Archives For June 2015

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

All 50 states have begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Baptist Press reports, even those in which officials disagree with the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26 ruling to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide.

The_Briefing“We don’t have a choice but to comply,” said Louisiana Governor and presidential candidate Bobby Jindal, “even though I think this decision was the wrong one.”

In Texas, the state’s attorney general said “numerous lawyers” are willing to defend officials who refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses and therefore could face lawsuits and fines. Gov. Greg Abbott said, “Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, Texans’ fundamental right to religious liberty remains intact.”

Read the full story at And here’s a state-by-state update from CNN.

The Supreme Court’s decision continued to dominate headlines over the weekend, as Christian leaders and others offered a range of perspectives on what the country now faces:

In other news:

Six people were arrested after heckling Houston pastor Joel Osteen during a church service Sunday.

Among Barna’s findings on women and church: While only 5% name church or religious activities as their top time commitment, 22% say that’s the area of their life they’d most like to improve.

Almost the same number of Americans believe Islam is a threat to religious liberty at home and abroad, LifeWay Research reports in a new survey.

HEARTLAND | Nate Adams

Nate_Adams_June29I am writing this just a day after returning from the 2015 South­ern Baptist Convention in Columbus, and four days before my wife, Beth, and I celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. So, as unromantic as it may sound, I find myself reflecting today on both the past three days with more than 5,000 other church messengers, and the past 30 years with the one woman God gave me for life.

They’re not entirely dissimilar. To both my wife and to the Southern Baptist Convention, I have made deep commitments that, by God’s grace, are standing the test of time. With both I share impor­tant beliefs and values. And with both I share purpose and direction that allow us to walk together joyfully.

That’s not to say we agree a hundred percent of the time on a hundred percent of the ques­tions or issues we face. There were times this past week in Columbus when I read or heard something and thought to myself, “Why on earth would we want to do that?” or “Don’t you see what needs to be done over here?” or “I’m not sure he’s the best person to entrust with that.”

But the truth is Beth and I have both asked those kinds of questions of one another over the past 30 years too. In fact, a few years ago when James Merritt was President of the SBC, I remember him saying that he and his wife had agreed long ago that he would make all the major decisions in their marriage, and that she could make all the minor decisions. Then he quipped, “And I’m proud to report that in 25 years of marriage we’ve never actually had a major decision.”

There’s quite a thread of truth in that silly exaggeration. When you share a deep commitment to someone over time, you simply don’t allow relatively minor disagreements to threaten either your relationship or the overall pur­pose you’ve embraced, whether it’s raising a healthy family or obeying the Great Commission. You defer to one an­other whenever possible, and you reserve strong words for truly important subjects. Then, most of the time, you move forward by consensus rather than casting ballots, or stones.

That’s why I was able to spend at least as much of my SBC time out in the hall­ways, or exhibit area, or in collaborative meetings, as I did in the voting sessions, most of which went forward smoothly and without dissent. And I noticed I was not alone. As important as the main sessions were to those attending, it was the hall­ways, restaurants, and hotels that were the settings for countless informal reunions and meetings, for prayer, for collaboration, for counseling, or simply for much needed encouragement.

There certainly are occasions during our long commitments over time when we need to gather in big meetings to confront big things. And there are times when we need to come together for celebrations and worship, or for special efforts like the Tuesday night session in Columbus when thou­sands of us gathered to pray for awakening and revival in our land.

But most of our long commitments over time are lived out between big anniversaries and annual sessions. We believe the Bible together, we serve our churches together, we send missionaries and support missions projects together, and we worship together. And so my deep commitment over time to the imperfect yet wonderful Southern Baptist Convention continues.

And as Beth and I continue to make the bed together, raise the kids together, pray together, serve churches together, and face the challenges of life together, my deep commitment over time to her continues as well, now for 30 years and counting. May the Lord bless you as He has me, with a life of deep commitments over time.

