Archives For February 2015

COMMENTARY | Heath Tibbetts

“So what do you think about demons?” This was the random text message my 21-year-old brother sent me a few months back. I replied, “They sound scary, and they’re totally real.”

He called and told me of his friend, John, who believed he was being harassed by a demon. John doesn’t go to church, but he decided to call a few of the local pastors in his town, asking them what he should do. In each instance, the pastor didn’t believe his story, and offered nothing further.

Heath_Tibbetts_Feb26John lives out of state from my brother and me, so I offered to call. Soon, he was explaining his story to me. Let’s put it this way…YIKES! The hairs on my neck stood at attention as John explained this entity’s ability to take a visible shape while bringing him feelings of dread and even depression. He was now worried that this “entity” (I told him demon was the correct term) would attempt to possess him, and he was highly fearful.

I’ve heard of pastors who have blown off these types of stories. A previous pastor I served with said he had received a call from someone who thought they had a demon in their house. When I asked him what he was going to do, he replied, “Not go over there!” This didn’t sit well with me. Jesus spent many days defeating demons who were bringing hopelessness and harm to people all over Israel (Matthew 8:16, Luke 11:20, bunches of others). The Bible spoke of demons as a real threat, and I was shocked that our church didn’t act accordingly.

After telling John I believed him, I asked about his relationship to God. He admitted to having none, though he had been growing more curious about spiritual things. And as John continued to talk, I realized these attacks had intensified during this newfound curiosity. Long story short, I shared with John the Good News of Jesus and he willingly repented of his sins over the phone and placed his trust in Jesus. Then, we had a crash course in Holy Spirit theology. I told him that according to 1 Corinthians 6:19, no one can ever possess him now that he has become a temple of the Holy Spirit. John hung up the phone sounding much more confident about the future.

In fact, in the three months since John accepted Christ, he’s experienced a great change. Because the local pastors didn’t offer hope, he was unwilling to attend their churches. I’ve been discipling him by phone, texts, and e-mails. He reports no visits from this demon since his salvation, and he is reading his Bible and spending time in prayer. John is also finding new plans opening up for his life. He is moving to a new city in February to continue his education, and the first question he asked me was, “How do I find a good church when I get there?”

What is the takeaway for us? First of all, there were pastors who had an unbeliever call them for hope and they offered NONE. We have the hope of salvation and purpose in Jesus. When an unbeliever approaches us, no matter their dilemma, we must be prepared to help them see that Jesus is calling them in the midst of their crisis.

Secondly, if the Bible warns us of something, we had better take it seriously! Satan and his demons are real and they are working tirelessly to deceive, depress, and destroy souls. We must remain aware that spiritual warfare is going on all around us. Sometimes we can see it more clearly than others, but we are not fighting against people, but against “the spiritual forces of evil,” according to Ephesians 6:12. God has called us to be
warriors for the gospel who will help the hurting and broken find hope in Jesus Christ. As Peter said, let us always be prepared to share the hope that lies within us.

Heath Tibbetts pastors First Baptist Church in Machesney Park.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The Washington florist found to be in violation of her state’s non-discrimination law rejected a settlement that could have mitigated some of the damage to her financial well-being, The Christian Post reports.

The_BriefingWhen Baronelle Stutzman refused to provide florist services for a same-sex wedding, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed suit against her. Following the Feb. 18 verdict, Ferguson offered to let Stutzman pay $2,001 in penalties and fees, as long as she committed “not to discriminate in the future.” Stutzman said no.

“Washington’s constitution guarantees us ‘freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment.’ I cannot sell that precious freedom,” she wrote in a letter. “You are asking me to walk in the way of a well-known betrayer, one who sold something of infinite worth for 30 pieces of silver. That is something I will not do.”

Controversial author and former pastor Rob Bell told Oprah Winfrey that church culture is turning toward acceptance of same-sex marriage. “Lots of people are already there,” he said on the Feb. 15 episode of Winfrey’s “Super Soul Sunday.”

