Archives For October 2012

THE BRIEFING | Hurricane Sandy pummeled the East Coast early this week, killing 40 people in the region (and more than 60 others in the Caribbean), and desolating some of the nation’s largest cities.

In New York, the storm flooded subway stations and forced a two-day closure of the New York Stock Exchange. As the wind and rain subsided, pastors began the work in checking in with their church members, hoping for good news and looking for ways to help.

Freeman Field, on staff at the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association, reported damage to one New York City church, Graffiti Church on the Lower East Side, and said others are still calling in with reports.

“…We are still hearing from our pastors about needs…. We know of two families specifically who had their apartments flooded out – one in Brooklyn from Park Slope Community Church, the other in Jersey City from Gallery Church,” Field wrote to Baptist Press in an email. Read the full story.

Other Hurricane Sandy news:

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief starts long-term relief effort on East Coast
(Baptist Press)

What Jesus might say about Sandy
(Christianity Today)

Editor’s note: Southern Baptists have been called to pray for 40 days or 40 hours prior to this fall’s election through the 40/40 Vigil. Today’s Heartland post is from Day (or Hour) 34. Go to 4040prayer.com to read more prayer prompts and to find out how to join the vigil.

Scripture for reflection and preparation

“It is by me that kings reign and rulers enact just law; by me, princes lead. as do nobles and all righteous judges.” (Proverbs 8:15-16)

“But the one who did not know, and did things deserving of blows, will be beaten lightly. Much will be required of everyone who has been given much. And even more will be expected of the one who has been entrusted with more.” (Luke 12:48)

“Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

PREPARATION

  • Praise God for who He is
  • Confess your sinfulness and need for cleansing
  • Allow His Spirit to draw you near
  • Listen as He speaks to you

ASK GOD TO…

  • Burden Christians to run for public office
  • Help the church understand the imperative of civic involvement
  • Help churches equip men and women for the spiritual demands of public office
  • Burden churches to pray for God to call men and women to public office
  • Give Christians who run for public office favor in the eyes of the electorate
  • Help you know if He wants you to become more involved in the civic life of your community or nation
  • Protect future Christian leaders from errors and sin that will prevent them from fulfilling God’s intention for their lives of public service

THANKSGIVING

  • Thank God for hearing you
  • Trust that God is at work to accomplish His will

COMMENTARY | Craig Webb

Seven in 10 Americans (68.6%) plan to celebrate Halloween, according to a 2011 National Retail Federation study. But this year, Halloween falls on a Wednesday. If your church is like most others, you have midweek programming on Wednesday nights and it is unlikely that you would cancel those activities for Halloween.

So the question is: What do you do when a major cultural event that does not represent your values threatens to hijack your activities?

Let me share how our church has chosen to tackle this. Our Wednesday night programming includes dinner, age-level activities and short-term connect groups for adults. I called an “ad hoc strategic meeting” with key staff members who lead or are involved in Wednesday activities. The only item on our agenda was to deal with our plans for Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012.

After discussing all the options, we decided not to ignore Halloween, but to plan a few simple enhancements for the night and communicate to our church family in time for them to make their own decisions about participation.

This is what we are planning to do.

1) We will not cancel any of our activities on Oct. 31.

2) We will host a Fall Family Festival the previous Sunday evening (Oct. 28).

3) We are planning a fun “family meal” on Oct. 31.

4) We are planning service-focused activities and games for our children and middle school students. They will be packing Operation Christmas Child boxes.

5) We will hold normal activities for our high school and adult ministries.

While that may not sound revolutionary, we have clarity and agreement about our path, and we can communicate this direction to the larger staff, church leaders and the whole church family. If you have not decided what you will do, here’s my suggestion for your church:

1) Call a strategic meeting with your staff, key church leaders or those involved in leading Wednesday night activities.

2) Discuss ways to capitalize on Halloween for your Wednesday activities.

3) Plan enhancements on Wednesday night that will make people think twice about missing.

4) Communicate these plans to your leaders and your church family.

Two other options to consider for Oct. 31:

1) Host a trunk-or-treat or fall family festival.

2) Host a community movie night (Visit LifeWay Films for help).

Craig Webb is pastor of vision & purpose at Gladeville Baptist Church in Mt. Juliet, Tenn. This article first appeard in the Pastors Today weekly newsletter published by LifeWay Christian Resources. This version is excerpted from Baptist Press.

THE BRIEFING | One of the most revered evangelists in history faced criticism from many fellow leaders last week.

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) removed Mormonism from the list of cults on its website – billygraham,org – just days after Romney visited with Graham at the 94-year-old’s North Carolina home. The site also posted an ad featuring Graham and a message urging voters to “cast our ballots for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel.

“I urge you to vote for those who protect the sanctity of life and support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman,” the ad reads. “Vote for biblical values this November 6, and pray with me that America will remain one nation under God.” The ads later appeared in newspapers including the Wall Street Journal and USA Today.