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

Church_blogNEWS | Following the Supreme Court’s decision Friday to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, Christian leaders quickly weighed in on how churches should respond to the ruling.

“The challenge for Christians now is to speak the truth in love & to speak love in truth. Love of neighbor means we cannot lie about marriage,” tweeted Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, released a statement calling himself a “conscientious dissenter” from the Court’s decision.

“Despite this ruling,” Moore continued, “the church of Jesus Christ will stand fast. We will not capitulate on this issue because we cannot. To minimize or ignore a Christian sexual ethic is to abandon the message Jesus handed down to us, and we have no authority to do this.

“At the same time, now is not the time for outrage or panic. Marriage is resilient. God created it to be so. Marriage in the minds of the public may change, but marriage as a reality created by God won’t change at all. The church must now articulate and embody a Christian vision of marriage and work to rebuild a culture of marriage.”

Moore also issued a statement Friday along with other evangelical leaders, opposing the ruling and offering six “points of engagement” for churches:

1. Respect and pray for governing authorities.
2. Teach the truth about biblical marriage.
3. Affirm all persons are created in God’s image and deserve dignity and respect.
4. Love our neighbors regardless of disagreements over marriage.
5. Live respectfully alongside those with whom we disagree.
6. Cultivate a common culture of religious liberty.

Other leaders who signed the statement include Focus on the Family’s Jim Daly, author and radio host Nancy Leigh DeMoss, pastors Tony Evans, David Jeremiah and Matt Chandler, and theologian J.I. Packer. For the full statement and a list of signatories, go to

Prior to the Court’s decision, several past SBC presidents at the June 16-17 Southern Baptist Convention in Columbus, Ohio, signed a statement vowing they would not participate in same-sex unions. The presidents also stressed the need for churches to be prepared with clear bylaws and constitutions that say what it means to be married in their churches.

Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said what concerns him most are the small and medium-sized churches “that have never thought through their bylaws and constitutions. Challenges will probably come to those small churches that are ill-prepared.”

GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention said Friday in a statement that while it will likely take weeks to determine the impact of the decision and next steps, “In the meantime, churches should work with their legal and accounting advisors to determine whether their governing, employment, building use and other documents or policies need to be reviewed in light of the expanding definition of marriage.”

GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said, “GuideStone remains committed to advocating for the churches, ministries and pastors we serve during these days and will share information to help churches remain compliant in their health care and retirement plans.”

Springfield, Ill. | Illinois Baptist pastors and leaders shared what they will say Sunday to their congregations following Friday’s ruling by the Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage.

Fear and anger are responses that reflect lack of faith. Only in the gospel of Jesus Christ can all people find identity, hope, and peace. We as the church have our priorities set: Love the LORD your God…and love your neighbor…Nothing has changed about that. In fact, our opportunity is greater than ever. Now let’s continue our purpose of making, baptizing, and teaching disciples.
Scott Nichols, Crossroads Community Church, Carol Stream

Exactly what Dr. Ronnie Floyd said at the SBC Annual Meeting—love them, show them Jesus, but in no way will I or our church be involved in a same-sex union. We must not compromise God’s Word, even if it means lawsuits and jail time.
Bob Stilwell, First Baptist Church, Paxton

This is a matter that I have addressed before, especially in light of the fact that Illinois had previously declared same-sex marriage to be legal. I have spoken clearly from God’s Word about how and why it is wrong. I have spoken privately with numerous persons in my church family about this issue. I have discussed the potential ramifications for our church ministry and pastoral leadership.

Through it all, I have repeatedly reminded people that to declare this act as sin does not mean we don’t love those who practice it. God’s call to holiness leaves no sin untouched or insignificant. We are heartbroken by this decision from the Supreme Court. We pray for God’s mercy upon our nation and, as always, we seek to be messengers of God’s reconciling message of grace.
Odis Weaver, Friendship Baptist Church, Plainfield

Psalm 33:10-12 says that God’s purposes will always prevail no matter what. The very ruling of the Supreme Court will be used by God to further his purposes. We do not need to throw our hands up and think that God did not know this was going to happen.

