Archives For July 2012

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Archer Jacob Wukie helped the U.S. men’s team earn a silver medal in the London Games.

Jacob Wukie helped propel the U.S. archery team to the country’s first medal (a silver) in the London Summer Games. But the 20-year-old told Baptist Press he’s learned, with successes and failures, the proper place for his identity.

“For me, my worth is in the fact that I am saved. I’m a Christian. I’m in Christ,” Wukie said in an interview just before the Games began. “That’s where my worth comes from. My goal is to glorify God and to do His will.”

Wukie was an alternate in the 2008 Beijing Games but came back this year as one member of the U.S. Men’s archery team, who lost narrowly to Italy in the final match Saturday.

He is one of several athletes competing in London who give God the glory for their talents, and place their faith in him no matter the outcome of these Olympics. Read more athlete profiles, including air rifle shooter Sarah Scherer, diver David Boudia, and soccer player Tobin Heath, at

IBSA’s Serena Butler and a team of Illinois volunteers are ministering in London during the Olympics. Check back here this week for more of their U.K. adventures.

Other stories:

Church says no to wedding because of couple’s race
A Mississippi church has dredged up long-simmering racial tensions by blocking the wedding of an African American couple. Charles and Te’Andrea Wilson had scheduled their wedding at First Baptist Church, Crystal Springs, but Pastor Stan Weatherford moved the ceremony to another church when members of his congregation protested the wedding because the Wilsons are African American. Weatherford wanted to avoid trouble for the couple on their wedding day, he told the Clarion-Ledger newspaper. “I was just trying to think about a win-win.” Russell Moore, a Mississippi native and professor at Southern Seminary, posted on his blog that because of the state’s violent racial past, Christians in Mississippi ought to lead the way in “biblical reconciliation and revival.” “But that means a lose-win situation,” Moore wrote. “We lose face, we lose ourselves. We seek mercy and a new start. We repent, and don’t just rebrand.” Read more at; for Russell Moore’s full blog post, go to

464,000 sign up to support Chick-Fil-A
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee started a revolution of sorts when he enlisted Facebook users to sign up for Chick-Fil-Appreciation Day, scheduled for Wednesday, August 1. The campaign is in response to opponents of the restaurant chain’s support of traditional family values, which came into renewed focus after Chick-Fil-A President Dan Cathy told The Biblical Recorder his company supports “the biblical definition of a family unit.” Proponents of same-sex marriage and leaders like Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel expressed their outrage, with some calling for boycotts and Emanuel threatening to block Chick-Fil-A from opening stores in Chicago. (He has since admitted such action would be unconstitutional). Go to for more.

On candidates, voters already know what they need to know
A Pew Research Center study found the majority of voters believe they already know as much as they need to know about President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Only 8% of those surveyed said they needed to know more about Obama (90% said they already know enough), and 28% want to know more about Romney (69% know enough).  And for those who want to know more about Romney, the candidate’s religion is low on the list of hot topics: Only 16% said they wanted to know more about his Mormon faith. Read more about the findings at

Passing the torch

Meredith Flynn —  July 30, 2012

HEARTLAND | Serena Butler

If you watched the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics (and stayed up long enough to see the lighting of the Olympic Flame), you saw a brilliant depiction of “passing on the torch.” Seven well-known British athletes passed their torches to seven young athletes they had selected, each of whom has shown promise in their particular sport. Then all seven of the younger athletes, in unison, lit the Olympic Flame.

I can only imagine the excitement that these young people felt as they took the fire and raised it in the air. It was a wonderful picture of one generation passing on responsibility to a younger one.

I’ve seen a similar picture – except without torches – during our time in London. At times, our “missions veterans” are modeling ministry, and other times, they’re sitting back and letting the younger team members take the lead.

We stood at the Tube stop near Southfields Church on Sunday, handing out information about the TV Lounge the church is hosting during the Games. One of the younger team members came over to me and said, “I’m not very good at this. You are good.” I told her that it came with years of practice and learning to step out of my comfort zone. I learned by watching others and deciding to take a chance and try it myself.

I’ve heard a lot of devotions and sermons about “passing the torch,” but it’s clearer to me now after watching this team. (And forgive me for the sports analogy, but we are the Olympics, after all). If you’re in a relay race and you have completed your leg, your job is to cheer on your teammates. You don’t run after them and take the baton back. You don’t dive back into the pool and swim another lap. You’ve done all you can do, and have passed the responsibility on to someone else. You’re job is to encourage from the sidelines.