“We think it’s inevitable and we’re moments away from the church accepting it.”

Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting this June will vote on a key change to the ministry statement of the North American Mission Board. If approved, according to Baptist Press, NAMB personnel could provide assistance to the International Mission Board in planting churches overseas.

“War Room” is the newest movie from the Georgia brothers who created “Facing the Giants,” “Fireproof,” and “Courageous.”

“This film is about the power of prayer, and the necessity of prayer in our lives,” Alex Kendrick says in a video on He and his brother, Stephen, produced their earlier films with Sherwood Pictures, based in their Baptist church. “War Room” will be distributed by Worldwide Distribution for Sony Pictures, Baptist Press reported. Bible teachers Priscilla Shirer and Beth Moore both appear in the film.

Hidden entrances

nateadamsibsa —  February 23, 2015

HEARTLAND | Nate Adams

Several years ago Beth and I had the opportunity to travel overseas to Amsterdam. As Sunday approached, we began scouting out nearby churches with English-speaking worship services. Finding only one within walking distance, we made plans to attend and committed to starting out early. But it was not early enough.

This was before the days of GPS and smart phones, and all we had were verbal directions from the place we were staying. We recognized the various street names and landmarks they told us we would find along the way. We knew we were in the right neighborhood. But we could not find the church.

Nate_Adams_Feb23Did we ask others for directions along the way? Well of course, though as a self-respecting husband who rarely feels lost, I waited as long as possible. But most of the folks in the neighborhood spoke only Dutch, and at least one of our well-intentioned helpers actually directed us to a German-speaking Lutheran service, which only cost us more time.

Finally, as the scheduled worship hour was upon us, we met a nice little man who was willing to walk with us a short way and point down a narrow alleyway. We had probably walked past it several times, but never realized that it led to where we needed to go.

Somewhat by faith, we walked down that narrow passage until it opened up into a beautiful courtyard. And right in the center was a beautiful old stone church, the place of worship for which we had been searching.

What a rich and deep worship experience we had that morning. On the way out, we inquired about a stained glass window that had caught our attention, one that seemed to depict pilgrims gathered for prayer on an ocean shore. It turns out the church in which we were worshiping that morning was the church from which the Mayflower pilgrims had departed for the New World almost 400 years ago.

When we returned to the hotel and told them of our difficulty finding the church, the staff apologetically acknowledged that the neighborhood had grown up quite a bit around the historic church. New buildings and thoroughfares now surrounded and somewhat masked the entrance to the courtyard. They were glad that someone familiar with the entrance had showed us how to find it.

In recent days, I have sometimes wondered what it is that keeps me from feeling a more consistent closeness to God. Like that narrow alleyway in Amsterdam, it seems the path to greater intimacy with God can be hard to find, even when I’m diligently looking for it.

Psalm 100 gives us a wonderful word picture of entering God’s gates with thanksgiving, and entering His courts with praise. Recalling that psalm during some recent soul-searching, I asked myself if I had been feeling or expressing genuine thanksgiving to God.

I began realizing how much my prayer life had been consumed with either asking for things to be different or expressing frustrations,  neither of which came from a heart of gratitude toward God. Like the buildings and thoroughfares that had grown up around that historic church, I had somehow allowed various disappointments and distractions to obscure my vision of God. They were keeping me from recognizing that I enter the courtyard of praise through a gateway of thanksgiving, and that God’s goodness and salvation and sovereignty merit my continual gratitude, even when things aren’t going my way.

Have your circumstances allowed obstacles such as discontentment or frustration or something else to creep in to your spiritual life and block your intimacy with God? Like that kind little man in Amsterdam, let me point you once again to the gateway of thanksgiving. You will be so delighted with where it leads.

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

Government leaders need support, encouragement, advice and gospel centered truth, says Carrie Campbell (second from right).