Our very faith says that the worst possible legal decision [was] handed down by both Jewish and Roman courts to accomplish the salvation of God’s people. If God accomplished that much through the legal proceedings that sent our Lord to the cross, then we have no reason to fear any decision from any court under heaven. God reigns over every legal decision ever handed down so let us rejoice in our sovereign God who has his way in the whirlwind.
Phil Nelson, Lakeland Baptist Church, Carbondale

We will continue to teach God’s design for marriage and we will agree with God and call any activity that falls short of his design what the Bible calls it: sin. Since the Bible says in Romans 3:23-24 (NKJV), “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” we will love those who disagree with God’s design the way Jesus told us to love them, we will share with them how to receive His grace and redemption in Christ, and we will teach them to embrace God’s design by turning from what they want to what God wants.
Bob Dickerson, First Baptist Church, Marion

At Delta, we are going to use our pastoral prayer time to address all that has taken place today. We are going to shepherd our people by guiding them on what to do/not do and how to think/not think. We will point to Scripture as to the goodness of marriage and God’s design in how it relates to the gospel (Eph. 5). Then we will point our people toward the gospel, pointing out that it is all-sufficient even in times such as these, and that the gospel compels us to love our neighbor. We will look to the scriptures for encouragement on how all this holds together and then pray.
Jonathan Davis, Delta Church, Springfield

I understand it, I believe that we should love other folks, people that believe in same-sex marriage. I believe that we should love them and try to share the gospel with them just like we would anyone else. But when a person rejects the word of God, there’s nothing else we can do.

It’s not about us, it’s just about the Word of God. And I think it’s very plain and simple that [the ruling is] against what he says. I’m not concerned about how politicians feel about it, or the president, or the Supreme Court, or even [church members]. It’s just against the Word of God, and we are people who believe in the Word of God.

I know a lot of Christians may have different points of view on it, but that’s our take on it.
Marvin Parker, Broadview Missionary Baptist Church

This is just one more attempt to undermine God’s authority. But God will not be mocked. Keep praying to Jesus; and continue reaching out to the individual and show God’s love anyway we can to save them from an eternity in hell.
Jerry Higdon, New Hope Baptist Church, Coal Valley

While we may be outraged and angry about the Supreme Court’s ruling…our response must follow the biblical mandate to do what is honorable in the sight of God and thus the world. Anger only begets bitterness and eventually hate.

The church needs to steadfastly stand firm for biblical marriage and simultaneously demonstrate godly love, mercy and grace towards those bound up in sexual immorality and racial hatred by being light in the darkness.
Kevin Carrothers, Rochester First Baptist Church, who’s finishing a series of messages from Romans 12 on “Elevating Others”

The world around us is changing, but our God is unchanging and his Word stands forever. As a pastor, I would want my congregation to know that what God identifies as sin we must also identify as sin. Marriage in the Bible is the union of one man and one woman and is described in the Book of Ephesians, by the Apostle Paul, as a picture of Christ and his bride.

Therefore, I would declare before my congregation that if it meant being sued, fined, prosecuted or ultimately jailed, I WOULD NOT perform a same-sex marriage or allow the church to be used for such a union. And once I made that public statement, I would stand on my conviction, just as the early apostles did when it says in Acts 4:18-20, “So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.'”
Pat Pajak, Illinois Baptist State Association

It’s a sad day in America when five of the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court voted to legalize same-sex marriage as a constitutional right. While the U.S. Supreme Court has spoken, they are not the final nor supreme word on this subject.

