THE BRIEFING | A group of church planters worked together Aug. 13 to help clean up Ferguson, Mo., a St. Louis suburb rocked by rioting and protests since 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed by Police Officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9.
Joe Costephens pastors The Passage Church on the border of Ferguson and Florissant. “We bring in anywhere between 8 to 15 mission teams every summer to serve the cities of Florissant and Ferguson—putting on block parties and reaching out to the community,” he said. “So when this came up, I called some church planting buddies, and said, ‘Hey we want to bless our city, let’s do a cleanup day.’”
Costephens and other church planters mobilized between 100 and 200 people to pick up trash and clean up looted storefronts. The group also attended a citywide prayer service at First Baptist Church in Ferguson. According to a Baptist Press report, Pastor Stoney Shaw said the interracial prayer service exuded a spirit of reconciliation, with participants recognizing the need to love and understand one another. Read more at BPNews.net.
Nigerian cities threatened by terrorist group
A Nigerian relations expert said the crisis precipitated by the Boko Haram terrorist group has reached a “new dimension.” Adeniyi Ojutiku told Baptist Press the group has started using tactics associated with ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), the militant group responsible for recent persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq. Boko Haram’s takeover of the town of Gwoza has resulted in nearly 1,000 deaths, rather than the 100 reported by some sources, Ojutiku said.
“They attack, they occupy, they hold the town,” he said. “Now that they have started adopting ISIS methodology, they should be receiving the type of treatment that ISIS is receiving.”
Read more about the persecuted church in the August 18 issue of the Illinois Baptist, online now.
Pew: In 30 nations, specific religious affiliation is requirement for head of state
Analysis by Pew Research found that 15% of the world’s countries require their head of state to be affiliated with a certain religion. In 17 of those nations, the head of state must be a Muslim, while two countries (Lebanon and Andorra) require the person who holds the post to have a Christian affiliation. Interestingly, Lebanon also requires its prime minister to be a Sunni Muslim.
Gay songwriter urges church to rethink views on sexuality
Vicky Beeching, author of popular worship songs like “Glory to God Forever,” told culture writer Jonathan Merritt that “the church needs to become more comfortable with people not being on the same page about everything.” Beeching, who came out as gay in an interview with The Independent Aug. 13, told Merritt, “God loves us unconditionally, so we should aim to model that to those who see things from a different angle, even if that’s really hard to do. I’m trying my best to keep extending that love today to all the conservative Christians who are telling me I am ‘siding with the devil’ because they are still my brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Blogger and professor Denny Burk responded to Beeching’s comments, referencing Matthew 12:46-50. “Jesus draws a line between those who are his brothers and sisters and those who are not. The line runs between those who are allied to God’s will and those who are in open defiance against it.”
LifeWay exploring sale of corporate offices
LifeWay Christian Resources is studying the advantages and disadvantages of selling part or all of its property in downtown Nashville, President Thom Rainer told staff in an Aug. 1 letter. Citing demand for property in the area and fewer employees working at the downtown location, Rainer said, “…It would be poor stewardship for the organization not to explore the possibilities this situation could present for our ministry.” About 1,100 employees currently work at LifeWay’s corporate offices, Baptist Press reported. LifeWay spokesman Marty King estimated nearly one-third of the building is vacant or leased.