Archives For September 2014

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

49% of Americans say same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, Pew found in research released last week. The percentage is down five points since the researcher last asked the question in February.

According to the report on Pew’s website, “It is too early to know if this modest decline is an anomaly or the beginning of a reversal or leveling off in attitudes toward gay marriage after years of steadily increasing public acceptance.

“Moreover, when the February poll and the current survey are combined, the 2014 yearly average level of support for same-sex marriage stands at 52%, roughly the same as the 2013 yearly average (50%).”

The_BriefingWe could know as early as this week whether the U.S. Supreme Court will hear any of the pending same-sex marriage cases, Reuters reports. The justices met yesterday for a private conference prior to the new term that begins Oct. 6. In September, 32 states asked the Court to decide the marriage issue once and for all, as did a coalition of religious groups including the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

SBC disfellowships ‘third way’ church
The Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee voted last week to withdraw fellowship from New Heart Community Church, the California congregation whose pastor announced in February he no longer believes same-sex lifestyles are sinful. The committee’s action followed a similar decision by the California Southern Baptist Convention in September.

More from Pew: Public split on business rights and same-sex marriage
Pew’s recently released data also shows 47% of people think wedding-related businesses should be allowed to refuse services to same-sex couples, while 49% say they should be required to provide services. Half of those surveyed believe homosexuality is a sin, up from 45% a year ago, Pew reported.

Court to hear Arizona church sign case
One case already on the Supreme Court’s schedule is Reed vs. Town of Gilbert, in which a Presbyterian congregation is fighting its town’s signage code. Gilbert, Arizona, requires that signs like those posted by Good News Presbyterian Church cannot go up more than 12 hours before the event advertised—Sunday worship, in this case.

‘Kimye’ pastor will star in reality show
The Oxygen network has announced Miami pastor Rich Wilkerson, Jr., who performed the Kim Kardashian/Kanye West wedding earlier this year, will get his own show. “The Wilkersons” will focus on the pastor of Trinity Church and his wife, DawnChere. The show will join other Oxygen faith-centric shows including “Preachers of L.A.” and the upcoming spin-off “Preachers of Detroit.” Read more at

Gifts that keep on giving

nateadamsibsa —  September 29, 2014

HEARTLAND | Nate Adams

Years ago when I worked in Christian magazine publishing, one of my jobs was to help write headlines for our subscription promotions. Almost every Christmas, we would go back to the tried and true headline, “Give the gift that keeps on giving.”

With one act of generosity you could send your gift recipients magazines several times throughout the coming year. It was a gift that allowed people to give over and over and over again.

In the days ahead, I believe that principle of year-round giving is something that we as Illinois Baptists need to apply more and more to the needs of our Illinois mission field. For one thing, those needs are now greater than ever.

Nate_Adams_blog_calloutAs I mentioned in my last column, North American Mission Board funding shifts have necessitated that IBSA absorb full responsibility for our state WMU and Women’s Ministry Director, for other missions positions and initiatives that are not specifically church planting, and for funding that assists local associations. We have also received notice that areas such as collegiate ministry, urban ministry centers, and disaster relief coordination will not be funded by NAMB in future budget years.

With Cooperative Program giving from churches currently about 4% lower than last year, it will be difficult to sustain many of these important ministries unless there is a substantial increase in gifts through the Mission Illinois Offering.

The “season of prayer” and emphasis on Illinois missions has traditionally been in September of each year. Thank you in advance for the gift you may have already given through your church this past month! But here are three additional ways that Illinois Baptists can think, pray and give through the Mission Illinois Offering, throughout the year.

1. Starting in 2015, IBSA will provide Mission Illinois Offering promotional materials starting in January, giving your church the option of promoting and receiving an offering for Illinois missions at any time during the year. This will also allow churches that have an annual missions conference to access videos and other information about Illinois missions at any time during the year.

2. Whether your church receives a formal Mission Illinois Offering or not (about half of IBSA churches do not), individuals can now give directly to the Mission Illinois Offering at any time during the year, though the IBSA website. Simply go to and choose “Give to MIO” from the Donate menu. This option will be especially helpful to those seeking to make an additional, tax-deductible gift before the end of the year.