There’s a lesson for those waiting for their leg of the race, too. Be prepared to do your part. Cheer on your team members, but be poised to jump in when it’s your turn.

No matter our age, we probably go back and forth between these two positions all our lives. Somewhere, someone needs us to be a model of ministry, ready to show them what to do and then encourage as they take the lead. But there’s also someone waiting to pass the torch to us.

Do you have someone you’re preparing to receive the torch? And what are you doing to be ready to receive the torch from someone else? The race isn’t over until Jesus returns. Keep running the race and passing the torch until that day comes.

OLYMPICS | Serena Butler

Still smiling after a two-hour train ride,
and ready to work with Southfields Baptist Church.

Our first full day of ministry in London started with a train ride. (Well, it actually started with a bowl of traditional English porridge for breakfast, then a train ride). Our group traveled together for an hour until we arrived at Liverpool Street station, where eight of us jumped off to catch the Tube (London’s subway) to Kings Cross Baptist Church. The rest traveled another hour to the Southfields stop, near Wimbledon, where we’ll work alongside Southfields Baptist Church.

Our first day of training was a lot like training for a new job. We learned how to make sandwiches, run the coffee machines, and keep the store room stocked with supplies. We also hung banners and set up tables and chairs, all in preparation for the people who will stop by the coffee houses this week to grab a bite to eat and watch the Games on the big screen.

We continue to have opportunities to talk to people who are here as volunteers or representing their countries or just as spectators. On Thursday, we met some members of the Chinese press, and also two young ladies from Russia who were trying to get tickets to some of the Olympic events. We told them about the coffee house and gave them flyers so that they could remember times and the place. We also delivered flyers to the homes around the coffee house. (Unlike in the U.S., you can put a flyer in the mail slot of the homes here. You just open the slot in the door and drop it onto the floor.)

We’ve had opportunity after opportunity to answer the question: Why are you here?

We’re having lots of conversations about why we’re here, and one of the beautiful things about this team is watching the younger members learn from the older members. The younger ones are seeing evangelism being modeled, and then are trying their hand at it a little while later.

Friday evening’s Opening Ceremonies will be our first big ministry event. At Southfields, they’ll be showing “Chariots of Fire” and the ceremonies on the big screen. Our group will be running the coffee house and passing out flyers at the Tube stop. Pray for both Kings Cross and Southfields churches as they minister, and that hearts will be open to the Gospel.

OLYMPICS | Serena Butler

Even before the Olympics bring thousands of people from around the world to London, it seems as though the world has already arrived here. During our second day of orientation, we learned about the city’s diverse population:

  • 12-14 million people in the greater London area
  • More than 300 languages spoken in the public schools here
  • Less than 10% of Londoners are in church on any given Sunday

You can’t see them, but there are 21 other Americans waiting to take a picture in this phone booth.

We also got a lesson in pin trading, a major Olympic past-time. It’s also an outreach tool used to share the Gospel. We each received some pins to give away, and had an opportunity to purchase pins from past Olympics to help us start conversations with people we’ll meet.

To end the day, we had a traditional English dinner – fish and chips- in St. Margarets, the town where we’re staying. Then we “took a wander” down the main street, enjoying the quaint homes. We found a phone booth and each team member took a turn posing in it. We drew several onlookers. I’m sure it was quite a site to see 22 Americans all excited about one phone booth. As we strolled along, several people asked us why we’re here. We had the chance to tell them we’re here for the Olympics and are working with some churches in the area.

Up next: Heading into the city to meet our host churches and being the ministry part of our trip. We’re excited and ready to get started!

London Calling!

Meredith Flynn —  July 25, 2012

OLYMPICS | Serena Butler

Editor’s note: IBSA’s Serena Butler is leading a mission team in London this week to help local churches there minister during the Summer Olympic Games, which start Friday. They’ll work in coffee houses hosted by the churches for Londoners and visitors to watch the Games, grab a bite to eat, and engage in conversation with people from around the world. Serena will post regular updates here, so be sure to check back frequently and also visit for more from London.

We had a miraculously smooth entry into London –
even with all our luggage.

When I called my mom before we left for London, I said, “Maybe all our flights will be on time and all our luggage will arrive on time.” She said, “That would be a miracle.”

Well, Mom, miracles still happen! We all arrived safely – actually early – into Heathrow International Airport Tuesday morning. We breezed through passport control, found our luggage, and made our way through customs without a hitch. When we came into the main terminal of the airport, there were Olympic volunteers everywhere waiting to greet teams and media people. As we waited for our mini-bus to arrive to take us to our lodging, several folks asked us who we were and what we were doing. Some asked us what sports team we were. I’m not sure what kind of team we look like, but it started some conversations as we waited.

