The BriefingPastors sue Illinois over gay conversion therapy ban
A group of pastors is suing Illinois over a law that bars therapists and counselors from trying to change a minor’s sexual orientation, saying the prohibition violates free speech and religious rights. The federal lawsuit seeks to exclude clergy from the ban that took effect Jan. 1, arguing that homosexuality is “contrary to God’s purpose” and a disorder that “can be resisted or overcome by those who seek to be faithful to God and His Word.”

Olympics wrap-up: God praised by athletes in triumph, defeat
The images and memories of the 2016 Olympics will endure for much longer than the torch’s flame. Several athletes who are professing Christians joined in the medal haul. Helen Maroulis won the first gold medal ever for the United States in women’s wrestling, and said that throughout her competition she repeated to herself the mantra, “Christ in me, I am enough.”

Judge blocks transgender restroom order
A federal judge in Texas has temporarily blocked the Obama administration’s directive forcing schools to allow transgender students to use restroom and locker room facilities based on gender identity, rather than their biological sex. District Judge Reed O’Connor said the departments of Education and Justice failed to follow the Administrative Procedures Act, which requires advanced notice and a public comment period before issuing such guidelines.

Judge under fire for praying in courtroom
A Texas judge could be sued for starting every court session with a short prayer. The Freedom From Religion Foundation alleges that Judge Wayne Mack’s invocation is “unconstitutional,” and the organization is currently considering a lawsuit. Mack pointed out that both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Texas Supreme Court start their opening sessions with an invocation, and he’s just “following in their footsteps.”

Lutherans recognize agreement with Catholic Church
Nearly 500 years after Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Castle Church door, the largest Lutheran denomination in the U.S. has approved a declaration recognizing “there are no longer church-dividing issues” on many points with the Roman Catholic Church. The “Declaration on the Way” was approved 931-9 by the 2016 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Churchwide Assembly in New Orleans.

Sources: Big Story AP, Baptist Press, World Magazine, Fox News, Religion News Service

South_Asia

An mission team member teaches girls at a missions center in South Asia last March.

The best kind of advertising is free advertising, I’m pretty sure I heard in my college “Introduction to Public Relations” class. When it comes to missions, I think my professor knew what he was talking about.

Have you ever talked to someone who just got back from a mission trip? It’s like the old joke (that has been given new life with modern phenomena like veganism and CrossFit):

How do you know someone just got back from a mission trip (or is a vegan, or does CrossFit)?

MIO-box-smallDon’t worry, they’ll tell you about it.

And isn’t that a good thing? To share missions stories and try to help the people who weren’t there understand why you felt compelled to go—and probably go back? Even better, talking about a mission trip gives you an opportunity to challenge them to go.

Mark Emerson recently described a mission volunteer as a “living brochure.” The woman he was talking about, Lindsay McDonald, is a pastor’s wife from Casey, Ill., who went to South Asia in March with a small team from Illinois. The group shared the gospel in villages  where more than 90% of the population is Muslim.

Watch the Mission Illinois Offering video, Mobilizing Volunteers Worldwide, to learn more about Lindsay McDonald’s South Asia trip

They also visited community centers where women are learning job skills and Bible stories.

When the team got back to Illinois, they started telling their stories. The group is contagious, Emerson said, but in the best possible way. And people are catching what they have.

When the team got back to Illinois, they started telling their stories. The group is contagious, but in the best possible way.

I went to Haiti with an IBSA GO Team in 2013. When I got back to Illinois, it was all I talked about for a few weeks. My husband was on the team too, so we talked about it at home. I wrote about it in the Illinois Baptist. We shared with our community group and local church about the trip.

Haiti was constantly on our lips and on our hearts.

Before you get too impressed, I should confess that a weekend spent binge-watching Downton Abbey has had the same effect on me. Without meaning to, I start using the cadence and accent of early 1900s Britain. That’s what an immersive experience does: We adopt the passion and language of the experience that has captivated us.

We become living brochures. And in the best cases, what we’re advertising is the call to sacrifice time, money, energy, comfort, even safety, for the sake of taking the gospel to a place and a people deeply in need of it.

Free advertising, for a really great product.

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering and Week of Prayer September 11-18.

– Meredith Flynn is an editorial contributor to the Illinois Baptist

Office chairLooking around the table at a leadership meeting, I noted who was there. More important, I realized who wasn’t.

This was the first meeting under the church’s new leadership structure. Most of the people had served in leadership capacities and most of them had served together at one time or another. But they had not all served together at the same time.

So we brought them together.

The need in this congregation was enhanced communication among ministry planners. The church’s various ministries had a history of bumping heads. There was confusion over use of rooms and recruiting workers. There was often a sense that no one really knew what was going on. And it was evident that the ministry teams held differing views on their own purposes, and different interpretations of the vision of the church.

Surely a regular meeting of the leaders would help to fix this. But it didn’t.

Not all the leaders were there. One man who said he hated meetings chose not to attend, so his cause had no voice in the allocation of dates and resources. Another team had three people in attendance, so the discussion felt tilted to their interests.