Government leaders need support, encouragement,
advice and gospel centered truth,
says Carrie Campbell (second from right).

COMMENTARY | Carrie Campbell

Every year, my family goes to the Springfield City Basketball Tournament to watch our four city high schools duke it out for the top spot. A few weeks ago, we were sitting at the tournament on a Saturday night when I got a text message from my roommate: Bruce Rauner, Illinois’ newly elected governor, was there.

I quickly scanned the crowd looking for men in suits and a cluster of people. After searching for about 10 minutes, my mom spotted him among the crowd looking just like the rest of us, wearing blue jeans. I immediately decided I wanted to meet him. My sisters and a friend of ours from church headed down to where he was sitting near the court. Gov. Rauner was taking photos with a few other people, and when it was our turn, he smiled at us brightly and told us to come in close and put our heads together.

I introduced myself and told him that I was a middle school teacher. He laughed and said, “God bless you.” We went back to our seats, but later that evening, I went back to talk to him and his team a bit more. I told them that I teach at a diverse school, with students from more than 10 countries. I invited him to meet our students, most of whom have probably never met anyone that influential, especially a government official.

As Christians, I think it’s easy to get intimidated or star-struck by people that lead lives that seem more important than ours. Yes, the governor of Illinois does make many important decisions for our state. But he’s also like the rest of us, a human being put on this earth to glorify God. My introduction to Gov. Rauner reminded me that not only is it extremely important that we lift up our government officials in prayer, but also that we build relationships with them when we have the opportunity. They need our support, encouragement, advice, and gospel centered truth just as much as the next person does.

Romans 13:1 calls Christians to action in just this way: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” So I put forth a challenge to you: The next time you come in contact with a government leader, encourage that person with a friendly introduction, handshake, and—as God gives opportunities—with gospel centered truth.

Carrie Campbell is a middle school teacher in Beardstown and a member of Delta Church in Springfield.

NewAwakeningwebbannerEvangelism conference to focus on revival

The New Awakening Evangelism Conference will bring three of the Southern Baptist Convention’s foremost teachers and revival preachers to Decatur, Ill., March 27-28.

Johnny Hunt, Alvin Reid, and Joel Southerland will speak during the conference at Tabernacle Baptist Church, which also includes 14 evangelism-themed breakout sessions.

“New Awakening” is the first statewide evangelism conference hosted by the Illinois Baptist State Association in several years. The theme came out of a season of personal study on the first and second Great Awakenings and other historic revivals, said Tim Sadler, IBSA’s director of evangelism.

“I was just convinced that our problem is not going to be fixed by a program; declining baptisms are not going to be fixed by another thing in a box.

“We need a move of God’s spirit; we need another awakening, and I’m praying that it starts here, in us.”

The conference comes at a time when leaders are calling Baptists in Illinois and across the country to heightened prayer for spiritual awakening and revival. Several factors have brought on the recent focus on awakening, Reid told the Illinois Baptist: Baptists are aware they’ve lost the “home field advantage;” numbers are declining and we don’t have the influence we once had.

“A lot of leaders are realizing we’re just not smart enough to build a program to fix this. We need a God intervention….I think we need to get to a place where there’s a sense of desperation.”

Reid, a professor of evangelism and student ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, will teach twice during large-group sessions at the conference, and also lead a breakout session reaching the next generation. Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga., and Southerland, executive director of evangelism strategies for the North American Mission Board, also will preach twice in Decatur.

Attendees will choose three breakout sessions from a list of options including, reaching men with the gospel; attractional evangelism events; prayer and evangelism; Bible storying as a means of sharing the gospel; and more. The conference also will offer breakout tracks for women and church planters.

Chad and Rachel Ozee, planters of Journey Church in Bourbonnais, will lead in worship and will also give a bonus concert following the Friday evening session.

