Archives For November 2014

Nate_Adams_1110HEARTLAND | Nate Adams

Recently the city council in Seattle, Washington, voted unanimously to change their designation of the second Monday in October from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day. “Nobody discovered Seattle, Washington,” said one Indian nation president during the council meeting. And so, at least on one day in October, the city of Seattle will go its own way.

And yet, Seattle is not alone. The Minneapolis, Minnesota, city council passed a similar measure earlier this year. In Hawaii, they now celebrate “Discoverers’ Day” instead of Columbus Day, while in South Dakota it’s now “Native Americans Day.”

As much as I appreciate our nation’s Native American heritage, actions like these seem to me to denote a troublesome attitude or mindset, and yet one that I’m noticing more and more, even in Baptist life. It’s a mindset that says, “We’re mainly interested in what’s relevant and valuable to us here at home, and less interested in the bigger picture of what others are doing.”

In a way, it’s a mindset that’s compatible with the deeply held Baptist belief in autonomy. “No one outside our church is going to tell us what to do!” Yet at the same time it’s a mindset that tugs against the very spirit of unity and cooperation that have always been the hallmarks and strength of Baptist churches.

The way I see it expressed more these days is through practices such as designated rather than cooperative giving, or ecumenical rather than denominational partnerships. For example, one large Baptist church in the south that used to give more than $1 million through the Cooperative Program recently shifted more than 90% of that directly to their preference, international missions. And I see Baptist churches of all sizes occasionally doing missions or benevolence projects with partners whose doctrinal positions I daresay they have not examined.

Some of this is people just naturally doing what they want, or supporting what they find most compelling. But in those individual choices or preferences, there are often also great losses. When we each do what we prefer locally, we diminish what we can all accomplish collectively.

As we come to the close of another year here in Illinois, and perhaps finalize our church budgets, I would encourage us to do more pulling together and less pulling apart. There is already great individuality and diversity among our churches. And yet it is our unity around Baptist doctrine and cooperative missions that pulls us together, and allows us to accomplish together things that no individual church could do on its own.

Recently I’ve been invited to a number of churches to share, usually in a combined adult Sunday school class, how and why “cooperative missions” works, and then to preach in the morning worship service. Each time I do, there are older adults who come and say something like, “That’s why I’ve been Southern Baptist all my life.” And there are younger adults, many of whom didn’t grow up in a Baptist church or receive any childhood missions education, who say, “You know, I don’t think I really understood how we work together with other churches, but that really makes sense.”

In other words, our churches are already full of indigenous peoples, who naturally go their own ways. Our responsibility as autonomous but cooperating Baptist churches is to pull people together around the Word of God and the Mission of God.

Columbus wasn’t the first or only discoverer of America, and he wasn’t perfect. But when we celebrate in his name, we pull together as a nation, and we affirm the spirit of adventure and discovery. Likewise we should enthusiastically pull together as Baptists, around the name of Jesus Christ, and in support of the wonderful adventure we share, establishing His Kingdom in a new world.

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

The Veritas vocal quintet is helping lead tonight's Mission Illinois: Concert of Prayer.

The Veritas vocal quintet is helping lead tonight’s Mission Illinois: Concert of Prayer.

If we're going to push back spiritual lostness in Illinois, IBSA President Odis Weaver said this afternoon, we're going to have to get desperate for spiritual awakening.

If we’re going to push back spiritual lostness in Illinois, IBSA President Odis Weaver said this afternoon, we’re going to have to get desperate for spiritual awakening.

The choir from Broadview Missionary Baptist Church brought the Pastors' Conference audience to their feet with their opening song, "I Came to Magnify the Lord"

The choir from Broadview Missionary Baptist Church brought the Pastors’ Conference audience to their feet with their opening song, “I Came to Magnify the Lord.”

Larry Thompson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., is preaching at the IBSA Pastors' Conference on the "seismic" spiritual shift described in Acts 10. Follow the Pastors' Conference at

Larry Thompson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., is preaching at the IBSA Pastors’ Conference on the “seismic spiritual shift” described in Acts 10. Follow the Pastors’ Conference at

God wants his people to trust in him and arise, said Pastor Marvin Parker, referencing the theme of the 2014 IBSA Pastor's Conference. "Get up, get out, get going."

God wants his people to trust in him and arise, said Pastor Marvin Parker, referencing the theme of the 2014 IBSA Pastor’s Conference. “Get up, get out, get going.”


Musicians from Uptown Baptist Church in Chicago led in worship during the opening session of the IBSA Pastors’ Conference, which continues tonight in Springfield. Follow the conference and the IBSA Annual Meeting, beginning tomorrow at 1:30 p.m., at

The_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The Illinois Baptist State Association’s Annual Meeting and Pastors’ Conference is in Springfield this week, beginning today at 1 p.m. Check our blog for coverage throughout the week, or at and

“Parents, love your LGBT or same-sex attracted children and point them to a life of costly discipleship following Jesus,” Christopher Yuan told attendees at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s National Conference last week. The Moody Bible Institute professor’s journey out of a lifestyle of addiction, which included same-sex relationships, was shaped by the love of his Christian parents, The Christian Post reported.

After same-sex marriage became legal in their state Oct. 10, six magistrates in North Carolina stepped down rather than be required to preside over same-sex marriages, the Christian Examiner reported. “For me to do what the state said I had to do, under penalty of law, I would have to go against my convictions, and I was not willing to do that,” said Magistrate Gayle Myrick. “I want to honor what the Word says.”

Theologian R.C. Sproul said “the pervasive influence of humanism” is evident in a new survey produced by LifeWay Research and commissioned by Sproul’s Ligonier Ministries. The online survey of 3,000 Americans asked 43 questions about faith, covering topics from sin and salvation to the Bible and the afterlife.