Nelda Smothers, our senior team member, quickly started a conversation with one of the volunteers. As I approached her, I could hear her saying things like, “It’s about a relationship, not a religion.” She learned that the gentleman’s wife attends a church in the Kings Cross area, where half of our team will be serving. As we spoke to a few others they and we explained what we would be doing, one said, “I might just pop in for some coffee at your coffee house one afternoon.” (You need to say that last sentence with your best Mary Poppins impression).

Meeting the Norwegian handball team.
Go Norway! But what is handball?

As we waited outside for our ride, the Norwegian handball team arrived, and our team took advantage of the opportunity to take some photos with some real Olympians. Then, it was time to board our coach and head to All Nations, the Christian college where we’re staying this week. It’s housed in an old manor once owned by friends of William Wilberforce. If you saw that movie “Amazing Grace” that name should ring a bell. The college is a training school for missions. It has lovely gardens and is very nice – and very English.

Our lodging for the week.

Tuesday evening, we had our first orientation session, joining about 200 other volunteers from around the globe. I met Dirk, a young man from Germany, who’s here in London because, in his words, “I attended the Barcelona Games as an atheist and I was introduced to the Gospel by a street preacher there. That is where I began my search for God.” Now he is here, as a believer, to share the Gospel with others. He was raised in East Germany, under communism, so Barcelona was the first time he had heard the Gospel. Those are the kinds of opportunities we’re praying for this week.

THE BRIEFING | Posted by Meredith Flynn

From Peoria to Murphysboro, from Hoffman Estates to Mt. Vernon, video gambling will arrive in communities across Illinois in the next few weeks. The Illinois General Assembly approved a bill to allow video gambling in 2009, but the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) hasn’t been prepared to enact the legislation – until now. The law allows video gaming terminals to be placed in bars, fraternal and veteran’s organizations, and truck stops.

Quincy is just one Illinois town considering allowing video gambling now that the IGA has moved forward with the bill. Quincy First Southern Pastor Tom Rains is working with fellow pastors to prevent it from being approved. “This type of gaming revenue does more harm than good,” he said. “There are too many innocent victims. Studies have shown it takes just one year to become addicted to video gambling, while it takes three and half years for all other forms of gambling.”

An estimated 250 cities and counties in Illinois have bans on video gambling, but that doesn’t mean those communities will remain free of video gambling. Recently in Springfield, city council members voted to overturn the city’s ban and approved video gambling within the city limits.

The state projects it will earn 30 percent of the money video gamblers spend at the machines from taxes on the terminals. That could amount to anywhere between $184 million and $342 million in funds, which are slated to be spent on road, bridge and school construction. Five percent of the tax will go to the city or county where the terminals are located. The IGB reports it has received 1,000 applications from businesses wanting to have terminals and has approved 70.

But at what cost to cities and taxpayers? According to research by Baylor Professor Earl L. Grinols and University of Georgia Professor David B. Mustard, communities where gambling is legal pay $13,067 each year in criminal justice, social services, regulatory and other costs per pathological gambler. They also found for every $1 in tax revenue a community receives from gambling, it cost taxpayers $3.

Reported by Lisa Sergent, contributing editor for the Illinois Baptist.

Other news:

Warren hopes for audience with presidential candidates
No formal plans are yet in place, but Baptist Press reports Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, hopes to interview President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican candidate Mitt Romney in the church’s second presidential forum. The first, between Obama and John McCain, was held in August 2008 at the church’s Lake Forest, Ca., campus. Read more at

Restaurant pres. is no chicken, stands firm on traditional values
Some news outlets and event organizers initially reported National Eat at Chick-Fil-A Day was July 25. It’s actually scheduled for Wednesday, August 1.
Tomorrow, July 25, has been deemed National Eat at Chick-Fil-A Day by some conservative leaders, including former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who have rallied around the restaurant chain’s president, Dan Cathy. He is currently under fire for affirming Chick-Fil-A’s position on same-sex marriage in an interview earlier this month. Cathy told The Biblical Recorder, a Baptist newspaper in North Carolina, his company is “guilty as charged” of supporting traditional family values. His comments drew fire from proponents of same-sex marriage, some of whom called for a boycott of the restaurant chain. Read more about National Eat at Chick-Fil-A Day at