Sitting there, I made a few notes:

• Everyone here is a longtime member. Are there new people with fresh ideas we should bring to the table?

• Everyone is from the same generation. How can we bring other age groups to the discussion?

• Everyone is from an elected position, but not all ministries are represented. And a couple don’t need this level of input. Which are the right ministries to include so the vision is accomplished?

• Our discussion seems dominated by a few not-well-prepared people. How can we improve their preparation or dismiss them from the group?

• After this meeting, we still need buy-in from “unelected” leaders. How can we bring opinion leaders to the table?

Next time you’re at a leadership meeting, give some thought to who’s at the table.

 This article first appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of the Resource Magazine. Read it online at Resource.IBSA.org.

 – Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist

The BriefingWhen it rains, it pours for weary south Louisiana
For the second time in five months, historic flooding has left widespread devastation and suffering through south Louisiana. As of Sunday afternoon, four people have been killed in the flooding, thousands have been displaced and thousands of homes, businesses and churches have been affected by the flooding. Louisiana Southern Baptist churches are responding amid the devastation.

Five Christian gold medalist Olympians at Rio 2016
Athletes from across the globe have gathered in search of gold at the 2016 Olympic Games, and five Christian sportspeople have managed to overcome obstacles to earn the top honor. Simone Manuel, Caeleb Dressel, Laurie Hernandez, Osea Kolinisau, and Anna Van Der Breggen are five Olympians whose Christian faith has helped them prevail when stumbling blocks could have prevented them from winning gold medals in Rio De Janeiro.

Egyptian sent home from Rio for refusing to shake Israeli’s hand
An Egyptian athlete who refused to shake his Israeli opponent’s hand after their judo bout has been reprimanded and sent home from the Rio Olympics. When Sasson extended his hand, El Shehaby backed away, shaking his head. The referee called the 34-year-old El Shehaby back to the mat and obliged to him to bow; he gave a quick nod and was loudly booed as he exited.

Russia’s ban on evangelism is now in effect
Last month, Russia’s new anti-terrorism laws restricting Christians from evangelizing outside of their churches, went into effect. The “Yarovaya package” requires missionaries to have permits, makes house churches illegal, and limits religious activity to registered church buildings, among other restrictions. Individuals who disobey could be fined up to $780, while organizations could be fined more than $15,000. Many are wondering how strictly will it be enforced.

Countries make Christian charity harder to give and receive
Nearly 20% of the world’s population could lose access to the ministry efforts of Western Christians next year. In April, China banned foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from engaging in or funding religious activities. The measure could expel Christian groups that are doing medical, developmental, or educational work in the world’s largest country by population, with 1.4 billion people.

Sources: Louisiana Baptist Message, Christian Post, Christianity Today, Christianity Today

ChicaGO Week mobilizes youth to missions—and inspires me deeply.

Chicago Week Group

Photo op | Part of the group from First Baptist Church O’Fallon poses for a picture before starting the daily commute back to Judson University.

Two summers in a row now I have been completely immersed in the world of the Mission Illinois Offering – helping provide churches with state missions Bible studies, crafting guides for Illinois Baptists to prayerfully walk through with one another, and working to prepare hearts for giving and supporting missions right here in our own state.

MIO-box-smallThere is one area, though, which Mission Illinois giving supports that has become especially near and dear to me: ChicaGO Week.

I have had the opportunity to cover a number of incredible stories about work that IBSA churches are doing across the state – a small, rural congregation feeding thousands of people each month, urban church planters gathering together for mutual encouragement and solidarity, children whose Christlike actions have touched the lives of adults and entire communities.

Watch the MIO video, “Students on Mission in Chicago.”

But when I reflect on which stories have had the most impact on me personally – which testimonies and experiences have managed to stand out above all the rest – hands down they revolve around the selflessness and joy I’ve had the privilege to witness during ChicaGO Week.

As you can read about more in the upcoming August 22 edition of the Illinois Baptist, ChicaGO Week offers youth a unique opportunity to travel to this huge mission field and partner with local church planters whose goal is to reach the 9 million Chicagoland residents with the gospel, a large majority of whom don’t have a relationship with Jesus.

And trust me when I tell you that these students don’t take this partnership lightly.

Chicago Week Bubbles

Sports Camp | Local kids came to Transformation Church each day during ChicaGO Week as IBSA youth partnered with them to put on a sports camp — complete with bubbles and chalk drawing galore.

Last summer I watched as kids braved the summer heat and accomplished more yard work in a few hours than that church planter and his family could have gotten done all week. I thanked God for a young group of girls as they bravely talked to strangers and told others about Christ in this huge city they’d never even been to before. And this summer I couldn’t help but be filled with joy as 30+ students poured their time and energy into simply playing games with kids in the local community – eating ice cream together and showing them the love of Jesus.

Letting them know that they matter.