3. Through the Baptist Foundation of Illinois, you can set up your own “Family Giving Fund,” sometimes referred to as a donor advised fund. It’s like a savings account for your or your family’s charitable giving. You can place money in the fund with BFI, and decide later the non-profit causes to which you want to disperse those funds.

Perhaps you want to save in order to help with the next disaster relief effort in the state. Or save to send Christmas gifts to students at the Christian Activity Center or the Baptist Children’s Home. Or maybe you want to invest in the statewide ministries of IBSA that I mentioned above, simply by directing your fund to the Mission Illinois Offering. For help setting up a
Family Giving Fund, simply contact Doug Morrow at the Baptist Foundation of Illinois ( or 217-391-3102).

Year-round giving isn’t for everyone, but if you are one of the Illinois Baptists whose heart God is stirring to give more than once a year, I hope one of these year-round options will help you do just that. Your gift to missions in Illinois is one that keeps on giving, even into eternity.

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


In the past couple of weeks, I found myself reaching for the remote every time the news showed that video of NFL football player Ray Rice coldcocking his future wife in a hotel elevator. Seeing him drag her, unconscious, into the hallway and dumping her body on the floor is too much to take. For some of us, domestic violence hits too close to home.

A 2010 survey by the Centers for Disease Control showed 24% of women and 14% of men have been “hit with a fist or something hard, beaten, slammed against something at some point in their lifetime” by a partner. And yet, new LifeWay Research shows 4 out of 10 pastors never preach or teach about it, and only 2 in 10 raise the topic annually.

Country Church InteriorThat means in two-thirds of our churches, attenders might hear domestic violence, which affects one-fourth of households, referenced in a sermon or large group meeting once a year, if at all.

Spousal abuse still isn’t a subject for public conversation—even from the pulpit.

In my years of hearing and reading sermons, I’ve encountered only one on domestic violence. The preacher was a quiet man, unmarried, and he gave no indication what prompted him to tackle the subject. He chose as his text the account of Jephthah’s daughter in Judges 11.

So many more familiar verses would have supported his argument and from a more positive angle: Man, God made womankind to be your perfect complement (Genesis 2:18). Love your wife as Christ loves the Church; love her as you love your own body (Ephesians 5:25, 28). And as simply as this: love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39, Mark 12:31).

But instead the preacher trudged faithfully through the gruesome report of a rash vow that ended, by most interpretations, in the slaughter of an innocent woman. This wasn’t violence of a husband against wife, but the horrific act of father against daughter was just as unthinkable. And the preacher’s willingness to tell the bloody story made domestic violence very real, even within the sanctuary.

The preacher applied Jephthah’s brutality to parents who abuse their children and husbands who beat their wives. He even spoke of domestic partners and live-in relationships where it appeared degradation perversely motivated staying together, even when no law required it and no church encouraged it.

Knowing his congregation, that was a brave move. In his neighborhood there along the streetcar line, brutish Stanley Kowalski was still a common character. TMZ attests he still is.

Not many pastors tackle the subject as bravely. Even pastors who preach on domestic violence once in a while are more likely to think violence in the home troubles their community (72% said it did) more than their church (only 25% said so). Lifeway Research says half of senior pastors (52%) say they don’t have enough training to deal with the issue. Many say nothing.

I remember my mother wearing sunglasses in church of necessity, and rehearsing an excuse that she ran into a door should anyone question her. No one did. Even as she directed the choir and led the singing behind shades, the cause of her bruises was never raised.

But what the church historically hasn’t done, perhaps TMZ and the NFL will force us preachers to do: bring what happens in angry, broken households into the light and hold it up against the Word of God.

Because for too many of us, domestic violence hits close to home.

Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist.

–Statistics from and LifeWay Research

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Nearly two-thirds of Protestant senior pastors rarely or never speak to their congregations about mental illness, according to an extensive new study by LifeWay Research. But the majority of people who have a family member suffering from mental illness, or who are suffering themselves, want their church to talk openly about the topic so it won’t be so taboo.

“Our research found people who suffer from mental illness often turn to pastors for help,” said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research. “But pastors need more guidance and preparation for dealing with mental health crises. They often don’t have a plan to help individuals or families affected by mental illness, and miss opportunities to be the church.”