Wheaton College files suit against contraceptive mandate
Wheaton College has joined several fellow universities in opposing the Obama administration’s Health and Human Services Preventative Services mandate, which requires organizations to provide contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs through their insurance policies. According to the school’s website, Wheaton is partnering with The Catholic University of America in the suit, bringing the number of lawsuits filed against the mandate to 24. Read more about Wheaton’s suit at

Colorado church reaches out in aftermath of theater shooting
The members of Mississippi Avenue Baptist Church woke up last Friday morning with a new, probably deeper, burden to reach out to their community with the hope of Christ. The church is located less than a mile away from the Century Aurora 16 movie theater, where a gunman took 12 lives early last Friday morning and critically injured many others. Along with offering public prayer services and counseling, “We are equipping our members to share with our community that God is real, that He loves them desperately and that He will walk this road with them if they will only turn to Him,” Pastor Mitch Hamilton told Baptist Press. “He is with each one walking this road and He offers His presence to any who will call upon Him.” Read more at

HEARTLAND | Lisa Sergent

I’m amazed and even jealous when I hear people talk about their family’s Christian heritage. They recall learning about Jesus from their grandmother, hearing about their great-grandfather’s dedication to tithing as a child, and listening as their father led Bible study each evening before they went to bed. Others talk about holding Sunday morning services at family reunions. Their children are raised in church and make professions of faith before they are out of elementary school. All of their family members know Christ.

My family doesn’t have a rich Christian heritage. I didn’t grow up in a bad home; my parents were and still are very loving and, I believe, quite wonderful. I am blessed to call them my mom and dad. I just didn’t grow up surrounded by a Christian family.

My father’s parents were not Christians, but thought if they were “good” people they would go to heaven. My mother’s parents argued about religion from the very start of their marriage, he being Catholic and she, a member of the Christian Church. Because of their arguments my mother and her sister were not allowed to go to church. They rarely if ever talked about God in the home.

Thankfully, my branch of our family tree “branched out” from tradition. My mom became a Christian shortly after I was born, and my father when I was 12. (I met Christ three years earlier). My brother and sister came to believe in Him, too. But many of our family members still don’t know Him.

I have one relative who dismissively calls the story of Noah and the flood, “that old myth.” Another steadfastly maintains, “As long was we are good, God will send us all to heaven.” My heart aches for my paternal grandfather who died without making a commitment to Christ (to our knowledge).

So, with my parent’s generation, my family is just beginning to start its Christian heritage. Now, I see my parents teaching my nephews and niece about Jesus. I listen as they sing songs about Him and are eager to pray. My sister-in-law became a Christian after their first child was born and joins my brother in raising their children in church. My brother-in-law knows Christ, and I married a wonderful Christian man. It is my hope that my nephews and niece will one day have their own children who will reap the joy of being part of a Christian family and become Christians themselves.

If you are a product of a Christian heritage – rejoice and thank God for that heritage. Pray for new Christians and those Christians who do not have such a heritage and that they will be start of generations of their family living for Christ.

COMMENTARY | Posted by Meredith Flynn

LifeWay Christian Resources recently released the Annual Church Profile, a statistical picture of the health of Southern Baptist churches and denomination as a whole. There was some good news: slight increases in baptisms, total number of churches, and giving. But also some bad news: a nearly 1% decline in total membership (from 16,136,044 million last year to 15,978,112 this year). It’s the fifth straight year total membership of SBC churches has dropped.

More concerning, said LifeWay Vice President Ed Stetzer, is the rate of decline. In a Baptist Press column June 13, Stetzer wrote total membership has declined 2% since 2007, including nearly one whole percentage point this year. “This trend points to a future of more and faster decline — and it is a 60-year trend.”

Rather than manage the decline like other denominations, Stetzer said, there are some steps Southern Baptist pastors and leaders can take to “fight for our future.” Four steps he suggests:

1. Rally around the things we agree on under the Baptist Faith & Message, and refuse to engage in battles over secondary issues that will only end in further division.

2. Raise up new leaders who represent a variety of ethnicities and generations.

3. Reach more people. “Southern Baptists love evangelism, as long as someone else is doing it,” Stetzer wrote. “But ‘someone else’ is not doing it either. Every year, it takes more Southern Baptists to reach one lost person, as the member to baptism ratio shows.”

4. Plant more churches by equipping and then supporting church planters.

Now it’s your turn: How can leaders, pastors and members of Southern Baptist churches help reverse the denomination’s trend of decline?