Iowa pastor and blogger Dave Miller maintained Graham’s right to endorse Romney, but took issue with BGEA’s decision to remove Mormonism from its list of cults, asking if the organization’s action sacrificed essential truths of the Christian faith. “What can we believe but that Billy Graham, the greatest proclaimer of the gospel in the last century, has compromised biblical truth – no, GOSPEL truth – for political reasons.

“To help elect Mitt Romney, they softened their stance against the false religion he professes.”

In a Washington Post article, BGEA spokesman Ken Barun explained the thinking behind the move. “Our primary focus at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has always been promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Barun said in a statement. “We removed the information from the website because we do not wish to participate in a theological debate about something that has become politicized during this campaign.”

But Miller said he doesn’t buy it. “This waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck. Don’t tell me it is an eagle. To claim that removing the statement identifying Mormonism as a cult was done to prevent politicizing the issue defies logic and insults our intelligence.

“Mormonism is a false cult that damns souls to hell for eternity. I pray that Mitt Romney will see the truth before his life ends. But for Billy Graham to walk back his clear statement that this religion is false is sad and indefensible.”

Other news:

Mormon church shifts missionary age requirements
A new policy announced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may enlarge the Mormon missionary force, according to CNN. The church said earlier this month it would lower the minimum age requirement for individuals who want to embark on a Mormon mission, generally a two-year assignment. Males can now serve at 18 (down from 19), and females are eligible to serve at age 19. The previous age requirement for girls was 21, making it difficult for many to consider serving when they were already entrenched in their education or family concerns.

“The narrative of young women has been that marriage trumps everything else as your most important spiritual pursuit,” Mormon author and scholar Joanna Brooks told CNN. The decision “signals a reorganizing of expectations for women’s lives. … It changes the storyline.” Read more on CNN’s Belief Blog.

Nearly 50% affirm creationism
A recent Gallup poll found 46 percent of adults say they believe God created human beings within the past 10,000 years – the highest percentage for that answer since 2006 and the second highest since the question was first asked in 1982. Another 32 percent of Americans ‘ believe in theistic evolution, agreeing that “human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided the process.” Fifteen percent of those surveyed said they believe in evolution and that God played no role. Read more at BPNews.net.

Ann Romney shares pro-life ‘view’ on TV
The wife of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney jumped into one of television’s toughest debates when she appeared on ABC’s “The View,” a daytime women’s talk show that presents a variety of views, but has, in the past, tended to skew away from the Romneys conservative views. Ann Romney told the ladies of the view she is pro-life, and that her husband was a pro-choice gubernatorial candidate in Massachusetts, but changed his view when faced with legislation that would have allowed embryonic stem cell research. “…I am pro-life. I’m happy to say that,” Romney said on “The View.” She added, “”I think we have to understand that this is an issue that is so tender, and there are people on both sides of the issue that have, with very good conscience, with different opinions.” Read the full story at ChristianPost.com.

God still restores

Meredith Flynn —  October 22, 2012

HEARTLAND | From Isaiah 61

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because God has anointed me to bring good news to the poor,

He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;

To grant to those who mourn in Zion – to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;

That they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.

They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. (Isaiah 61:1-4)

Isaiah is speaking to the people of Israel, who God promised to restore after years of captivity. Our situation isn’t the same, but His character is. The same God who promised to restore them, promises to restore us, too, to trade our heart of stone for a heart of flesh and a new spirit (Ezekiel 36:26).

COMMENTARY | Nate Adams

When hundreds of churches convene next month for the IBSA Annual Meeting in Decatur, we will assemble under the theme “Mission Illinois.” For me, however, it’s more than a meeting theme. In the days ahead, I hope the mantra of Mission Illinois will begin to represent a fresh new vision of why we as churches choose to cooperate, and how we measure our effectiveness as a state association.

For several years now, we as the churches and leaders of IBSA have focused our energies on four key priorities: strengthening churches, starting churches, sending Christians into their Acts 1:8 mission fields, and stimulating stewardship among churches so we can do our part with other Southern Baptists to fund the larger missions efforts of the SBC.

Our goals within those key priorities have been aggressive, and we haven’t always attained them. But for the most part we are training more leaders with fewer staff, starting a steady number of new churches with lower national funding, and directly assisting more churches in their evangelism and missions efforts in spite of higher travel costs and a challenging economy.

But we as an association of churches still long to see increases in indicators such as baptisms, worship and Bible study participation, and the net number of IBSA churches – all of which have remained relatively flat over the past few years. We don’t care about numbers for numbers’ sake, but because they are indicators of missional advance, church health, and Kingdom expansion. We want to see lostness decrease and the accessibility of Bible-believing churches increase.

So I’ve been asking myself, and would invite you to ask with me, what might need to change? How might we adjust our efforts in this mission we call Illinois?