According to the study, 68% of pastors said the church maintains a list of mental health resources for members, but only 28% of families said they were aware of those resources in the church.

The “Study of Acute Mental Illness and Christian Faith” also surveyed pastors about their own struggles with mental illness. Of those surveyed, 23% said they had experienced some kind of mental illness themselves, and 12% have received a diagnosis for a mental health condition, according to a report by LifeWay’s Bob Smietana.

Religious groups ask SCOTUS to settle marriage issue
The Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission joined several other religious groups earlier this month in asking the Supreme Court to settle the same-sex marriage issue. “Legal uncertainty is especially burdensome for religious organizations and religious believers increasingly confronted with thorny questions,” the friend-of-the-court brief stated in part.

To help answer some of those questions for Illinois pastors and church leaders, the Illinois Baptist State Association will host the “Elevate Marriage” conference October 16 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the IBSA Building in Springfield. Featured speakers include Kevin Smith, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Andrew Walker, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; and Jill Finley, Bethel Baptist Church, Troy, Ill. Lunch is included, and registration is required; go to

Winter coming soon for religious minorities in Iraq
As cold weather draws nearer in northern Iraq, the situation for refugees fleeing ISIS grows more desperate, reports Baptist Global Response. “Shelter is lacking or inadequate,” said Abraham Shepherd, who directs work in the Middle East for BGR. “People are living in their cars, under doorsteps, in the open fields—with mainly tarps covering them. People know winter will come quickly on them, and they need to be ready—if ever you can be ready in those conditions.” Click here for more on how BGR is assisting refugees in the Middle East.

Abedini to pray for husband outside White House
Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of a pastor imprisoned in Iran, will pray outside the White House this week as part of a multi-site prayer vigil for her husband and other persecuted Christians. Saeed Abedini, an American citizen, was arrested in Iran in 2012. This week marks the second anniversary of his imprisonment.

Rapper Lecrae thankful for ‘voice into culture’
Christian rapper Lecrae appeared on “The Tonight Show” Sept. 18, sitting in with house band The Roots and rapping bits from his new (and Billboard #1) album between segments. “It’s a lot to take in,” he posted on his social media pages after the show. “I am so grateful for the support. I know I represent something much bigger than me. Thank you! I thank God for a voice into culture. I pray I use it wisely.” Read more at

Supreme Court likely to untangle mixed state judgments

NEWS | After a Louisiana state judge upheld the traditional definition of marriage in a September ruling, advocates on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate are calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to make a final, nationwide ruling, once and for all. Indications are, they will.

Thirty-two states filed briefs this month asking the Supreme Court to decide the marriage issue. The appeal made by the states—15 that allow same-sex marriage and 17 that don’t—came the day after a federal judge in Louisiana this month became the first judge to uphold a state’s ban on same-sex marriage since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act last summer.

Judge Martin Feldman ruled Sept. 3 that same-sex marriage “is not a fundamental right that states must uphold despite constitutional or legislative bans,” reported USA Today.

Feldman wrote in his opinion, “The court is persuaded that a mean of what is marriage that has endured in history for thousands of years, and prevails in a majority of states today, is not universally irrational.”

Similar to rulings that have overturned banned in other states, Feldman’s decision will be appealed. Circuit appeals courts also have been busy this summer considering the same-sex marriage question:

  • In the 9th Circuit, the Court of Appeals heard arguments Sept. 8 in three cases that could affect nine states. In the suits, couples in Hawaii, Idaho and Nevada say bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional and have a negative impact on their families.
  • The Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, which includes Illinois, agreed Sept. 4 with two lower court rulings to overturn same-sex marriage bans in Indiana and Wisconsin. In Illinois, same-sex marriages officially began June 1 after the General Assembly approved “The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act” last fall.
  • The 10th and 4th circuits previously overturned same-sex marriage bans in Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia. Like virtually all of the rulings on same-sex marriage, the decisions are on hold.

Some pundits say cases in the 6th Circuit could determine when the Supreme Court will consider same-sex marriage. In early August, the court considered cases challenging same-sex marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. At an event at the University of Minnesota earlier this month, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg predicted the court will decide on marriage “sooner or later,” according to the Washington Post, but there currently is “no urgency.” If same-sex marriage loses in the 6th Circuit, the decision could present the split needed to bring in the high court, the Post reported.