New Awakening begins Friday at 6:30 p.m.; the Saturday session is 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The cost is $10 per person for IBSA churches, and $15 for churches not affiliated with IBSA.

A block of rooms has been reserved at the Decatur Conference Center and Hotel, located directly across the street from Tabernacle Baptist Church. Contact the hotel at (217) 422-8800, and ask for a room listed under the IBSA New Awakening Evangelism Conference.

For more information on the conference and to register, go to

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

As Egypt responded to the apparent beheadings of Egyptian Christians with airstrikes on ISIS in Lybia, believers in the west used social media to grieve for the 21 Coptic Christians believed to have been killed.

The_Briefing“These are my brothers, faithful unto Christ even unto death, Russell Moore posted on Instagram with an image from ISIS’ video of hostages and their captors. “King Jesus puts heads back on, and puts worlds back together. Maranatha,” wrote the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

In a guest post on, Southern Seminary professor Tom Schreiner offered a biblical meditation on the executions of the Christians.

“Paul says that ‘to live is Christ, and to die is gain’ (Phil. 1:21). Still, the matter is not simplistic, and life is not easy,” Schreiner wrote. “We ‘weep with those who weep’ (Rom. 12:15). Paul said that if Epaphroditus had died he would experience ‘sorrow upon sorrow’ (Phil. 2:27). Grief floods the hearts of those left behind.”

Only 22% of people agree with President Barack Obama’s 2014 statement that terror group ISIL (or ISIS) “is not Islamic,” LifeWay Research reported in a series of surveys conducted last fall. But almost half of Americans also say the group is not a true reflection of the nature of Islam.

CNN will start a six-part series March 1 that the news channel says “discovers fascinating new insights into the historical Jesus, utilizing the latest scientific techniques and archaeological research.” The Christian Post reports the series, titled “Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery,” will feature commentary from Ivy League theologians and Los Angeles pastor Erwin McManus, among others.

Illinois’ Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services recently achieved Hague accreditation for its adoption program, meaning BCHFS can continue to do home studies for adoptions in countries that require it. The accreditation is also a first step toward being able to complete adoption placements internationally, but adoption specialist Regina Thompson stressed the agency isn’t equipped to do so now.

“Our main reason for getting Hague accredited,” Thompson said, “was so that we could continue to do international home studies.”

Christianity Today reports Family Christian Stores – the largest chain of Christian bookstores in the U.S. by number of stores – has filed for bankruptcy, but “does not expect to close any stores or lay off any employees.”

“We have carefully and prayerfully considered every option,” President and CEO Chuck Bengochea said in a Feb.11 statement. “This action allows us to stay in business and continue to serve our customers, our associates, our vendors and charities around the world.”

When God calls, you go

Meredith Flynn —  February 16, 2015

HEARTLAND | “I think for most people when God really calls you out in faith to something deep, you know in your soul it’s going to cost you everything,” says church planter Nathan Brown.

“But when God calls you on his mission, you go because you love him.”

Brown came to Illinois from California to plant Real Church Chicago. Hear more about the challenging call to start a new work in the city in this video clip:

By Eric Reed

Editor’s note: Baptist news editors met in coastal Alabama this week. Look for stories in the Illinois Baptist and online over the next few weeks.

Orange Beach, Ala. | It’s a wonder the local paper didn’t call this “The Battle of Mobile Gay.” This is, after all, the place where in 1864 Admiral Farragut famously condemned the torpedoes and ran his ship “full speed ahead” past Confederate forts and mines (called “torpedoes”) tethered in the Bay.

The 2015 version had attorneys dueling on the courthouse steps and clerks inside shuttering the marriage license window because the probate judge refused to accept applications from same-sex couples.

“I’m plumb ashamed of this town,” one applicant said outside the courthouse on Monday when he and his partner were unable to get married. On Thursday, that same man declared, “In Alabama! I never would’ve believed it!” as he waved his new license in the air with one arm and hugged his new spouse with the other.

