochran urged, “Prepare, prepare, prepare. Then you have to walk by faith. We’re called to illuminate the darkness.”

– Lisa Misner Sergent

Thnaksgiving Blessing Celebrating Grateful Meal Concept

(Editor’s note: For thirty years, Chicago Tribune columnist Joan Beck annually penned a wonderful essay of thanks. It was part song, part poetry, and a lovely grocery list of God’s blessings in the year nearly passed. Beck died in 1998. Here we offer our own humble version, with thanks for her example of gratitude.)

As we gather together to ask the Lord’s blessings,
396 years after the first Thanksgiving Day,
we are grateful, dear God
For pilgrim fathers and mothers
who survived privation and dismay,
only to see your rich blessings
on the other side of suffering.
Their spiritual journey reached fulfillment on these shores;
Brave Pilgrims in a fearful new world,
Found welcome and home.

Now thank we all our God—
For that signal year 1517,
When an agitated priest sounded a protest,
Nailing his complaints to the church house door.
The echo of his hammer rings today.
We are grateful inheritors of the Reformation,
Expiation, Propitiation
Justification, Sanctification;
that the just shall live by faith alone;
For grace that grants to us salvation
offered freely but in Christ alone
my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song.

Here we are, five centuries past, and the Protest lives.
The freedoms won by our spiritual ancestors are still protected;
We are grateful for the Constitution that lets us worship freely—
even though our theology differs,
And to speak freely—even when others object.

O God, our help in ages past, our help for years to come…
For responders first on scene in crisis and storm,
That in their service we see the Ultimate Rescuer.
For those who come in the second wave;
“Yellow Shirts” and the Relief they bring,
the love they extend for the One who gave
his very life the dying to save,
and for standing for us all, we sing,
You’re a good, good father
It’s who you are, it’s who you are,
it’s who you are.

Give thanks with a grateful heart…
For text and Skype and e-mail too—
(I may never have said that before)—
because it keeps our loved ones close
though they live on distant shore.
For faithful companions for life’s journey
and a church that proves they’re truly family
in our time of need,
and for man’s best friend
who loves us steadily to the end
(not only because we feed them)
thank you.

For summer tomatoes and cornbread dressing,
Folded hands and children’s blessing,
The Spirit’s whisper in times distressing;
For “miracle drugs” and miracles real,
For doctors, nurses, and the God who heals,
for the will to get up and the desire to soldier on,
for endurance and insurance and the blessed assurance
that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Amen.

Eric Reed is editor of Illinois Baptist media

Blue abstract background with white spot light, abstract tropica

With less than one-sixth left of 2017, unless there’s a drastic turnaround, the year likely won’t be remembered as one of the country’s best. Devastating hurricanes. Political gridlock. The worst mass shooting in U.S. history. The headlines have only gotten bleaker as the year has worn on. And the year’s not over yet.

A new survey on what Americans fear the most paints a picture of how the year has taken a toll on lots of people. Almost 75% of Americans are afraid or very afraid of corrupt government officials, according to Chapman University’s annual survey. That topped the list last year too, but was the only fear expressed by more than half of respondents. This year, five fears were held by a majority, including the new healthcare plan, pollution, and not having enough money for the future.

Things are difficult, and people are scared. Scanning the headlines or, more likely, scrolling through a news feed, doesn’t help either. The current climate is such that as our team brainstormed how to write about Thanksgiving this year, we couldn’t come up with much of a fresh angle. Certainly, we have a lot to be thankful for; as Americans, we know that’s true. But with the din of the constant news cycle perpetually in our ears, it can be difficult to pinpoint the bright spots in an otherwise dreary year.

Perhaps that’s why a Friday conversation with an Illinois pastor’s wife was so refreshing. Jane Miller and her husband, Larry, have been part of Shiloh Baptist Church in Villa Ridge for nearly 33 years. Jane answered our call that Friday afternoon for information about the church’s recent 200th anniversary, but ended up sharing some unexpected hope too.

She talked about how she and Larry have developed deep friendships with the people in their church over the years. How he has mowed yards when some of their church members haven’t been able to do it themselves. That he keeps the church refrigerator stocked with eggs from the chickens he keeps. Every off-hand reference she made to their church and their ministry told the story of people who have put down roots in a community and are committed to each other.

That’s hopeful.

So, too, is a group of kids waiting—beach towels over their arms—to be baptized at Stonefort Missionary Baptist Church.

Perhaps it’s because the year has been so murky that these bright spots, which might have been overlooked in the past, shine even brighter. As we approach a season focused on giving thanks, may we be grateful for the little things that remind us of God’s goodness and provision, in this year and every other.

-MDF

The Briefing

TX church holds first Sunday service since attack
After an emotional sermon held outdoors under a massive white tent, congregants and the public were invited to return to the church for the first time since the tragedy. A chilling memorial set up inside First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs included 26 white chairs bearing each victim’s name painted in gold. Pastor Frank Pomeroy shared his personal heartache and a message that the community bound together by faith can move past the evil that attacked the church seven days earlier. The service was held in a massive white tent erected in a baseball field.

Missionaries assist Muslims amid humanitarian crisis
Renewed clashes between Rohingya militants and security forces in Myanmar have created a massive new humanitarian crisis, resulting in more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee into Bangladesh since Aug. 25. The government of Myanmar faces accusations of ethnic cleansing and international condemnation. Myanmar and its Muslim neighbor Bangladesh have largely been closed off to Christian missionaries, but Christian aid groups are now in Bangladesh to help the Rohingya.

Supreme Court to weigh anti-abortion speech restrictions
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Nov. 13 to take up a fight over a California law that requires pregnancy counseling centers, including those run by churches, to tell their patients that subsidized abortions are available elsewhere. Signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2015, the law says the centers must post or distribute a notice that says in part “California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access” to such services as contraception and abortion. It was immediately challenged by religiously affiliated clinics that argue the law is worse than censorship, compelling them to communicate a message offensive to their beliefs.

Teacher removed after calling transgender student a ‘girl’
A Christian math teacher in the United Kingdom has been removed from the classroom for referring to a biologically female transgender student as a girl. Joshua Sutcliffe, a 27-year-old who teaches 11 to 18-year-olds at a school in Oxfordshire, has been removed from his teaching capacity and is facing a disciplinary hearing after a parental complaint that he discriminated against a female-born transgender student by stating “well done, girls” when addressing the student’s small group during class. The student in question self-identifies as male and Sutcliffe reportedly had not been instructed formally that she was to be referred to as a boy.

Museum of the Bible officially opens this week
The new Museum of the Bible – a project seven years in the making – officially opens its doors this week. In the heart of Washington, D.C., it’s the first museum solely dedicated to God’s holy word. With a $500 million investment and global cultural and scholastic partnerships, the Museum of the Bible hopes that its mission translates into more people reading and appreciating the best-selling book of all time.

Sources: Religion News Service, World Magazine, NBC News, The Christian Post, CBN News