Religious groups, including the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, also issued a friend-of-the-court brief asking the Supreme Court to settle the marriage issue, stating in part, “Legal uncertainty is especially burdensome for religious organizations and religious believers increasingly confronted with thorny questions.”

To help answer some of those questions for Illinois pastors and church leaders, the Illinois Baptist State Association will host the “Elevate Marriage” conference October 16 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the IBSA Building in Springfield. Featured speakers include Kevin Smith, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Andrew Walker, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; and Jill Finley, Bethel Baptist Church, Troy, Ill. Lunch is included, and registration is required; go to

This image was captured from a 2012 YouTube video Saeed Abedini made before his 2013 imprisonment for his faith.

This image was captured from a 2012 YouTube video Saeed Abedini made before his 2013 imprisonment for his faith. Photo from BP

Note: This article was compiled by Baptist Press, with reporting by Morning Star News (

HEARTLAND | As pastor Saeed Abedini nears the second anniversary of imprisonment in Iran, his wife Naghmeh is organizing a Sept. 26 worldwide prayer vigil for Abedini and other Christians persecuted for their faith.

“I’m doing a prayer vigil on this day to remember Pastor Saeed and others who are imprisoned for Christ, but also as a chance to come together as the Body of Christ and see the move of God as we pray together,” she said in a video posted on the Be Heard Project’s website, an initiative of the American Center for Law and Justice. “Please join me on this special day as we come together and pray.”

As of Sept. 18, groups had signed up to host individual prayer meetings at more than 418 locations in the United States, including Southern Baptist churches, the White House, the steps of state capitols, and Christian churches of various denominations.

Abedini is serving an eight-year sentence imposed Jan. 27, 2013, on charges he threatened national security by planting house churches in Iran years earlier. Iran refuses to recognize the U.S. citizenship Abedini gained in 2010.

Abedini faces death threats in prison, avoiding exercise sessions when radical Islamists would most likely try to kill him, the U.S. Center for Law and Justice reported in August. His wife and their two children remain in Idaho.

The prayer vigil comes as at least three other Christian pastors in Iran are facing charges deemed punishable by death, Morning Star News reported. Read more at

Registration information for the prayer vigil is available at

COMMENTARY | Chase Abner

Note: This article originally appeared on Collegiate Collective, a new resource that features articles, podcasts, and videos designed to equip leaders to advance the gospel on college campuses.

Chase_Abner_calloutI’ve been around collegiate ministry for about eleven years. In those years, I’ve been witness to all sorts of public hubbub on the world stage of evangelicalism. At first, there was the challenge posed by Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code.” Then there was a lot of back-and-forth about the Emergent Church and how post-modernism was going to erode all of Christendom. And that was just a precursor to Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” and the battle for the doctrine of hell. And Mark Driscoll has been the subject of his fair share of controversies. Throw “The Shack” and Calvinism into the mix and you’ve got yourself enough blog fodder to last you until the other side of eternity.

Early on, I somehow got the impression that a big part of my job as a campus minister was to help students be on the “right side” of all these public controversies. I read a lot of blogs and way too many blog comments. I sought out what side my heroes were on. I studied the Bible hard and I tried to provide my students with all the right answers.

However, there was one big problem.

They weren’t even asking the questions. Most of them didn’t even know who Brown or Driscoll or Bell or Calvin was. They were more concerned about passing their biology test or paying tuition in the spring or what they were going to say to their roommate struggling with depression.

So I gave up. I stopped trying to be up-to-date on the controversy of the day. I decided that if it wasn’t something that was directly impacting my students, then I wouldn’t bother with it.

And guess what? I found that I had a lot more time to hear from God, rather than about Him from someone on a podcast. I found that I was freer to hear the questions the students actually had, rather than the ones I forced on them. And I found that it’s a lot easier to follow Jesus when you’re not fighting over Jesus.

So last week, a video of Victoria Osteen made the rounds. If you didn’t know, she is the wife of America’s most famous mega-pastor Joel Osteen. The clip is from a sermon in August wherein Victoria makes some…how do you say…provocative claims about proper motivation for obeying God. (If you haven’t seen it yet, then count yourself blessed and forget I mentioned it.)

