Archives For April 2013

Tuesday_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Florida pastor Jay Dennis is issuing a wake-up call to churches who are fighting an enemy of which they may be unaware.

“Churches are facing a spiritual battle against a hidden plague that is keeping many believers from fulfilling their part of God’s mission,” said Dennis, pastor of First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland, Fla. That hidden plague is pornography. Dennis and other SBC leaders are fighting it by launching the national “Join 1 Million Men in the War Against Pornography” campaign at this summer’s Southern Baptist Convention in Houston, Texas.

A 2011 LifeWay Research survey of 1,000 pastors found 62% of them believe less than 10% of men in their churches viewed pornography on a weekly basis. Dennis believes the figure is more like 80 percent.

Most churches, he said, respond to the problem of pornography by denying its reality, while others are aware of the problem but are not specifically dealing with it. Instead, pastors must “admit there is a problem and urgently address” pornography by helping men overcome it.

The “Join 1 Million Men” campaign started as a ministry in Dennis’ church. He wrote the initial materials – based on a pursuit of purity rather than pleasure – and taught them in six Wednesday evening sessions for men. To date, 1,300 men in the church have committed to live pornography-free lives by affirming 14 statements on a commitment card. The cards are displayed prominently at the church.

Dennis is taking the campaign to a national level with the help of Southern Baptist Woman’s Missionary Union and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Both entities will help promote the campaign at this year’s SBC annual meeting in Houston, and WMU’s New Hope Publishers has produced resources to support the movement. The goal is for one million men to take a public stand against pornography, and for one million women to commit to pray for them.


Other news:

Faith may aid psychiatric treatment
A study of patients at Massachusetts’ McLean Hospital found those that believed in a higher power “do significantly better in short-term psychiatric treatment than those without, regardless of their religious affiliation,” said hospital clinician David H. Rosmarin. “Given the prevalence of religious belief in the United States – over 90 percent of the population – these findings are important in that they highlight the clinical implications of spiritual life.” Read more at

SBC site blocked by U.S. military
FoxNews reported earlier this month the official website of the Southern Baptist Convention ( was blocked on some U.S. military bases due to “hostile content.” Roger S. Oldham, a vice president for the SBC’s Executive Committee, urged Christians not to jump to conclusions.

“Though there have been several instances recently in which evangelical Christians have been marginalized by the broader culture, we think that a rush to judgment that the United States Military has targeted the Southern Baptist Convention as a hostile religious group would be premature.”

A military official later said software filters detected malware and blocked the website. The malware since has been removed and is unblocked. Read more here.

pull quote_TOALSTONHEARTLAND | Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Because relationships are where we spend so much of our lives – where great joys abound, but also, where hurt and heartbreak often fester – it’s good to regularly pray for an ongoing transformation of our hearts toward greater love for one another.

It seems only logical – in our homes, in our places of work and in our churches – to pray for graciousness, kindness and patience in interacting with each individual who, ultimately, has been created by a loving God.

Countless times I have repeated Ephesians 4:29-32 to the Lord, after memorizing it years ago over the course of six or more months: “No foul language is to come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear. And don’t grieve God’s Holy Spirit. You were sealed by Him for the day of redemption. All bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander must be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ” (HCSB).

I remain painfully aware of various instances when I have wounded family members, friends or strangers through insensitive or judgmental words and/or actions. I have asked for and received God’s forgiveness and sought to heed His instructions for healing strained or broken relationships.

And, in yearning not to repeat misguided attitudes and behaviors, it has become a personal imperative to memorize/re-memorize/internalize a number of Scripture passages about relationships, each conveying additional nuances about God’s heart for how we should interact with one another.

One such passage is 1 Peter 3:8-12: “Now finally, all of you should be like-minded and sympathetic, should love believers, and be compassionate and humble, not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you can inherit a blessing. For the one who wants to love life and to see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit, and he must turn away from evil and do what is good. He must seek peace and pursue it, because the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are open to their request. But the face of the Lord is against those who do what is evil” (HCSB).

Optimize your relationships by spending time in prayer permeated by Scripture — the optimal source through which God’s Holy Spirit stirs us to the highest levels of Christ’s love.

Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press.

Famed musician George Beverly Shea passed away April 16.

Famed musician George Beverly Shea passed away April 16.


There’s an ancient treasure housed in our sanctuary. It’s a Hammond organ with its Leslie speaker, a gift to the church from George Beverly Shea.

