Read: Acts 6:4 (ESV)

“But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

Time management

By Adron Robinson

There are 168 hours in a week, and most weeks they seem to go by way too fast. Each week has a variety of good things you can do to fill those hours: community meetings, phone calls, pastoral care, staff development, membership concerns, teaching, sermon preparation, and the list goes on. But how do you determine how much time to spend on each of them when there are so many options?

In Acts 6:1-4, the church was growing rapidly, and because of this, the disciples had to make some hard decisions about how to divide their time. There were people in need and ministry to be done, and they had the same 168 hours a week that you and I have. But they made a decision to prioritize their time by focusing on what God called them to do and to delegate to capable people that which was not their calling.

The apostles said: “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.” And pastor, it is not right for you to serve tables at the neglect of prayer and preaching the word.

Prayer and preaching are the pastor’s priority. You must discipline your time to allow for prayer and the ministry of the word. If you are not intentional about spending time with God and his word, you will find yourself giving God your leftovers instead of your first fruit.

It takes time to pray and it takes time to study and craft biblically sound sermons. So, set aside the hours to do what God called you to do and delegate the things that others can do. Every Christian can serve, but the pastor is called to preach the word.

Prayer Prompt: Lord, Sundays seem to come so fast and there is so much work to do. Grant us your wisdom and discernment to make prayer and preaching our first priority, so that we can commit our time to our calling.

Adron Robinson pastors Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills and is president of IBSA.

Pending: Illinois law to allow abortions through all nine months of pregnancy
Several Southern states and Missouri became the latest to approve anti-abortion measures, with an ultimate goal of challenging Roe v. Wade before the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Illinois lawmakers stepped up their efforts to move forward on a bill that would expand abortion in the state.

In Washington, Baptist missions leader addresses refugee crisis
International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood met with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) May 16 about the plight of refugees around the world and increased religious persecution. “Our intent is to keep a dialogue open with influencers who can help ensure the safety of our global workers sharing hope,” Chitwood told Baptist Press, “and to discuss any way we can offer support to those people seeking hope and peace around the world.”

‘Equality Act’ would eliminate religious freedom protections
The U.S. House of Representatives approved on May 17 the Equality Act, which would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the classifications protected in federal civil rights law. The legislation, which faces opposition in the Republican-majority Senate, would also eliminate use of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) as a possible protection in cases covered by the measure, Baptist Press reported.

Taiwanese Christians lament new marriage law
Taiwan became the first Asian country to legalize gay marriage May 16, even after 67% of voters said no to same-sex unions in a nationwide referendum last year. Of the 28 countries in the world that allow gay marriage, Pew Forum reports, 18 are in Western Europe.

Long-running PBS kids’ show celebrates same-sex wedding
When Arthur the aardvark’s teacher got married in the PBS show’s 22nd season premiere May 13, the biggest news wasn’t that the teacher, a rat, married an aardvark, but that Mr. Ratburn married a chocolate shop owner named Patrick. That a children’s show tackled a topic like gay marriage isn’t surprising, BreakPoint writer G. Shane Morris noted, but the cultural milieu also doesn’t let Christian parents off the hook. “…Though my tax dollars may be funding public indoctrination and the defilement of childhood entertainment,” Morris wrote, “my real investment is in teaching my sons and daughter the truth.”

Within 24 hours of its airing, more than 13,000 people had signed an online petition protesting the episode.

The Christian Post, Illinois Baptist, Baptist Press (3), WORLD

Actions on abuse, racism await messengers in Birmingham

By Meredith Flynn, with reporting by Baptist Press

SBC Kids

“Gospel Above All” is the theme of the June 11-12 annual meeting of Southern Baptists.

“It is the gospel that is the source of our renewal, and it is the gospel that should be our defining characteristic as a people,” Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear told the SBC Executive Committee last fall. “[The gospel] should be what people think about and talk about when they think and talk about us.”

When Baptists arrive in Birmingham, however, several other topics—some of them highly charged—will also be on the table. Chief among them is the SBC’s response to a Houston Chronicle report detailing hundreds of cases of sexual abuse perpetrated by Southern Baptist ministers and volunteers.

Greear and other SBC leaders have said it is crucial that Baptists leave Birmingham with a clear position against abuse and churches that exhibit indifference toward it. They also need to make strides toward caring well for survivors. During the business session, voters at the meeting (called “messengers”) will consider an amendment to the SBC Constitution to designate churches indifferent toward abuse as not in friendly cooperation with the convention.

Messengers will also consider a similar amendment on racism. In order to become part of the SBC Constitution, both measures must be approved by a two-thirds majority in Birmingham and at the 2020 meeting in Orlando.

New leaders on the platform
Paul Chitwood (International Mission Board), Adam Greenway (Southwestern Seminary), and Ronnie Floyd (Executive Committee) will each share their first reports as heads of Southern Baptist entities, although Floyd is a familiar face after serving two one-year terms as SBC president.