Here’s what naïve Chase would’ve probably done in response to this clip if it had come along in my early days of ministry: I would’ve torn the thing to bits, shared all the parody videos, and read every blog that critiques the Osteens’ errant theology. I might’ve even used one of the parody videos in our weekly gathering or taught an entire lesson in response. In other words, I would’ve wasted a lot of time doing battle against something that had virtually zero influence on the people in my care.

Let me suggest this template for responding to public Christian controversies in your collegiate ministry context.

  1. Pray for the individuals caught in sin or espousing false teaching.
    • Example: Pray for the Osteens and those influenced by their teaching ministry.
  2. Examine yourself in light of Scripture.
    • Example: Ask God to show you where you have selfish motives in your obedience to him. Repent as necessary.
  3. Listen to your students. Respond when necessary.
    • Example: If your students aren’t being influenced by the controversy, then press on in your disciple-making as if nothing has happened. If they have questions about it, then address the controversy.

You see, as you focus your energy on developing mature Christians who believe and apply the gospel to all of life, they will be equipped to address the counterfeits on their own. If at times, the controversies catch their attention and your students have questions, then embrace those as teachable moments. But remember, they are just that—moments—and not the normal pattern for your ministry.

Most of all, avoid the temptation to define yourself and your ministry by what you’re against. Is the gospel exclusive? Yes. Does God draw some hard lines in Scripture? Yes. But most clearly, he reveals himself in the person and work of Jesus Christ who gave most of his energy on earth to proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom.

Chase Abner is Collegiate Evangelism Strategist for the Illinois Baptist State Association.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

An op-ed piece on last week announced the launch of “Evangelicals for Marriage Equality,” an effort “to change the hearts and minds of evangelicals about civil marriage equality,” according to spokesperson Brandan Robertson.

“…I represent a growing number of millennial evangelicals that believes it’s possible to be a faithful Christian with a high regard for the authority of the Bible and a faithful supporter of civil marriage equality,” Robertson wrote in the column.

The_BriefingQuoting statistics that report younger evangelicals are more likely than older Christians to support same-sex marriage, Robertson made a case for a “middle path” that “both compels evangelicals to stand for civil marriage equality as an overflow of our love for our lesbian and gay neighbors, while allowing us to have space to wrestle with and remain faithful to our beliefs.”

Andrew Walker of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission responded to Robertson’s piece in his own op-ed on the next day.

“In 800 words, there’s not a coherent argument about the nature of marriage,” Walker wrote about Robertson’s column. “And that’s what this debate Americans are having is about, isn’t it? It’s about one question: What is marriage? This isn’t just about Christianity’s teaching on marriage. It’s about the definition of marriage for society.

“It’s about whether marriage is malleable, or whether marriage has a fixed social purpose that’s been recognized throughout all of human history as something distinct from other relationships.”

Walker will appear at the “Elevate Marriage” conference Oct. 16 in Springfield, Ill. Register now at

Other news:

‘Third way’ church expelled from CA Baptist Convention
The California Southern Baptist Convention Executive Board voted Sept. 11 to withdraw fellowship from a church that had decided to pursue a “third way” in dealing with same-sex lifestyles in the church, Baptist Press reports. After Danny Cortez, pastor of New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, Ca., announced he no longer believed same-sex relationships are sinful, his church reportedly voted to become a “third way” church that wouldn’t condemn or condone homosexuality. A former elder later told Baptist Press the church didn’t officially vote to accept the “third way,” but peacefully separated amid deadlock.

Warren: ‘People are looking for mercy’
The church must deal with mental illness with a spirit of compassion, California pastor Rick Warren says in a video posted at The video, posted in July, also features Tony Rose, chairman of the Mental Health Advisory Group formed by Southern Baptist Executive Committee President Frank Page in response to a motion made at the 2013 SBC Annual Meeting. “If the church could be a church of mercy, we would have no evangelism problem, because people are looking for mercy,” said Warren, whose son committed suicide in 2013 after a lengthy battle with mental illness. Read more about the advisory group, who held their inaugural meeting in May, at

Pew research measures American concern about extremism
As ISIS continues to terrorize groups in the Middle East, Pew Research released new data that shows Americans are increasingly concerned about Islamic extremism. 62% are very concerned about its rise around the world, Pew reported, and 53% are very concerned about the possibility of rising Islamic extremism in the U.S. Not surprisingly, more Americans now also say they are concerned the government has not gone far enough to protect the country.