Between Monday and Thursday, the Battle:

A federal judge in Mobile, Callie Granade (pronounced like the ammunition), had ruled Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional on January 23. Marriage licenses were to be issued starting Monday. But on Sunday night, Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Roy Moore told the state’s probate court judges, who issue marriage licenses here, that the federal ruling did not apply to them.

On Monday, it was reported 60 counties started processing applications from same-sex couples; seven did not, including the state’s second most populous county, Mobile. Probate judge Don Davis ordered the license window, festooned with purple and gold Mardi Gras masks, shuttered. No licenses were issued to any couples, same-sex or otherwise.

By Wednesday, it was reported only 23 counties were issuing same-sex licenses.

Attorneys representing gay couples and Judge Davis went to court.

And Roy Moore went on TV.

The last time Moore opposed a higher court ruling, he was removed from the bench. That was over the monument to the Ten Commandments at the State Supreme Court. This time, Moore went to the court of public opinion.

For many observers, he appeared to win in Alabama, where his stance is based on a state’s right to amend its own constitution as 81% voters did in 2006, limiting marriage to the traditional, biblical definition. But on TV, against CNN’s Chris Cuomo, Moore lost, according to national pundits who gave the win to the news anchor/attorney.

It didn’t matter. Late Thursday, Granade ruled again. Probate courts must issue marriage licenses to all couples, despite the state constitution. And today, Friday, it is reported all counties’ license offices are open for business.

Frankly, in Alabama, many would never have believed it. I wouldn’t, because I grew up here.

As Baptist editors gathered for their annual conclave to hear reports from SBC entity heads and discuss journalism, I was also looking forward to a short visit to my old home. I didn’t expect to see history made.

I learned to report from that federal courthouse where TV reporters waited this week for the rulings, reporting breathlessly at 5, 6, and 10 on the latest developments—or lack of them. I covered the same county governments at the place where a half-dozen gay couples were wed in the hour after the marriage license office reopened. And I thought I understood this coastal town where half the people are Baptist and the other half are Catholic, and their alliance has kept the politics and the morals mostly conservative for 300 years.

Until now.

Leaders of the Baptist state convention in Alabama quickly commented: “The vast and overwhelming majority of Alabama Baptist leaders and other church members continue to affirm the biblical view of marriage and the historic declarations that Alabama Baptists have made concerning the marriage relationship,” executive director Rick Lance said.

But the comment did not appear on local newscasts in Mobile.

I did hear a comment from an SBC leader at this meeting that demands my consideration. Given the rapid liberalization of public opinion on same-sex marriage and other moral issues, is it possible that pastors and leaders of SBC entities will find themselves heading organizations that are more conservative than the people in the pews—especially younger people? (That’s just the opposite of what happened in mainline denominations in the second half of the 20th century, when leaders grew far more liberal than church members.) Our church members will be shifted by the tide of public opinion, he said, if we pastors and teachers don’t provide a firmer biblical foundation.

And the next wave is coming soon. From here, it’s full speed ahead to the U.S. Supreme Court, where a ruling possibly in June is likely to determine the legality of same-sex marriage in all 50 states. Expect Southern Baptists to speak to that, but will anyone listen?

The Baptists came to Alabama this week, but that wasn’t news. The world changed while we were here. That’s the news.

Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper and associate executive director for the Church Communications team of the Illinois Baptist State Association.


Church leaders from 13 states converge for regional Summit

NEWS | Illinois Baptist

“Listen to me, Midwest, the Father is seeking worshipers,” Frank Page intoned. “Every man woman, boy and girl on this globe needs to hear this message.”

The man who calls himself “the SBC’s Chief Encouragement Officer” rallied local church leaders to advance the gospel in a region where Southern Baptists are relatively few and often far between. “I’m not trying to build a bigger denomination,” the CEO of the Convention’s Executive Committee said, “I’m trying to encourage you to help bring worshipers to Christ.”