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

A recent study on Reformed theology in the Southern Baptist Convention could “point to challenging days to come,” said LifeWay Research President Ed Stetzer.

“Most Baptists are not Calvinists, though many are, and most Baptists are not Arminians, though many are comfortable with that distinction. However, there is a sizeable minority that see themselves as Calvinist and holds to such doctrines, and a sizeable majority that is concerned about their presence.”

LifeWay’s survey found 61% of senior pastors in the SBC are concerned about the impact of Reformed theology in the convention. The numbers also show 30% of pastors report their churches are “Reformed or Calvinist,” and 30% say they lead “Arminian or Wesleyan” churches.

The numbers were released during the SBC Annual Meeting in New Orleans, where Reformed theology was expected to be a hot-button issue. Instead, several speakers from the platform urged Southern Baptists to work together despite theological differences, and the conversation never really became a heated debate.

Go to to read more about the findings.

Other news:

Authors say adoption isn’t ‘Plan B’
Two pastors have co-authored a book outlining the mandate Christians have to care for orphans through adoption and other means. “Orphanology,” by Tony Merida and Rick Morton, is part of a growing trend among evangelicals to examine adoption and orphan care from a theological perspective. “…As you look at the Gospel, [spiritual] adoption, to God, was not a Plan B but Plan A,” Merida told Baptist Press. “It has great implications for us.” Read more of Merida’s interview with Baptist Press here.

Expert: Churches must face sexual abuse issue
In light of the sexual abuse scandal and cover-up at Penn State University, churches are re-evaluating their policies and procedures to ensure children’s safety. Janice LaRoy, a former Child Protective Services worker in Texas, shared how churches can face the problem head-on in this first-person column on

Mississippi church gives everything away
A small Southern Baptist church outside of Jackson, Miss., gave away $60,000 in one year after pledging to use 100% of their tithes and offerings to help people in their community. John Richardson, pastor of Traceway Baptist Church, has chronicled his congregation’s journey in a new book “Giving Away the Collection Plate.” Beginning in April 2010, Traceway’s generosity allowed them to help people struggling through abuse, addiction, job loss and other disastrous circumstances. Read more at

Illinois volunteers are London-bound
Hundreds of chaplains and missions volunteers will head to London next week for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, which start with the Opening Ceremonies on Friday, July 27. A mission team from Illinois will be there for all the action, as they work alongside London churches and ministries that are reaching out to hundreds of thousands of spectators. IBSA’s Serena Butler will be blogging from London here at Follow her Olympic journal beginning next week, and whet your Olympic appetite with this story from the International Mission Board about the massive preparations underway in London.

Following the buffalo

Meredith Flynn —  July 16, 2012

HEARTLAND | Nate Adams

Since reading Robert Lewis’s book “Raising Modern Day Knights” several years ago, I’ve been taking father-son trips with each of our three sons – before high school, after high school, and after college. Our youngest son Ethan graduated from high school in June, and so last week we set out for Yellowstone National Park in northwest Wyoming – the first trip there for either of us.

Yellowstone offers many amazing sights and experiences, but common to most of them, at least in mid-summer, is the chore of managing long lines of people, cars, RV’s and buses. The speed limit throughout the park’s 300 miles of roads is 45 mph, so you learn to just take it slow, and patiently wait when a long line of brake lights brings you to a stop.

That’s what happened to us the afternoon this video was taken. The cars ahead of us came to a stop, and as I leaned out the driver’s side window to see what was causing the delay, this is what I saw:

Yellowstone is almost “other worldly,” with its steaming volcanic features and its geysers and its wildlife that roam the paved roadways as routinely as they do the open prairie or mountainsides. We bring our man-made, motorized, technological world into that natural setting and then marvel when it doesn’t seem to need them, or us, to live simply and beautifully.

I wonder if that’s what it was like for the people of Jesus’ day, whether it was a rich young ruler, or a blind man, or a would-be disciple. When Jesus first walked into their world, He seemed surprising and out of place, yet amazing and miraculous and intriguing at the same time.

The more they watched Him, the more they realized He had not walked into their world, but they were living in His. Like the buffalo in this video, he calmly walked in the opposite direction, while everyone stopped and took notice. They could turn and follow Him, or continue their life journey in the opposite direction, without Him.

In Yellowstone, it was safest for us to simply take a picture, roll up the window, and move on down the highway with everyone else. But a small part of me wonders what would have happened if we had abandoned our car and our gadgets, and just followed the buffalo wherever it was going.

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