Illinois volunteers assist with flood recovery near Detroit
Four Disaster Relief teams from Illinois will serve in Warren, Michigan, this month, after slow-moving storms dumped several inches of rain on the area in August and damaged tens of thousands of homes. Read the story here.

An Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief is cheered by a job well done in Warren, Michigan. Volunteers traveled north to assist with flood recovery in August and September.

An Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief team is cheered by a job well done in Warren, Michigan. Volunteers traveled north to assist with flood recovery in August and September. Photo submitted by Butch Porter

Update: Local volunteers and teams are still working in Michigan, said IBSA’s Rex Alexander, but the work will likely be completed this week. An Illinois team scheduled to serve there this week was not deployed to Michigan.

NEWS | Lisa Sergent

The Detroit suburb of Warren, Mich., is the destination for four Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief teams in September. Three additional teams served there last month, after slow-moving storms dumped several inches of rain on the area Aug. 11.

“There are 40,000 affected homes in Oakland County alone,” Baptist State Convention of Michigan Disaster Relief director Wynn Williams told Baptist Press. “There are another 30,000 to 40,000 damaged homes in Wayne County and then all the work in McComb County. There was as much as 15 feet of water over some of the expressways. Homes have damage anywhere from a few inches to several feet of floodwater.”

The flooding went largely uncovered by national media, and few outside of Michigan were aware of the need for recovery assistance. Teams from First Baptist in Galatia, Sullivan Southern Baptist, and Capital City Baptist Association were the first Illinois volunteers to arrive, followed by four teams from Williamson Baptist Association scheduled to serve this month. Each team works five or six days, not including travel time.

“The majority of the homes belong to senior adults who are not able to do the necessary work to clean up and sanitize their homes,” said Rex Alexander, IBSA State Disaster Relief Coordinator. “The good news is that because the water entered homes through the basements, there is not much actual ‘mud’ present in the homes, only water damage.”

Teams removed furniture and appliances from basements, cut out walls, and sanitized surfaces. When they completed the jobs, they presented the homeowners with a Bible signed by them and then all prayed together. Bob Jackson, leader of the Sullivan Southern team, talked about the team’s experience at one home.

“We prayed with one couple where he was a Lutheran and she was Romanian Orthodox. They told us about growing up and being active in church as youths, but not anymore. We had just finished working on his man-cave in the basement. I told him they needed to remember the God of their youth. I like to make people think and to plant a seed.”

The teams also worked in neighborhoods with significant Muslim populations. David Howard, director of missions for Capital City Association, said one evening the volunteers were treated to a catered meal of traditional Middle Eastern food by a local imam.

Howard also noted the team had an opportunity to work in the home of a woman who was a new Christian. “She had recently received the Lord and been baptized. She was so excited to share with us about her newfound faith.”

After the first few Illinois teams had returned home, Alexander got a thank-you email from Tony Lynn, a pastor in Monroe, Mich. “Volunteers from our church worked alongside your teams,” Lynn wrote. “We saw firsthand, your teams share the good news of Christ with compassion and devotion. We saw discouraged residents beam with hope after your teams started their work….Residents’ sorrows were replaced with smiles because you showed them that there are more important things than possessions.”

The national Disaster Relief response in Michigan is expected to end by the second week of October. For more information about Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief, go to

The Mission Illinois Offering and Week of Prayer, marked this week in churches across the state, focuses on ministry to kids and families. The crucial “4-14 window” is the best opportunity for churches to effectively share the gospel with the next generation. Use this daily devotion guide, and go to for videos, stories, mission study teaching plans, and ideas for prayer and worship.