And the planters. The students during ChicaGO Week only get a brief glimpse into the daily lives of these church planters – seeing just a peek into the challenging, sometimes grueling and heartbreaking, yet oh so rewarding world of starting a new congregation. But getting to speak to these men and their families gives youth the opportunity to see the need for the gospel in our state, and it has given me such a greater appreciation for where my MIO dollar is going.

So I encourage you to give to the Mission Illinois Offering, and give generously. Because I’ve seen firsthand the life change and the souls that are won for the Lord when these planters have the resources they need to fulfill the mission that has been placed on their hearts.

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering and Week of Prayer.

– Morgan Jackson is an editorial contributor for IBSA and freelance writer living in Bloomington, IL.

Save

Fear Concept Wooden Letterpress Type

I am part of a very lively, very opinionated Sunday school class. Most of us are in our 50s and 60s, which, of course, means there is also great wisdom in our class (or so we’d like to think!). There are many times when our class discussions veer off into politics, pop culture or current events. This almost always results in hand-wringing, head-shaking, and longing for “the good old days.”

A couple of weeks ago, one of my classmates, a father of two, told us how sad and fearful he had felt that weekend when he was watching his kids play, thinking, “What if this time, right now, is the best time of their lives? What if it’s downhill from here?” What a sad thought!

It reminded me of something I had read in “Fervent,” Priscilla Shirer’s book on prayer:
“If I were your enemy, I’d magnify your fears, making them appear insurmountable, intimidating you with enough worries until avoiding them becomes your driving motivation.”

Shirer says fear is one of Satan’s primary schemes for crippling God’s people. I’m not talking about legitimate concern or warnings of godly wisdom; I’m talking about incessant worry, up-all-night anxiety, and worst-case scenarios that become the only probabilities you can imagine.

These were the kinds of fears my friend in class was talking about. And it made me mad! But not at him. I was mad at the enemy for messing with him, for messing with me, for messing with all of us! In class that day, I felt compelled to tell him, “Don’t give Satan that power over you!”

Satan is NOT God, and he’s not God’s counterpart or peer. They’re not even on the same playing field! Stop allowing his “spirit of fear” to invade our lives. We need to pray fervently and strategically against the enemy, as Shirer writes in “Fervent.” You and I, coming to the Father through the mighty name of Jesus, can pray like the victorious saints of God we’ve been empowered to be!

With all that’s going on in the world, I totally understand where my friend is coming from. But I don’t want him to live with a spirit of fear. I will continue to remind myself and those I love to pray fervently.

He is my God, and I trust him. More than ever before!

Carole Doom is IBSA’s information specialist and a member of Living Faith Baptist Church in Sherman.

Baseball and Baptists

ib2newseditor —  August 10, 2016

Busch Stadium

I’m a St. Louis Cardinals fan and have been ever since I can remember. Growing up almost everyone I knew rooted for the Cardinals with the exception of a few odd Kansas City Royals fan.

I grew up watching their games on TV and listening to them on the radio in the family car. My parents would take us to Cardinal games to cheer our team on. When I moved to Illinois I stayed loyal to my team. I was even blessed to marry a fellow Cardinals fan and we continue the tradition of watching, listening, and going to games together.

We may be fans of different teams and squabble like siblings among ourselves, but we’ll always be a part of something greater in our Southern Baptist family through Christ.

I wouldn’t dream of supporting any other team. I am a member of Cardinals Nation, which feels like being part of a family. The atmosphere of camaraderie at the games is exciting. After games, we’ve spent the night at hotels near Busch Stadium and have gone down to breakfast to find the Cardinal mascot Fredbird the Redbird greeting people and posing for pictures with hungry fans.

At one time we even had Cardinal vanity plates on our car. I can remember being stopped at a red light a few times and having the person in the car next to us motion for the window to be rolled down. When we complied they would ask, “What’s the score?” Trips to games on I-55 often include pulling into a rest stop or restaurant. Fans decked out in Cardinal red apparel, who are perfect strangers, strike up conversations with each other about the team and the game they are on way to see.

I can relate this feeling and experience with being a Southern Baptist. My mother started attending our local Baptist church when I was just a few years old. She faithfully took all three of us kids for years until my father became a Christian when I was 12. Then church truly became a family affair. We all were part of a loving church family that worshiped, laughed, cried, and grew together.

Our own church family was part of a larger family of churches in our association, state convention, and national SBC. When we visit other churches and gather for annual meetings and conventions, we feel that same kinship as Christians and as Southern Baptists.

There is much more involved in my being a Southern Baptist than there is my being a Cardinal fan. The beliefs of my Baptist family and its commitment to the Lord are at the core of my being. In my life I’ve studied other denominations and visited their houses of worship, but none have the same belief in God and seek to follow him the way Southern Baptists do.

I suspect the same is true of many of you who are fans of the Cubs, White Sox, and other teams. We may be fans of different teams and squabble like siblings among ourselves, but we’ll always be a part of something greater in our Southern Baptist family through Christ.

-Lisa Sergent