Spiritual awakening and church revitalization were main themes of the Midwest Leadership Summit held January 20-22.

“What we need, more than a strategy, more than a plan, we need a fresh awakening,” Kansas pastor Andy Addis preached in the opening session. “We want to see God do amazing things, we want to be his hands and feet, that’s why we’re here!”

More than 1,000 pastors and church leaders from the Upper Midwest convened in Springfield for the inspirational equipping conference held every three years. Called the North Central States Rally since its inception 50 years ago, the Summit was renamed this year as it expanded to include 10 Baptist state conventions representing 13 states, from West Virginia to the Dakotas.

The Illinois Baptist State Association hosted the event at the Springfield Crowne Plaza Hotel, providing a more central location as the Summit’s territory expanded on the western side. IBSA executive director Nate Adams chaired the planning committee.

“We drove 10 hours to get here,” one conferee from South Dakota said at the registration desk, telling how his association invited church leaders and brought them in a van.

“It took us two days,” a North Dakota pastor in a bolo tie responded, “but it’ll be worth it.” The buzz in the lobby was positive, as returning attenders told newcomers the value of meeting for leaders who share the challenges of ministry outside the traditional Southern Baptist stronghold.

Henry Hall has been attending the triennial leadership conference since 1984. The director of missions for Salem South Baptist Association said the event was originally designed “for the smaller churches, mission churches, where the pastors are spread out. And most of our churches in the southern part (of Illinois), we’re not as spread out,” Hall said.

“But around the rest of the country, you’ve got to go a long time to find another pastor. And by getting a group together that are all in the same boat, it’s very effective to help them in learning and being what God would have them to be.”

When Gary Frost led Summit attenders to intercede in small groups for children and youth, IBSA’s Pat Pajak (left) prayed with Ken and Kathy Schultz from Crosswinds Church in Plainfield, and a pastor from Iowa.

When Summit speaker Gary Frost led attenders to intercede in small groups for children and youth, IBSA’s Pat Pajak (left) prayed with Ken and Kathy Schultz from Crosswinds Church in Plainfield, and a pastor from Iowa.


Tony Manning lives in Fishers, Indiana, a community of 85,000 people, without a single Southern Baptist church—yet. “The need for everyone is the gospel, and that doesn’t change from East coast to West Coast,” said Manning, a church-planting and mission-teams strategist. “But what does change is how to do things. It’s important to understand the Midwest perspective and how to leverage that in sharing the gospel: How do you do it in Indiana? In Iowa? In Wisconsin?”

Woodie Ladnier has pastored in Iowa since 1991. Recently called to a new congregation, he came looking for fresh ministry ideas. “You know you’re not in the Bible Belt. People in the Midwest are friendly, but you have to earn their trust. You have to be more intentional, because your ol’ buddies aren’t just gonna go to church with you.”

The three-day summit was sponsored by the North American Mission Board, LifeWay Christian Resources, National WMU, and the 10
state conventions. Conferees attended three large-group sessions at the Crowne Plaza, filling the largest ballroom with praises. (“Bless the Lord, O my soul, O-o-o my soul,” they sang; and those three bass thumps ahead of the gutsy response “10,000 reasons for my soul to find…” echoed off the walls.)

Between worship sessions, leaders chose from 135 breakout sessions, state meetings, and affinity groups.

Plan to Pray for Evangelism
Robert Sterling
Imperial, Missouri

Robert Sterling knew his decision to attend the 2015 Midwest Leadership Summit was the right one after the first night. “I called my wife when I got back to the hotel room and said, ‘Well, I just got a spiritual ‘kicking’ and it was just what I needed,’” said the pastor of Windsor Baptist Church in Imperial, Missouri.