oneDay 1: Scott Kelly, Pastor, Campus Minister
A century-old house in Evanston, Ill., is a home base for ministry to students at Northwestern University. Scott and Megan Kelly and their three kids open their home on a regular basis to students who come for parties, prayer meetings, or just dinner. “The students I meet are open to speaking with me about Jesus and what the Bible says, as we meet in the dorm or over Dunkin coffee at the student center,” said Scott, who also pastors Evanston Baptist Church. “But the best conversations I have with students are when they are around my family.” Pray for Pastor Scott as he leads his church and the campus ministry at Northwestern University.

twoDay 2: Tim Sadler, IBSA Evangelism Director
IBSA churches baptized just over 5,000 people last year, but more than 400 of our churches baptized no one. Tim says, “Generous giving through the Mission Illinois Offering allows me to assist churches taking the Gospel to their mission fields. I can provide resources such as Gospel tracts and training to churches who want to reach their communities for Christ. It allows me to do customized training and strategy development for IBSA churches.” Pray for Tim and for renewed evangelism in IBSA’s 1,000 member churches.

threeDay 3: Chet Cantrell, Christian Activity Center Director
Every day after school at the Christian Activity Center, kids in East St. Louis get a healthy snack and help with their homework. They learn Bible stories and songs, play in the gym, and spend time in the computer lab. It’s a world far removed from how this street—known as a center of prostitution—used to operate. “In the early days our mission was to keep our kids alive,” said Chet Cantrell, who directs the CAC, “but our mandate was bigger than that. We want to help them thrive, so they can be what God intends them to be.Pray for Chet, the ministry team at the Christian Activity Center in East St. Louis, and the hundreds of young lives they touch each year.

fourDay 4: Carmen Halsey, Mission Mobilization Director
There are 13 million people in Illinois, and at least 8 million of them do not know Christ. Carmen sees tremendous opportunity for the Gospel. “Our lives begin to make sense when we realize that they are a platform for God’s word to be demonstrated to others. Illinois Baptist Women are embedded into society all across our state. With our resources, we are developing women to recognize and seize everyday opportunities to share the gospel.” Pray for Carmen and Illinois Baptist Women who are mobilized to share Christ. Pray for spiritual awakening in Illinois.

fiveDay 5: Brad Pittman, Church Planter
Davis Junction in Northwest Illinois was a community of more than 3,000 people, but only one church. Until recently. In this town 15 miles south of Rockford, Brad Pittman and his family are planting Grace Fellowship Church. It’s the third location for a multi-site church that started in Ashton and also meets in Amboy.

Brad was a member of the Ashton location for 13 years before joining the staff with pastors Jeremy Horton and Brian McWethy. “We want to be an Acts 1:8 church that not only plants here locally,” he said, “but we’re going into our state, that we’re going into our nation, we’re also going into our world.” Pray for The Pittman family and all church planters in Illinois. Pray for the 322 places and people groups where new churches are needed.

sixDay 6: Chase Abner, Collegiate Evangelism Strategist
“God changed my life through a college ministry supported by IBSA,” Chase says. His salvation as a young adult at SIU Carbondale urges him forward. “Generous giving by Illinois Baptists helps me to assist churches as they reach out to students on campuses across Illinois. These campuses are home to nearly one million students. Before they leave school, we must share Christ with them.” Pray for Chase and the campus ministries he helps start and facilitate.

sevenDay 7: John Mattingly, Church Planting Catalyst
24 new churches were started in Illinois last year. And 13 are in progress in the northwestern region. “Our new church plants in northwest Illinois are building relationships that help bridge the gap of misunderstanding of who Southern Baptists are in the North,” John says. “They are also enjoying a harvest of souls that is due to the on-going relationships between planters and our established rural churches. It is a testimony of the power behind steady giving and praying.” Pray for new ministries to reach the 4 million people who live in non-urban settings in Illinois.

eightDay 8: Rex Alexander, Disaster Relief Coordinator
Rex is one of 85 IBSA missionaries, ministry staff, and church planters. This offering makes it possible for all the team to represent Christ wherever and whenever needed. “We provide opportunities for Disaster Relief workers to bring help, healing, and hope to victims of natural disasters in Illinois and North America,” Rex says. “God uses their skills, and the additional training IBSA provides, to help people physically and spiritually as they attempt to rebuild their lives.” Pray for all the IBSA team, including staff and volunteers. Pray that we will reach the $475,000 goal to keep them serving on our Illinois mission field.