It was announced last week that the network of 13 Mars Hill churches founded by recently resigned pastor Mark Driscoll will dissolve by the beginning of 2015. According to a Christianity Today report, the churches have three options: become independent, merge with an existing church, or disband.

Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore is one of the speakers set to address a Vatican colloquium on marriage and family later this month. The religious groups that will be represented certainly have their differences, Moore blogged, and the meeting won’t change that reality. “That said, I am willing to go anywhere, when asked, to bear witness to what we as evangelical Protestants believe about marriage and the gospel, especially in times in which marriage is culturally imperiled.”


HEARTLAND | Meredith Flynn

In two out of three Southern Baptist congregations, fewer than 100 people gather for worship on Sunday morning. Megachurches may get more attention, but small churches are the backbone of the SBC, Frank Page has said.

Illinois pastor Cliff Woodman is part of a new advisory council on small and bivocational churches.

Illinois pastor Cliff Woodman is part of a new advisory council on small and bivocational churches.

Still, small church pastors often feel overlooked and marginalized, left out and under-resourced. A new advisory council assembled by Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, exists to communicate the unique needs of these categories of churches with denominational leaders.

“I will not allow the Southern Baptist Convention to forget who we are,” said Page during the first meeting of the Bivocational and Small Church Advisory Council. “Part of my goal in this is to elevate the role of the small church pastor and the bivocational pastor, period. And that’s going to happen.”

Illinois pastor Cliff Woodman is part of the 21-member council, which will work over the next three years to develop a report on the statistics that define Southern Baptist churches. The group, one of several Page has brought together in his first four years as Executive Committee president, represents a large majority of Southern Baptist churches.

“Some would say 35,000 of our 46,000 churches, maybe more than that, are in the two categories of small church or bivocational,” Page said at the Sept. 11-12 meeting in Atlanta. For the council’s purposes, he defined a small church as one with 125 people or fewer in Sunday school attendance. The group also looked at research on the percentages of SBC churches by worship attendance. According to 2013 data, 68% of Southern Baptist churches have 100 or fewer people in worship, compared to 78% of IBSA churches and missions.

Woodman, now pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Carlinville, spent more than 25 years as a bivocational pastor at Harmony Baptist Church in
Medora. He told the Illinois Baptist small church and bivocational pastors (most who also work a second job) often feel out-of-the-loop. Sunday school curriculum may feel tailored to larger churches with more people and more classroom space, for example, and large church pastors often are the ones invited to speak at meetings or conferences.

But non-megachurches can be effective churches. Woodman, whose Carlinville church reported an average worship attendance of 145 in their 2013 Annual Church Profile, is leading Emmanuel to look closely at what makes a congregation healthy. He referenced LifeWay President Thom Rainer’s 2013 book “I Am A Church Member,” which outlines members’ responsibilities to their congregation.

“If a church member’s not supposed to look at ‘what’s in it for me,’ then maybe churches ought to stop looking at ‘what’s in it for me,’” Woodman said. The better question is, “What can I do for the bigger body?”

Major shift toward bivocational
Page has used a “fault lines” analogy to describes areas of SBC life where there are rifts between different groups. One of those fault lines, he said in the Atlanta meeting, is related to church methodology, or how churches do church. The discussion centered on bivocational ministry, a strategy Page called “the wave of the future.” It’s also the wave of the past.

Southern Baptist churches have long relied on bivocational pastors to lead churches. Decades ago, many pastors were farmers; today, they also drive school buses, deliver the mail, and run small businesses.

“I’m convinced that in the 21st Century, the best stewardship model is bivocational,” Page said. “We’ve got a lot of students coming out of seminary now who have no intention of being full support.” In other words, they’re prepared to work more than one job to make ends meet.

That news was encouraging to Woodman. There was a day, he said, when “the underlying current was that the bivocational guy wasn’t good enough to have a full-time church.” Page shared with the group that some Christian universities are now training students to be pastors along with learning another vocation.

While there will always be churches that want their pastor to be full-time, Woodman said, bivocational ministry is imperative if Southern Baptists want to extend the reach of churches into more communities. “And we’re going to have to do a better job at it,” he said, and at preparing future leaders for it. Because bivocational pastoring is “a different game.”

Quit the comparison game
Small church pastor Job Dalomba posed a pointed question in an April blog post: “We have to ask ourselves an honest question: Do we want to see the glory of God shining from larger churches or do we just want their numbers, resources and notoriety to be our numbers, resources and notoriety?”

The SBC Voices post by Dalomba, pastor of a new, small church in Southaven, Mississippi, called for small church pastors to stop comparing themselves to men who lead larger congregations, and to pray for those big churches too.

It’s a strategy the congregation at Emmanuel has utilized this year. A church’s prayer requests are a good measure of its health, Pastor Woodman said. “Throw them up on the wall, and see what your prayer requests do. And when you get done, you begin to think about what does that tell you your view of God is.

“And in essence, you’ll find in most churches that he’s healer, a physician; he’s an employment agency; he’s Triple A. But what’s lacking is that he’s a savior.”

Woodman’s congregation was already praying by name for people who don’t know Christ when he arrived as pastor last year. To that focus, they’ve added regular prayer for sister churches in Macoupin Baptist Association. The prayers are scripted, with a focus on reaching people who don’t know Christ. Woodman is hopeful the strategy will help build a spirit of teamwork between his church and others in the community, he told SBC Life earlier this year.

“When we started praying for our sister churches, that helped us be healthier. If we as pastors and churches would take the same attitude, then we’d stop looking at what others were doing for us, and we’d start doing for others.”

With reporting by Baptist Press and SBC Life. Meredith Flynn is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper, online at