Hearing that “Bev” had died April 16, I immediately thought of the old Hammond. Long-timers at the church remember how Shea, who lived nearby, sometimes sang concerts there. On one annual visit, he noted that the church’s electronic organ had seen better days, and since he was getting a new instrument for his home, he would give them his trusty Hammond. Only half as old as 104-year-old Shea, it served faithfully him, then us for half a century. How many times must that squat brown machine with its wonderful tremolo have accompanied Billy Graham’s famed soloist.

When I first heard the organ’s history, I sat on the bench and tried to pick my way through “I’d Rather Have Jesus.” When Shea was a young man still living at home in Canada, he was facing a particular spiritual struggle. His mother sensed her son’s trouble and left a copy of the poem by Rhea Miller on their piano.

“I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause,” young Shea read when he saw it. “I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame,
I’d rather be true to His holy name.”

Shea at 20 made his choice and soon set the tune to music. He eventually gained fame not because he sought it, but because he turned to Christ. He could have been a star opera singer, but he chose the ministry instead.

Joining the Graham team in his 40s, Shea was Graham’s featured singer for more than 60 years. He produced 70 gospel albums, won a host of awards, and always sang about Jesus just before the evangelist preached. In Los Angeles and New York and Moscow and London, no matter how famous or contemporary the night’s musical guest, Shea always sang pure gospel in simple bass clef before Graham delivered the message of salvation.

I saw this in person at one of the last crusades. I crashed the choir loft. It was an accident. Arriving at the stadium early, I found myself in a line at the only open door. It was the entrance for the choir. So, intentionally, I went with the crowd.

Wedged between tenors and basses, I watched all the backstage happenings. A few moments before Dr. Graham was to preach, a golf cart brought a spry white-haired man to a special entrance. He climbed up to the pulpit and in an instant, I was singing back-up for George Beverly Shea – me and 2,000 of my closest friends.

“We should sing ‘I’d Rather Have Jesus,’” I said to our worship leader just after the old saint’s passing.

And we did.

Grateful for his musical gifts and for his enduring legacy, we could say from Shea’s example, “I’d rather have Jesus than anything 
this world affords today.”

Eric Reed is a pastor and journalist in Wheaton, Illinois. He is serving Glenfield Baptist Church in Glen Ellyn.

Tuesday_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Shortly after his son Matthew’s suicide April 5, Rick Warren posted a petition on his church’s website to help raise awareness about mental illness. The petition “urges educators, lawmakers, healthcare, and congregations to raise the awareness and lower the stigma of mental illness, and also to support families that are dealing with mental illness on a daily basis,” according to

His son was one of more than 11 million Americans suffering from severe mental illness, Warren wrote in the petition. He and his wife Kay also have established The Matthew Warren Fund for Mental Health. Read more at Saddleback’s website, or read Christian Post’s full story here.

Other News

Scouts will vote on allowing gay members, but not leaders
At the Boy Scouts national convention in May, members will vote on whether to allow gay-identifying youth to join the organization, while keeping a ban on homosexual leaders. Earlier this year, Boy Scouts discussed allowing both gay members and leaders, but as a “local option” for sponsoring organizations to decide. The policy up for review in May sets a national standard with no local option, Baptist Press reported.

“Though this resolution is more acceptable to those who hold a biblical form of morality than what was being considered before, we would still prefer no change in the policy,” said Southern Baptist Executive Committee President Frank Page. “A No vote keeps the current policy in place, an outcome we would overwhelmingly support.”

Read the full story at

George Beverly Shea dies at age 104
The world mourned one of Gospel music’s most beloved and memorable voices last week, when famed soloist and composer George Beverly Shea passed away after a brief illness. Shea was best known for his performances during Billy Graham’s evangelistic crusades, and for songs like “I’d Rather Have Jesus” and “The Wonder of it All.” Read more at

Movie-making pastors to start new production company
The creators of movies “Courageous,” “Fireproof,” and “Facing the Giants” have announced they will start an independent production company focused on faith-based films. Alex and Stephen Kendrick will remain on staff at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., and use aspiring Christian filmmakers and students to help make their next film, Baptist Press reported. The brothers’ previous movie-making efforts relied largely on actors and volunteer crew members from their church.

“We have such a burden to help the next generation do this from a biblical perspective,” Alex Kendrick told Baptist Press. “We’ve got to reproduce ourselves and duplicate ourselves, and we think this is the way to do it.” Read the full story at

NEWS | From Baptist Press

A Southern Baptist church planting resident at a Boston-area church found himself, along with his wife, in the crossfire of a police shootout early Friday morning, April 19, with one of the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing.