Long before there was a U.S. Supreme Court, there was and is and ever will be The Universal Supreme Court of Heaven which has the final and most supreme word on this subject. Here it is:

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth,b and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.’ (Gen. 1:26-28, NIV)

“The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.'” (Gen. 2:18, NIV)

“So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman, for she was taken out of man.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” (Gen. 2:21-25)

May God add His blessing to the reading and obedience to His word.
Michael Allen, Uptown Baptist Church, Chicago

Court_columnsSpringfield, Ill. | Following the 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, the Illinois Baptist State Association urged measured and thoughtful action by church leaders to protect their congregations’ religious liberties.

“This split decision by the Supreme Court is indicative of the increasingly split moral fiber of our nation,” said IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams. “In times like these, it is reassuring to remember that God is neither surprised nor anxious about decisions made in human consciences or human courts. We must be resolute in trusting Him and in obeying in His word.”

The Court’s ruling comes after several years of argument over the legalization of same-sex unions and a shift in public opinion toward approval by a slight majority of Americans. In that time, Southern Baptists have taken stands defending a biblical definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. Illinois Baptists opposed legalization of same-sex marriage in Illinois with a 2013 resolution approved by messengers at the IBSA Annual Meeting.

“For a few years now, leading up to the time ‘same sex marriage’ became legal in Illinois, IBSA has been seeking to inform and resource churches regarding steps they can take to protect their freedoms of speech and religious exercise,” Adams said. “In light of this latest Supreme Court ruling, we would again urge churches to be vigilant in pursuing the recommended steps in their constitutions and policy manuals to help protect those freedoms. On this issue, as on others before it, the local church and churches banding together in unity and cooperation are likely to be the primary opponents of laws that threaten religious freedom.”

IBSA offers several marriage-related resources at, including:

  • sample bylaws on marriage and church membership
  • a sample facilities use agreement
  • the 2011 and 2013 resolutions on marriage approved by messengers to the IBSA Annual Meeting

The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission has published “Protecting Your Ministry,” a 44-page booklet designed especially for churches. The free guide may be downloaded at

A number of Southern Baptist leaders have said the marriage issue would prove to be a dividing line among evangelicals.

“Even churches that have not been actively engaged in the defense of marriage issue must now be vigilant in defending their freedoms of speech and religious expression,” Adams said.

Kevin Ezell, left, president of the North American Mission Board, and David Platt, president of the International Mission Board end a joint Church and Mission Sending Celebration by recognizing missionaries with a standing ovation at the June 17 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. Photo by John Swain/NAMB

Kevin Ezell, left, president of the North American Mission Board, and David Platt, president of the International Mission Board end a joint Church and Mission Sending Celebration by recognizing missionaries with a standing ovation at the June 17 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. Photo by John Swain/NAMB

Columbus, Ohio | Meredith Flynn

A missionary “Sending Celebration” during the Southern Baptist Convention last week signaled a new, urgent day for SBC missions in North America and around the world. The vastness of lostness, said the leaders of the denomination’s mission boards, requires new thinking about getting missionaries on the field—and supporting them while they’re there.

That could mean sending out missionaries—students, retirees, and professionals— who are financially self-supported. Baptists who traditionally have focused on giving from the pew in order to support missionaries are now being called to go to the nations too.

The celebration in Columbus, Ohio, marked a shift from 20 years ago, when the commissioning might have featured flags of the world and missionaries in brightly colored international dress processing into the auditorium to “We’ve a Story to Tell the Nations.” But in Ohio, photos of the missionaries and families flashed up on large screens in the convention hall, with their home state, sending church, and a brief snapshot of the region where they’ll serve.

Across the room, the missionaries stood as their slides played, illuminated only by book-shaped lights fanned out in front of them.

The low-key, somber service hinted at the desperate spiritual need the missionaries will encounter here and abroad. In the Northeast U.S., said International Mission Board President David Platt, 82% of people don’t know Christ. In the western U.S., it’s 87%, and in Canada, 90%.

Those numbers are small compared to India, where 1 billion people are spiritually lost. Platt and Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, focused on the role of the local church during the sending celebration, urging congregations to consider their responsibility to take the gospel to the nations.