Andy Addis, lead pastor of CrossPoint Church, a video-driven multisite church with 11 campuses across Kansas, spoke during the opening session and based his message on Jesus’ parable of the barren fig tree (Luke 13: 6-9). “He reminded us that God expects His church to bear fruit,” Sterling said. “Not hopes; expects. Not wants; expects. That concept really resonated with me.”

Sterling came to the Summit with the intention of finding both guidance and practical tools to bring his church revitalization. He found what he needed in the event’s numerous breakout sessions. He chose sessions on revival, spiritual awakening, evangelism and leadership. He said each of them offered both insight and applicable advice.

“In one of the sessions the speaker said that more than double the baptisms occur in churches that offer evangelism training than those that don’t,” he said. He also learned that though a calendar full of events and programs may not be the best way to win souls to Christ, planning to pray is.

“We need to have more opportunities to pray,” Sterling said. “God uses whatever methods or means to reach people, but the opportunity to seek prayer is vital. Honestly, each of the sessions was very encouraging in terms of reminding us of truths we already
know, but often get lost or forgotten when you are in the middle of the forest.

“Probably my number one takeaway from this is that if I want the church to be revitalized and have a true love of God, I need to make sure that’s where my focus is, too. I need to become what I want them to become.”

Overcome isolation
Tim Batchelor
Princeton, Illinois

Tim Batchelor has pastored Bethel Baptist Church in Princeton, since 2010. Originally from North Carolina, he has found similarities between his upbringing (both of his grandfathers were farmers) and the rural northwest Illinois community he serves. But there are  differences too.

“In North Carolina, if you took the county that I grew up in, there are probably more Southern Baptist churches just in that county than in the entire northwest region of Illinois, and Sinnissippi Baptist Association specifically.”

When asked if his region of Illinois feels unchurched, Batchelor says yes.

“We were talking about that last night at dinner a little bit, and even on our way from our hotel to the session last night. Yeah, it does feel that way, and the need for church planting in particular.

“Sinnissippi Baptist Association has a really ambitious planting strategy; I think it’s just fantastic. But yeah, the need for church planting is huge.”

Second-gen strategies
Aidyl Lesada
Trenton, Michigan

Aidyl Lesada is from a Filipino congregation of about 100 people in Taylor, Michigan. “We are a mother church,” she says of Philippine International Church, which has planted several Filipino congregations in the area, and one just across the Canadian border.

There are about 20,000 Filipino people in Michigan, Lesada says. “Filipinos come here to work and pursue that American dream, and so they give their life, their time for that, and so I guess church will not be a priority. It will just be on the side for them, for them to feel good about it.”

Many have a Catholic background, so making the distinction between faith in Christ and cultural religion is important. Lesada’s church is reaching Filipinos who came to America to work in professional fields, and are now raising second- and third-generation children. Like her own son and daughter. Laughing, she describes them this way: “They’re Filipinos, but they’re not Filipinos.”

Social media for Millennials
Laura Chapman
Red Bud, Illinois

At Laura Chapman’s first Midwest Leadership Summit, the pastor’s wife from Red Bud attended breakout sessions that spoke some of her languages—statistics and social media.

Their congregation is medium-sized and located on the edge of the Metro East area. First Baptist Church of Red Bud, doesn’t have very many Millennials, she said, so a breakout on using social media to reach younger people was helpful.

“You know, there are a lot of people in our churches that don’t know what hashtags are, or keywords, or current things that reach people we’re not reaching,” Chapman said. “And I think just the how-to’s, the nuts and bolts of ‘you gotta update your website, you just have to do that…’ helps bring in generations that we’re not reaching. That was very helpful, and easy to implement.”

One breakout session leader at the Summit said if Millennials can’t find a Facebook page for a church, they wonder what that church is hiding. Chapman understands that kind of thinking. “Nobody in my generation and below trusts people…that’s kind of our thing. So, help them to know you.”