Stephen McAlpin, who is nearing the end of a one-year North American Mission Board church planting internship with Hope Fellowship Church in Cambridge, Mass., had just gone to bed around 12:40 a.m. when he and his wife heard something that sounded like fireworks.

By then officials had identified two brothers believed to be responsible for the double bombings that killed three and injured more than 170 people April 15, and Thursday night the suspects hijacked a car in Cambridge and drove to Watertown, where McAlpin lives, while being pursued by police.

A dramatic shootout commenced outside McAlpin’s home, resulting in the death of one of the suspects. The other remained on the loose Friday, causing the entire city of Boston and surrounding communities to be placed on lockdown as police searched for him door to door.

“The gunshots were continuing. We heard glass break. We started crawling into the kitchen of our home — me, Emily and our dog,” McAlpin recounted to NBC’s Brian Williams Friday afternoon. “As we were crawling, we saw a large flash like an explosion. We got underneath our kitchen table and continued to hear gunshots. They were much louder and felt closer.”

The couple could hear yelling and what sounded like another explosion.

“I’m a grown man, but at that point I was terrified and I was holding my wife there under the table and holding my dog, and it got real for us,” McAlpin said. “We realized that we could die.”

McAlpin told Williams via telephone that he and his wife are Christians and they prayed in those most dangerous moments that God would keep them safe.

“We prayed for God’s grace to protect us and protect our neighbors and just sat there,” he said.

They moved into their bathroom and huddled in the bathtub with their dog, and after about 30 minutes, police knocked on their door and showed them what had happened. Bullets had entered their living room. One was lodged in their television, which kept it from entering their bedroom on the other side of the wall. Another had hit a picture frame. Outside their SUV had sustained damage from a bullet.

Police were marking the evidence in and around their home, which included “many bullets and shells around the side of our house and also in the front,” McAlpin said.

“Since then we’ve just been staying in our kitchen, trying to stay safe. It’s overwhelming to us that all of this happened, but we just feel blessed to be safe,” the church planter said.

“We know how easily things could have gone poorly for us and we’re just thankful for God’s grace in protecting us. I don’t really know. It doesn’t feel real. You never think in your home when you’re safe and trying to sleep that bullets are going to come through and that explosions are going to happen.”

McAlpin also told Williams, “We’re in shock. I haven’t been able to go to sleep. We’re exhausted. But we’ve just been trying to share about what happened and even just tell people about the kind of hope that we’ve found in God during this really dark time.”

The couple has plans to move to Los Angeles to plant a church when the internship in Boston is over. McAlpin said they’re trying to process what happened overnight and react as they should as Christians.

“[We’re trying to] love our own neighbors here and look at this as an opportunity to speak out of our experience to them,” he said, adding that as they sit in lockdown at home, he and his wife are praying for law enforcement officials and for Boston.

“We just want this to end. We want life to return to peace as best as it can, but I think a lot of people are going to be struggling with, ‘How do we go from this back to what we call normal life?'” McAlpin told Williams.

Stephen and Emily are from St. Louis, and he said on NBC that he moved to Boston to study at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he recently graduated with an M.Div.

“[I] have been working at a local church here called Hope Fellowship and they’re training me to learn how to start a church and to share God’s love with people,” McAlpin said.

“So that’s what we’re doing in the area for the year, and we’re just trying to — we love the city here and we love to be a part of the area,” he said. “Boston is normally such a strong and vibrant place to live and I think moving forward we hope that we can just keep loving people here and challenging people to share in our hope.”

As he closed the interview, Williams told McAlpin, “My hat’s off to you for the generosity of spirit that I’m hearing in your reaction after what you’ve been through last night.”

At one point Friday, McAlpin tweeted, “Thank you Jesus for giving us hope greater than the measly things of this world that we lost today.”

Posted by Meredith Flynn

Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter was in Springfield, Ill., earlier this week to meet with pastors and leaders, and to preach a three-day festival of hope at Union Baptist Church, a congregation affiliated with National Baptists. The May 6 issue of the Illinois Baptist will feature full coverage of his visit; the photos below show a few of the highlights:


Near the end of his first term as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, New Orleans pastor Fred Luter visited Springfield, Ill., and met with pastors and leaders from around the state. Luter is up for re-election at this year’s SBC Annual Meeting in Houston, Texas, June 11-12.


A community choir sings during the Festival of Hope, a three-day event at Union Baptist Church in Springfield. Luter preached all three evenings, and the choir, composed of singers from several churches, led in worship.