Platt also pointed to the possibility of new strategies for supporting missionaries on the field. In 2009, he said during his report prior to the celebration, the IMB had 5,600 missionaries serving around the world. The number is 4,700 now, and headed toward 4,200, due to the Board’s inability to financially support them.

“We are evaluating all of our structures and systems to discern how we can more efficiently and effectively use the resources Southern Baptists have entrusted to us,” he said. But we’ll always be limited, he added, as long as full financially supported missionaries are the only way we think about getting the gospel to the nations.

Throughout the IMB’s history, the Board has sent about 25,000 missionaries to serve around the world. “Which is awesome, but the reality is we need 25,000 now,” Platt said.

After a year in which the IMB operated $21 million in the red, a new plan is needed to send more people to more places and people groups. And everyday Christians play a key role in that plan, Platt said, painting a picture of students and retirees and professionals forming a network of support around missionaries and church planters around the world. Regular people with regular jobs, leveraging those jobs to go overseas.

“What if God has designed the globalization of today’s marketplace to open up opportunities for the spread of his gospel?” Platt asked.

The time is now, he urged during his final challenge to the audience in Columbus. “Not one of us is guaranteed today, much less tomorrow. So, brothers and sisters, let’s make it count. Let’s make our lives and our churches and this convention of churches count.”

IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams (left) interviews former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran at the Southern Baptist Convention in Columbus.

IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams (left) interviews former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran at the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention.

Columbus, Ohio | Lisa Sergent

I’ve been reflecting on the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention, now that it and Columbus, Ohio, are in my rearview mirror.

The city and the Convention were a study in contrasts. While we were there, the city was issuing proclamations welcoming the LGBT community and celebrating the upcoming Gay Pride Week. The Convention featured panel discussions, sermons and press conferences emphasizing biblical marriage.

An article in the Columbus Dispatch newspaper celebrated that Jim Obergefell, the Cincinnati man at the center of the Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges, was in Columbus to lead the gay pride parade the Saturday following the convention. Meanwhile, discussions at the Convention expressed concern that the case, which could cause the legalization of same-sex marriage in all 50 states, will lead to further encroachment on religious freedoms in the U.S.

That concern is very real.

Former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran spoke at the SBC Pastors’ Conference held just prior to the Convention. Cochran was fired from his position for stating on one page of his 160-page book, “Who Told You That You Were Naked?” that homosexuality is sinful.

Barronelle Stutzman, the Washington state florist who was sued for not providing flowers for a same-sex wedding, made an appearance during the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s report. She lost her case and is in danger of losing her home and business. After ERLC President Russell Moore shared her story, she came to the stage for prayer.

As International Mission Board President David Platt noted at the Pastors’ Conference, “There is no question we live in a culture increasingly hostile to Christ. We cannot pick and choose what issues we will preach and which issues we will ignore.”

In his report, Moore said, “For most of this last century Southern Baptists have been comfortable in the culture in their soft cocoon…Some said that the Southern Baptist Zion was below the Mason-Dixon Line. Those days are gone and not a moment too soon; those days are over thankfully.”

Much of the time devoted to discussing issues affecting our SBC churches was made possible by a new Convention schedule and format. Much of the business took place on Tuesday afternoon, which allowed time for the Wednesday afternoon panel discussion on the Supreme Court and same-sex marriage.

One of my favorite parts of the Convention has always been the SBC Pastors’ Conference which precedes it. But this year, with SBC President Ronnie Floyd and others following God’s leading, the Convention itself was a must see and hear. The best was yet to come.

I think the same is true for the Southern Baptists and evangelicals. While I do believe our freedom of speech and right to freely practice our religion are going be infringed upon to an even greater extent, I do know God will honor those who stand firm and follow His Word. For this we shall grow closer to Him and find strength. And that is truly the best to come.