While in that role from 2014 to 2016, Floyd was known for consistent communication with fellow Southern Baptists through blog posts and social media. As newly elected president of the Executive Committee, he recently launched an online campaign to promote the annual meeting and get more Baptists to Birmingham by sharing 50 reasons to be there—one each day leading up to the convention.

Floyd’s new role positions him to play an integral part in the SBC’s actions on sexual abuse. After his election in April, he pledged to use the weeks before Birmingham to work with other SBC leaders on a unified response.

On Monday evening prior to the annual meeting, a study team appointed by Greear will co-host with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission a discussion on sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches. A new curriculum for churches—“Becoming a Church That Cares Well for the Abused”—also will be unveiled at the meeting.

While serving as SBC president, Floyd brought leaders together for a memorable worship service devoted to praying for racial reconciliation. Greear has made it a goal of his presidency for Southern Baptist leadership to reflect the diversity of Southern Baptist churches. The Birmingham meeting will feature a panel discussion titled “Undivided: Your Church and Racial Reconciliation,” as well as

two additional panels: “Gospel Above All: Keeping Secondary Issues Secondary,” and “Indispensable Partners: The Value of Women in God’s Mission.”

Room at the table
As the SBC and the culture at large continue to wrestle with the ramifications of #metoo, several new and revamped events in Birmingham will focus on the role of women in the church and the denomination:

The new SBC Women’s Leadership Network will be featured during a Women’s Session Monday morning, which takes the place of the former Pastors’ Wives Conference. Norine Brunson, wife of formerly imprisoned pastor Andrew Brunson, will speak during the session, along with author Kandi Gallaty and “SBC This Week” podcast host Amy Whitfield, among others.

Illinois’ own Becky Gardner will participate in a panel discussion on leadership development at the 5th annual Women’s Leadership Breakfast June 12. Gardner, superintendent of Peoria Christian School, is chair of the trustees for breakfast sponsor Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Last year’s meeting in Dallas marked the first gathering of Women & Work, a group dedicated to helping women pursue God’s mission through their vocations. Teacher and author Jen Wilkin will speak at this year’s forum June 11, along with Tami Heim, president and CEO of Christian Leadership Alliance.

The annual Ministers’ Wives Luncheon will feature Lauren Chandler, whose book “Steadfast Love: The Response of God to the Cries of Our Heart” will set the stage for the luncheon’s theme. Tickets are available at lifeway.com/en/events/ministers-wives-luncheon.

Our shared mission
The Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ main channel for sending support to missions and ministry around the world, has taken center stage—literally—at recent annual meetings. This year in Birmingham is no different. The CP stage in the exhibit hall is set to host interviews and panel discussions on how Baptists work together to get the good news of Jesus to more people around the world.

On Tuesday afternoon, annual meeting attendees will hear from current

International Mission Board personnel and new appointees at a missionary Sending Celebration.

Also in Birmingham, numerous Baptist fellowship groups will meet, including:
• Southern Baptist Hispanic Leaders Council
• Chinese Baptist Fellowship
• Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches
• National Asian American Fellowship
• Second Generation Asian American Fellowship
• Filipino Southern Baptist Fellowship
• Fellowship of Native American Christians
• Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship

In addition to those groups, the National African American Fellowship (NAAF) will meet in Birmingham to, among other goals, honor former slave and first North American missionary George Liele. NAAF will submit a resolution to add a George Liele Day to the SBC calendar and will ask SBC seminaries to consider creating Liele scholarships, NAAF President Marshal Ausberry told Baptist Press.

A 2012 SBC resolution formally recognizes Liele as the first overseas missionary from the U.S. Scholarships in his name could help train future African American missionaries, Ausberry said.

For more information about the SBC annual meeting, Pastors’ Conference, and other Birmingham events, go to sbcannualmeeting.net.

– Meredith Flynn, with reporting by Baptist Press

By Milton Bost

birthday cake

Last month, I hoped my birthday would pass with little notice. It’s not that I don’t enjoy my birthdays. I used to anticipate them, but they just don’t hold the same level of excitement. They make me count and remind me that I am, to some people, an old person. I’m learning that too many birthdays can kill you.

Birthdays are milestones. They are mute reminders that more sand has passed through the hourglass. Birthdays give us a handle on the measurement of time, which, when broken into minutes, moves quickly. There are 60 minutes in an hour, 1,440 minutes in a day, 10,080 minutes in a week, and 525,600 minutes in a year. That means I experienced over 34,164,000 minutes by my birthday. My 65th birthday.

No wonder I need more naps.