I don’t claim to have it figured out yet, or that I can do it alone. More often than not, I feel like our blind dog Willy that I described in the last issue. In fact, our mission here in Illinois is partly what I had in mind when I wrote, “There are times when it seems that I just can’t see things, or can’t see where things are going, with the clarity or certainty I would like. Things in my family, my work, my church, things in Baptist life, things in our nation, things on the world scene – all seem to be less predictable, less comfortable than in the past.”

That certainly is an environment where faith and dependence on God for vision are desperately needed, as Willy’s situation illustrates. And so I have not been hasty to propose a new mission statement or declare a new direction. I’m praying and thinking, listening and observing, drafting and revising, waiting and praying. And I invite you to join me, and to e-mail, write or call with your thoughts or ideas.

In the next couple of issues, I’m going to share a little more of what I think “Mission Illinois” might mean as a vision for our future as IBSA churches. On one hand, it’s hard for me to imagine that strengthening churches and starting churches and sending Christians on mission, and stimulating faithful stewardship among churches will not still be primary priorities. On the other hand, I can’t help but believe that God wants to do more through our cooperation than we are currently experiencing.

So please join me in prayer and creative thinking as we approach this year’s IBSA Annual Meeting. For us as Illinois Baptists, Mission Illinois must be more than an annual meeting theme. It must become a rallying cry for reinvigorated, purposeful cooperation that actually impacts the lostness of our Illinois mission field.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Pastor Larry Trotter has done four funerals in recent months for victims of gun violence. In his neighborhood on Chicago’s south side, the streets can be very dangerous, especially after this summer, which saw a dramatic increase in the city’s homicide rate.

That’s why Trotter and his congregation from Sweet Holy Spirit Church took to the streets September 30, marching through their neighborhood chanting, “Stop the violence,” and “Save our children.” Almost 200 people participated in the anti-violence rally and march.

“I know that this won’t stop everything, but I want people to grab the passion,” Trotter said, according to Associated Press reports. “If we all join together, we can make an impact.”

According to Chicago police, almost 400 people have been killed this year, and the homicide rate is up 31 percent over last year. Since the extremely violent 1990s, crime has decreased in Chicago, but the recent rise in violence shows there’s much room for improvement.

“The city has gone wild. It’s no longer just gang killing, it’s random killing,” Trotter said. “We have to try and channel that energy and put it in another direction.”

Or march it in another direction. And hopefully it will benefit the generation currently growing up in an environment that can be very frightening. Brandy Lewis was one of the participants in Sweet Holy Spirit’s march. As a mother and someone who works with youth everyday, Lewis told the Chicago Tribune the community has a responsibility to its youngest members to end the violence.

“We’re out here trying to bring attention to our neighborhood that we have to do something to keep our kids alive.”

And prayer plays a key role, Trotter said according to the Tribune. “The message is ‘Stop the violence,’ but the spiritual message is that we’re praying for the … violence to cease.”

-With information from Associated Press, Christian Post, and Chicago Tribune

Other news from Baptist Press:

Allen elected president of Midwestern Seminary
In a 29-2 vote, Jason K. Allen was elected by Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary trustees as the school’s fifth president. The vote took place October 15 during the trustees’ bi-annual meeting in Kansas City, Mo. Allen, 35, comes to Midwestern from Louisville, Ky., where he served as vice president for institutional advancement at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and as executive director of the Southern Seminary Foundation. He had concurrently served as senior pastor of Carlisle Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville. Read more at BPNews.net.

A win for pro-life pharmacists
An Illinois appeals court has granted a victory to pro-life pharmacists who object to providing drugs that can cause abortions. Pharmacy owners Luke Vander Bleek and Glenn Kosirog challenged a 2005 rule mandating pharmacists fill all prescriptions, including those for Plan B and other “morning-after” pills. In September, the Illinois Fourth District Court upheld a lower court injunction that blocked the state from enforcing the rule.

ERLC pres. search goes online
The SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission has launched a website to aid in identifying a new president for the agency following the October 2013 retirment of Richard Land. At erlc.com/presidentialsearch, potential candidates can view a list of attributes ERLC trustees are seeking, and a prayer guide for the committee’s work. The site also is the only way by which interest in the ERLC presidency can be communicated to the trustee search committee, who will accept curriculum vitae from prospective candidates through Oct. 31. Read more.

Missionary kid shares childhood through children’s book
Valerie Elliot Shephard, the only child of missionaries Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, has written a children’s book about her early life in the Ecuadorian jungle where her mother told a tribe about Jesus after they had killed her father. Shephard was only 10 months old when her father was killed; she and her mother remained in the jungle several years until many in the tribe accepted Christ and abandoned their savage ways. The October release of “Pilipinto’s Happiness: The Jungle Childhood of Valerie Elliot” coincides with the 85th anniversary of Jim Elliot’s birth. Pilipinto, meaning “butterfly,” was the Indians’ nickname for the girl.