Lisa Sergent is contributing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper and director of communications for the Illinois Baptist State Association.

Columbus, Ohio | Meredith Flynn

The most personal testimony shared publicly during the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention in Columbus, Ohio, came from a source most Baptists probably had never heard of prior to the meeting.

Rosaria Butterfield (second from left) was part of a panel discussion on same-sex marriage at the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention.

Rosaria Butterfield participated in a panel discussion Wednesday afternoon with some very familiar faces—men that have been instrumental in calling Baptists to a deeper reliance on the gospel when it comes to understanding how it intersects with cultural issues.

When it was her turn to speak, she delivered the truth, plain and simple:

“I often tell people I was not converted out of homosexuality,” said Butterfield, a former lesbian. “I was converted out of unbelief. And then the Lord started working on some other stuff.”

One reporter in the press room later commented they were glad Butterfield had been in Columbus, so that more people could hear her story. Her past and, in a different way, her present—her husband pastors a Reformed Presbyterian Church—set her apart from her audience in Columbus. But as she nodded encouragingly as the other panelists talked, and when she delivered the short version of her testimony with an almost-constant smile, the value of hearing from a new voice at the Southern Baptist Convention was clear.

As a professor at Syracuse University, Butterfield said she had finished the book she needed to write to achieve tenure and turned her attention to what she really wanted to write: “a critique of the religious right from a lesbian feminist point of view.”

In the process, she met a Christian pastor and his wife who invited her into their home (and visited hers) and truly befriended her. At first, “I thought I simply got free research assistants,” Butterfield told the audience in Columbus.

But after two years and reading through the Bible seven times, she said, “The Bible simply got to be bigger inside me than I. And one of the things that I realized was that I wanted Jesus.”

Butterfield’s fascinating testimony, detailed in her book “The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey Into Christian Faith,” stands alone as encouragement to churches trying to reach out to their neighbors with genuine love and the truth of the gospel.

But it was what she said later in the discussion that could prove to be most helpful. In just a few minutes, Butterfield laid out a prescription for how the church can minister compassionately to the LGBT community:

Make your Christian community an accessible community. That means giving up ownership of our time, Butterfield said, and also gaining a more “collective” understanding of sin.

She quoted 1 Corinthians 10:13, about God providing a way of escape from temptation. “What if your home is the way of escape?” she asked.

Share “the means of grace” in a public way. How can Christians make repentance more known (and understood) among their neighbors?

Get to know the Bible—better than we do now. Time with the Lord is “a public community service,” Butterfield said. It’s how Christians get ready to speak a word of truth.

“Don’t deny the power of the gospel to change lives and to travel at the grassroots level,” Butterfield said near the end of the conversation. “Your friendships matter.”

For those listening to her story in Columbus, the power of the gospel was undeniable.

Watch the panel discussion, held during the Wednesday afternoon session of the Southern Baptist Convention, at

The_BriefingTHE BRIEFING |  The murder of nine people at a Charleston, S.C., church prayer meeting “should shock the conscience of every person,” a group of Southern Baptist leaders said in a joint statement after the June 17 shooting.

“There is hardly a more vivid picture of unmasked evil than the murder of those in prayer,” said Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention; Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; K. Marshall Williams, president of the SBC National African American Fellowship; and A.B. Vines, NAAF’s immediate past president.

Dylann Roof, 21, sat through the Wednesday evening prayer meeting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, and then opened fire in what police have called a hate crime, Baptist Press reports.

“This act of bloodshed is wicked and more than wicked,” the leaders’ statement continues. “It is literally satanic, as our Lord taught us that the devil is a ‘murderer from the beginning’ (John 8:44).”

Read the full story at

InterVarsity welcome again at Cal State campuses
Christianity Today reports that after being “derecognized” on all 23 campuses of the California State University system, InterVarsity is back in business as a recognized student organization. InterVarsity’s leadership policy, which requires that leaders affirm Christian doctrines, was previously found to be in conflict with a Cal State rule that requires recognized student groups to accept all students as potential leaders.