The minutes often pass by so quietly, so consistently, that they can fool us. In C. S. Lewis’s “The Screwtape Letters,” the senior demon advises his protégé of the strategy of monotony: “The safest road to hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without any sudden turns, without milestones, without signposts….The gradual decay of youthful loves and youthful hopes, the quiet despair of ever overcoming chronic temptations…the drabness which we create in their lives…all this provides admirable opportunities of wearing out a soul by attrition.”

So, we mark our calendars and phones with deadlines, dates that set limits for the completion of objectives. If we ignore these deadlines, it brings unwanted consequences. Therefore, to live without deadlines is to live an inefficient, unorganized life, drifting with the breeze of impulse on the fickle way of our moods. We set deadlines because they discipline our use of time.

God is the one who brings about our birthdays, not as deadlines, but as lifelines. He builds them into our calendar once every year to enable us to make an annual appraisal, not merely of the length of life, but the depth of life. Birthdays are not observed simply to tell us we’re growing older, but to help us determine if we are also growing deeper.

Obviously if God has given you another year to live for him, then he has some things in mind. I have this strong suspicion that it includes much more than merely existing 1,440 minutes a day.

In a Psalm attributed to Moses, he prays, “Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts” (90:12). Is that not a perfect prayer for us to pray every year our lifeline rolls around?

There is, however, a warning: Don’t expect wisdom to come into your life wrapped up like a birthday present. It doesn’t come with song, candles, party favors, and fanfare. Wisdom comes privately from the Lord as a by-product of wise and right decisions, godly reactions, humble lessons, and application of his principles in daily circumstances. “Gray hair is a glorious crown; it is found in the ways of righteousness” (Proverbs 16:31).

Wisdom comes not from seeking after a ministry, but from anticipating the fruit of a disciplined life. It comes not from trying to do great things for God, but from being faithful to the small and often obscure tasks few people ever see.

James R. Sizoo said, “Let it never be forgotten that glamour is not greatness; applause is not fame; prominence is not eminence. The man of the hour is not apt to be the man of the ages. A stone may sparkle, but that does not make it a diamond; people may have money, but that does not make them a success.”

As we number our days, do we count the years as the grinding measurement of minutes, or can we find the marks of wisdom—character traits that were not there when we were younger?

As I look back over my life, I recall some of the things I did, that I said, that I believed. If I think long enough on them, I have regrets. But I thank the Lord that he was able to soften the hardness of my heart to help me become a better learner, a clearer thinker, and a corrected believer. If he should decide that April 18 was my last birthday, he has made my life full. He has forgiven me of my sin. He has blessed me beyond words. I pray that I have pleased him.

– Milton Bost is pastor of Chatham Baptist Church.

Baptists authored bill now before Texas Senate
Southern Baptists initiated a measure they hope the Texas Senate will vote to approve before the May 27 end of their current session. The bill, Baptist Press reported, would protect charitable organizations, their volunteers, and independent contractors from liability when disclosing credible sexual abuse allegations to prospective employers, even when no criminal charges have been filed against the accused.

The Texas House of Representatives unanimously approved the bill May 8.

Harvest pulls MacDonald’s sermons
Three months after firing Pastor James MacDonald, Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicagoland has removed audio and video versions of his sermons from their online channels. The church also won’t move forward with plans to distribute MacDonald’s “Walk in the Word” digitally, Christianity Today reported.

Freed woman’s attorney takes up another blasphemy case in Pakistan
The attorney for Asia Bibi, who was imprisoned for years on charges of blasphemy, said he will help the woman who now occupies her prison cell.

States consider Bible classes in public schools
Several states are now offering elective Bible and religion classes for public school students. The Washington Post explains how it works in two school districts in Kentucky, and how advocates are working to pass similar legislation in more states.

Survey: Growing diversity has advantages and challenges, Americans say
Americans have complicated views about the country’s growing diversity, Pew Research reports. Among the findings of a new survey: three-quarters of people say it’s important to promote diversity in the workplace, but only 24% believe companies should take race and ethnicity into account along with qualifications when it comes to decisions about hiring and promotions.

-Baptist Press, Christianity Today (2), USA Today, The Washington Post, Pew Research

Illinois lawmakers returned from their spring break poised to introduce legislation to legalize marijuana use for adults. The legalization effort is supported by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who advocated it throughout his campaign and in his inaugural address.

Pritzker and other legalization supporters say marijuana would bring beneficial revenue to the state, including up to $170 million in fiscal year 2020. But others say the costs—financial and otherwise—would be much greater.

“Too many people are shrugging and saying, Will it really do any harm? Yes. Absolutely, it will,” wrote two Illinois law enforcement associations in a joint statement last year. The Illinois Chiefs of Police and Illinois Sheriffs’ Associations pointed to increased marijuana-related traffic deaths and more teens being treated for marijuana use in Colorado, which legalized recreational marijuana in 2013.