Urban challenges
Donald Johnson
Rock Island, Illinois

This wasn’t the first Midwest Leadership Summit for Donald Johnson, pastor of Destiny Baptist Church of Christ in Rock Island. He traveled to Indianapolis for the “North Central States Rally,” as it was called before this year, and was glad for a slightly shorter commute—three hours instead of five.

“But wherever it is, I’m willing to go, because of the value that we get out of it…We’ve been enriched,” said Johnson, whose church is part of Quad Cities Association.

Destiny’s vision statement is based in Isaiah 56:7, “to be a house of prayer for all races of people.” Their goal is to be multi-racial rather than multi-cultural, Johnson said. “There’s not going to be a segregated heaven, so I don’t want to have a segregated church.”

He was moved by Gary Frost’s closing sermon, which focused in part on the dangers children and teenagers face today. “He got into my neighborhood, which is the same neighborhood he has,” Johnson said. In his community, “We deal with the matter of significant fatherlessness.”

Frost’s message focused on returning to “the valley” after a mountaintop experience. Speaking on Jesus’ transfiguration in Mark 9, he noted how Peter wanted to build shelters for Jesus, Moses and Elijah.

“For me, it was good to be here,” Johnson said. “But I’m not going to be like Peter and John and say, ‘Let’s build three tabernacles here on the mountain and stay.’

“Because we gotta get back to the valley.”

Reported by Meredith Flynn, Eric Reed and Lisa Sergent, with Kayla Rinker and Nick Rynerson.

Even in Alabama

eric4ibsa —  February 10, 2015

NEWS | Eric Reed

Orange Beach, Alabama — As Baptist newspaper editors and executive directors of state conventions arrived in coastal Alabama Monday, the ground under our feet shifted a little. The day’s big news story: The state started issuing marriage licenses for same sex couples.

Even in Alabama, and only in a few counties, but it is happening. And to hear how the local news reporters tell it, no one imagined this day would come.

According to USA Today’s most recent marriage map, same-sex marriage is banned in 13 states, but court actions are pending in all 13. The federal courts ordered Alabama to begin issuing same sex marriage licenses, but Judge Roy Moore (of Ten Commandments monument fame) ordered state offices to ignore that mandate.

“I had to clarify this for the probate courts to ensure order. Ok? And it was about that, but it was also about that federal courts do not have the authority to redefine marriage,” Moore told media after a late intervention.

So 60 counties refused to process applications filed for the first time yesterday. But in five counties, including Birmingham’s Jefferson County, the state’s most populous, gay couples were given licenses and some were married.

In the second most populous county, Mobile, the clerk’s office was shuttered as a dozen couples sat on benches outside for several hours until the office closed.

And in Baldwin County, where the annual Baptist executive directors and editors meetings are being held, one couple was allowed to apply, but the form was not processed. More noteworthy was the protest outside the county office by 75 people holding signs bearing Bible verses.

“United we stand…together against gay marriage,” protestor Sarah Baggett told a local television station. “We believe marriage is between…a man and a woman and we want to show that….We believe the Bible states firmly that’s not correct and we believe God loves everyone but sin is sin and that’s wrong.”


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At the 2013 Southern Baptist Convention, David Platt, at the time pastoring a megachurch in Birmingham, was asked about Alabama’s stance on same-sex marriage. He chuckled, saying Alabama was standing firm. Three years later, it’s no laughing matter.


Alabama Baptists felt the need to issue a statement today making their position clear. “The vast and overwhelming majority of Alabama Baptist leaders and other church members continue to affirm the biblical view of marriage and the historic declarations that Alabama Baptists have made concerning the marriage relationship,” executive director Rick Lance said.


“Therefore, any church that allows staff members to officiate at same-sex ceremonies is clearly outside biblical teachings about marriage and human sexuality, and they demonstrate that they are not in like-minded fellowship or friendly cooperation with Alabama Baptists and Southern Baptists.”


In Mobile, the marriage license office is closed again today, and nobody is getting married. Attorneys are preparing to file for another injunction.

Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.