“Cal State has not changed the language of their ‘all comers’ policy,” InterVarsity’s Greg Jao told CT. “They have clarified that the policy only requires that (a) we allow all students to become members, which we have always done, and (b) we allow all students to apply for leadership positions.”

Southern Baptist ethics entity will open office in the Middle East
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention announced last week it will open a Mideast office for international religious freedom. “We must contend for religious freedom for our brothers and sisters in Christ and for everyone else wherever they are on the globe,” ERLC President Russell Moore said at the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention in Columbus, Ohio, according to reporting by Baptist Press. “We will not stand idly by while those with whom we will share eternity are being led to the slaughter.”

How can Christians pray for Muslims during Ramadan?
Former International Mission Board president Jerry Rankin encourages Christians to use the traditional Muslim month of fasting and prayer (which begins this Thursday) to pray for spiritual awakening among Muslims. “Rather than hardening our hearts and dismissing their lostness to the judgment of God as something they deserve,” Rankin writes for, “we should plead for their hearts to be open to God revealing himself.”

‘Inside Out’ puts emotions on the big screen
It’s official: The latest Disney/Pixar movie is a hit (although even it couldn’t defeat the dinosaurs of “Jurassic World” at the box office). In his review of “Inside Out” for, Paul Asay writes that the team behind the PG-rated film are communicating “a message that feels truly countercultural: Happiness isn’t everything.”

Prayer takes center stage (and all available floor space) as Marvin Parker, pastor of Broadview Missionary Baptist Church in Metro Chicago, and his wife, Inez, join with others in Columbus to pray for racial reconciliation.

Prayer takes center stage (and all available floor space) as Marvin Parker, pastor of Broadview Missionary Baptist Church in Metro Chicago, and his wife, Inez, join with others in Columbus to pray for racial reconciliation.

Columbus, Ohio | For one whole year leading up to the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention, the meeting’s main issue was made crystal clear. It wouldn’t be theological differences or other debates. Not even denominational decline or cultural change.


Extraordinary, unified, visible, repentant, collective prayer.

Ronnie Floyd, elected to his first term as SBC President at last year’s meeting in Baltimore, immediately issued a “Call to Columbus,” rallying Baptists to come to the Midwest to cry out to God for the next great awakening.

On a Tuesday night in Ohio, they did. Nearly 7,000 people praying on their knees, on their faces, in small groups, and in quiet solitude. (More than 8,000 people joined them online.)

“Tonight is a moment that we pray you won’t forget for the rest of your life,” Floyd said at the beginning of the National Call to Prayer. “We hope it’s a moment in this generation.”

In Baltimore last year, an early end to a morning business session resulted in an impromptu prayer gathering. But many messengers had already left the convention hall. That wasn’t the case in Columbus, where Baptists prayed together for two hours on topics including racial reconciliation, spiritual awakening, and the persecuted church.

“Awesome and humbling service and God’s presence was obvious!” former Illinois director of missions J. E. Hail posted on Facebook after the Call to Prayer. “May God answer our prayers for revival and awakening!” – even if we’ve never actually seen it before.

Las Vegas pastor Vance Pittman’s voice broke when he said he’d heard and read about revivals of the past. “But I have never experienced that kind of an awakening where I live,” he said from the platform.

“And I don’t know where you are tonight, but I am hungry to not just read about it, and not just hear about it, but to experience a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God on our nation like we have never witnessed before.”

Don’t wish for Mayberry
Throughout the 2015 meeting, leaders outlined one big reason to pray: our swiftly changing culture. Similar to the last few Conventions, the Columbus gathering included several between-session presentations on how churches can meet sweeping social change with love from a firm, biblical foundation.