The Festival of Hope and Fred Luter’s visit was designed to help churches in the Capital City Baptist Association connect with African American churches in the city, said David Howard, the association’s director of missions. Howard, who once pastored in the New Orleans area, envisioned Luter’s visit more than a year ago. “…Fred is just a unique guy – if you can’t like Fred, you’re not going to like anybody. So I wanted him to come and help us build bridges.” Here, Luter preaches at Union Baptist while T. Ray McJunkins, the church’s pastor, worships along with him.


Elizabeth and Fred Luter (center) participate in a worship service at the Illinois Baptist State Association Building alongside IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams (far right) and his wife Beth (far left).


During an hour-long Q&A session, Luter answered questions from Illinois Baptist pastors and leaders, like “What has surprised you most as SBC President?” and “How would you encourage pastors of small churches?”


Adams presented Luter with Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals camps, telling him, “You brother are a unifier, and a bringer-together, not only for baseball fans, but for believers in our state.”


Guests at the “Meet the President” event received a souvenir photo with President Luter to commemorate the occasion.


Dale Davenport (left) helped gather a large group of Chicagoland pastors at the event in Springfield, including (from left) Don Sharp, Bryan Price, and David Sutton.


“If you’re doing anything for me, I need you to pray for me,” Luter said. “I don’t want to mess this thing up. I really want to honor this position, to honor my family, my church, my state convention, the Southern Baptist Convention, and I want to honor God in all I do.”


The Luters and David Howard (far right) met with reporters from the Illinois Baptist newspaper for breakfast at Charlie Parker’s diner in Springfield. Look for our Q&A with them in the next issue of the IB, due May 6.


Fred Luer, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, spoke to IBSA staff during their weekly chapel service on Wednesday, April 17.

Fred Luer, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, spoke to IBSA staff during their weekly chapel service on Wednesday, April 17.

By Lisa Sergent

SBC President Fred Luter spoke to Illinois Baptist State Association staff in their Wednesday, April 17 IBSA chapel service urging them to, “Listen to the challenge of Jesus. Pray for the Lord of the harvest to send more laborers.”

A day after meeting leaders from around the state at the Meet the President Event, Luter spoke from Matthew 9:35-38, telling staff to ask themselves, “What would Jesus do? What’s it going to take to reach our nation? What’s it going to take to reach our community? What’s it going to take to reach our state?

“If we really want to talk about changing lives, we need to talk to somebody who has experience changing lives. Jesus always had a word for every question, every circumstance. Jesus always had an answer no matter who the person was, no matter what the question was.”

There were three things Jesus would always do, said Luter: Be concerned, be compassionate and give a challenge.

Contrasting today’s society with the past, Luter said this generation doesn’t have a respect for the Lord or the church like previous generations. “What would Jesus do to reach this generation, to reach this society? I have no doubt in my mind, He would meet them. He would be concerned about people.  That’s why if you really want to impact Illinois you must be concerned about the lost and the unchurched. We must be concerned about their hurts, their struggles, their addictions, and their pain. We must be concerned about their eternal destiny.”

Luter said Christians need to remember what their lives were like before they were saved to better identify with the lostness around them. “We weren’t always born again.  God brought us from somewhere.

Yesterday, the SBC president shared how he had been raised in a fatherless home, hung-out with a tough crowd, and had suffered life-threatening injuries in a motorcycle accident in his youth. While still in the hospital, a deacon from his local church told him he needed to accept Jesus as his savior.  The former street preacher, now pastor of the thriving Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, and first African-American president of the Southern Baptist Convention, is never far from his roots, always remembering how far Jesus has brought him.

“Those of us who are still amazed by God’s amazing grace, those of us who never got over being saved who never got over the grace of God, those of us who never got over the fact that we could be in hell today but thank God for the grace of God.  We must show compassion for this generation.”

He implored, “Brothers and sisters listen to the challenge of Jesus. Illinois, listen to the challenge of Jesus.  The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Listen to the challenge of the master.”

Then, Luter emphasized Jesus did not give that challenge to the government or to politicians. “The challenge was given to the church.”

He cautioned all Christians against complacency. “We need people who want to take up the challenge of Jesus Christ and share the Gospel with everybody. We’ve got enough church folks; we need laborers who will take up the challenge. Will you take up that challenge today?”

Finishing his message, Luter offered one last thought for Baptists in Illinois, “What would Jesus do for this iPod, iPad, iPhone, tattooed, baggy pants, underwear showing generation? He would be concerned. He would show compassion. He would set out the challenge, because the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”

Lisa Sergent is communications director for the Illinois Baptist State Association.