Other opponents, including Illinois’ six Roman Catholic bishops, cite moral grounds for their disagreement. “As lawmakers consider this issue it is important to remember they are not only debating legalization of marijuana, but also commercialization of a drug into an industry the state will profit from,” the bishops said in February.

“In seeking the common good, the state should protect its citizens.”

Flag of Illinois State, on cannabis background

Currently, recreational marijuana is legal in 10 states, and 22 others, including Illinois, have legalized medical use of the drug. The legislators writing the Illinois law—Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago)—hoped to unveil it during the General Assembly’s first week back. A shell of the bill, SB 7, was filed in January, but details weren’t made available prior to legislators’ spring break.

The legislation would reportedly remove previous misdemeanor marijuana convictions, the Chicago Sun-Times reported, and would provide support for minority-owned businesses within the state’s future marijuana industry. The General Assembly’s Black Caucus is a key component of the legalization push, Politico reported, but in March, the Illinois president of the NAACP spoke against the measure.

“Just because something is legal doesn’t make it right and it doesn’t mean it’s healthy for our communities,” said Teresa Haley. “It hurts our community.”

Supporters of legalization also face opposition from some fellow lawmakers. Prior to the General Assembly’s spring break, 60 members of the Illinois House—a majority—signed on to a resolution to slow down the legalization process. The resolution’s sponsor is Rep. Martin Moylan (D-Des Plaines).

“I believe more research needs to be done on the topic of legalization including hearing from experts, such as physicians,” Moylan told the Sun-Times last year, prior to his election. “I am worried about underage use as we’ve seen with alcohol. I do not want ‘normalization.’”

Other bills to watch
Mandated reporters
SB 1778, sponsored by Sen. Julie A. Morrison (D-Deerfield), amends the Abuse and Neglected Child Reporting Act to add clergy to the list of mandated reporters of abuse and neglect.

Status: The bill passed in the Senate April 10, and was assigned to the House Adoption & Child Welfare Committee April 30. Its chief sponsor in the House is Rep. Bob Morgan (D-Deerfied).

LGBT-inclusive curriculum
In March, the Illinois House passed HB 0246, which requires public schools to include in their curriculum the roles and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. The bill’s chief sponsor in the House was Rep. Anna Moeller (D-
Elgin).

Status: The bill, sponsored by Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), was assigned to the Education Committee April 24.

Sports gambling legalization
The House Revenue and Finance Committee held a second hearing April 25 on legalizing sports gambling in Illinois. Rep. Michael J. Zalewski (D-Riverside) filed a shell bill in February, but lawmakers haven’t yet introduced details of the legislation. Gov. Pritzker proposed a budget in February that includes revenue from sports betting, which is currently legal in seven states.

– State Journal-Register, Chicago Sun-Times, Politico

By Meredith Flynn

The announcement that LifeWay Christian Resources will close its brick-and-mortar stores by the end of the year dismayed many Southern Baptists who have long shopped the shelves for books, music, and Lord’s Supper wafers. The reaction was predictable—it’s sad to lose a trusted source of information and resources. What some seem to be missing even more, though, is a unique service LifeWay offered customers: vetting.

“I think one of the greatest competitive advantages LifeWay could have had, and had in some ways, was being trustworthy, where pastors could tell their congregations, ‘You can go into the store, and anything you buy is trustworthy,’” Indiana pastor Tim Overton told Baptist Press.

LifeWay, he said, “was unique [among bookstores] in holding very high standards and not simply allowing a profit to motivate all choices.”

In the weeks since LifeWay announced the closures, that quality has been celebrated by pastors like Overton, and lamented by some authors whose books weren’t sold in LifeWay stores. Others, though, praised the organization’s principled stand, even while not agreeing with its actual principles.

“I genuinely respect them (or any company) that is driven by principles other than profit alone,” tweeted Tish Harrison Warren, an author and Anglican priest whose book LifeWay declined to sell. “My book has sold well. LifeWay likely lost $ by not selling my book. Props for being willing to.”

When LifeWay stores close their doors this year, books and Bible studies and curriculum resources will still be available online. In fact, LifeWay plans to invest more in digital strategies to meet the needs of online customers. One aspect of the shopping experience they should consider is how to communicate to the buyer that the resources they’re scrolling through are held to the same standard as what was previously on LifeWay shelves.

In a world full of online bookstores, it may be hard to distinguish a sell-anything-that-sells mentality from a thoughtfully curated collection. The end of LifeWay stores puts more responsibility on readers to judge carefully what books are worthy of a place on their own shelves.

LifeWay stores weren’t controlled by profit, but as a Baptist Press article pointed out, finances were ultimately what brought the publisher to the decision to close. The stores lost money while LifeWay’s digital channels grew.

Faced with the numbers, the publisher made what they deemed to be the wisest choice. Now, smart phone in hand, it’s up to readers to do the same.

– Meredith Flynn