Perhaps because churches are facing ever more specific issues related to sexuality and gender, the meetings in Columbus offered practical advice on how to deal with a same-sex couple that comes to faith in Christ, or a transgender teen in the youth group.

Cultural change shouldn’t cause churches to panic, leaders said again and again. Instead, Christians should cling even more closely to the saving power of the gospel, which pulled them out of their own sin.

“We can’t be, as our mission field changes around us, pining for some day in the past when everything was easier,” said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, during his message at the Pastors’ Conference. “Mayberry leads to hell just like Gomorrah does.

“The message that we have is not, ‘Let’s get back to when everybody was better behaved.’ The message that we have is, ‘You must be born again.’”

The next challenge
SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page focused on another cause to pray in his report: fewer people coming to Christ through the ministries of SBC churches.

“We need to increase our evangelism like we never have before,” Page said. “Oh God, help us to be soul winners…”
Recent numbers from the Annual Church Profile (see page 5) paint a bleak picture: SBC churches lost more than 200,000 members last year, and baptisms fell below the level they were in 1948, Page reported.

“We’ve adopted society’s lie that people won’t talk to you about Christ anymore,” he said.

To jump start evangelism, Page introduced “Great Commission Advance,” a campaign to begin this year and run through 2025—the 100th anniversary of the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ chief method of supporting missions. Baptist Press reported the plan includes a 1% challenge in baptisms and in stewardship, similar to the challenge Page issued to churches in 2013 to increase giving by 1% of their undesignated offerings.

One big, redeemed family
Prior to this year’s meeting, many figured Columbus to be a hard sell for Baptists in the South and other regions. Would messengers really turn out for a Convention in a Midwestern city not known for its theme parks and family attractions? The final report on registered messengers Wednesday afternoon was 5,407, slightly above last year’s total in Baltimore.

While the focus on prayer seemed integrated into every part of the meeting, the business sessions were relatively quiet:

• All five SBC officers were elected unopposed: Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, president; Steve Dighton, senior pastoral advisor at Lenexa Baptist Church in Lenexa, Kansas, first vice president; Chad Keck, pastor of First Baptist Church in Kettering, Ohio; second vice president; John Yeats, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention, recording secretary; and Jim Wells, strategic partners team leader for the Missouri Baptist Convention, registration secretary.

• Nine resolutions were affirmed, including measures on marriage, sexual purity, and religious persecution (see page 10).

• An amendment to the SBC’s Constitution regarding qualifications for churches sending messengers to the annual meeting was approved on a required second vote. Cooperating churches may now automatically send two messengers to the Convention. Article III of the Constitution, written in 1888, previously allowed for one messenger per church, with additional messengers allowed for every $250 contributed to Convention causes.

Under the new guidelines, the amount for additional messengers is adjusted for inflation to $6,000. The maximum number of messengers per church also increased from 10 to 12, Baptist Press reported.

One particular order of business related directly to events of the past year, and a key part of the Call to Prayer Tuesday evening. Messenger Alan Cross from Alabama asked that the Executive Committee be commended for its report on racial diversity in the SBC since 1995 (the year the denomination apologized for past racism). Cross had made a motion the previous year asking for information on ethnic representation in SBC leadership. This year, the Executive Committee said much progress has been made but “more can and needs to be done.” Messengers approved Cross’ commendation.

During the National Call to Prayer, Floyd called on Baptists to repent of racism and prejudice, bringing to the stage leaders of different ethnicities to pray for racial reconciliation.

Around the convention hall, people gathered in small groups, standing shoulder-to-shoulder or hand-in-hand as they prayed for unity. The leaders then worshiped together on the stage, as the band led those in the packed auditorium to sing, “I am redeemed. You set me free.”

“Tonight in Jesus’ name, we come together as one family,” Floyd said, “and we do it because of the blood of the Lamb of God who died for the sins of the world.”

Read more of the Illinois Baptist team’s coverage from Columbus in our June 29 issue, arriving online this week.