Archives For June 2015

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 http://live.sbc.net.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com/ondemand.html.

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 BPNews.net.


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 ChristianityToday.com, “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 PluggedIn.com, 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.

Prayer.

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.

One of the first stops for Cassidy Winters and three other Transplant student mobilizers was an orientation session in the courtyard of a Chicago pie shop.

One of the first stops for Cassidy Winters and three other Transplant student mobilizers was an orientation session in the courtyard of a Chicago pie shop. Photo by Charles Campbell

HEARTLAND | Two groups of interns will work in Chicago this summer to assist church planters already on the ground, and to help outline the demographics of other neighborhoods in need of new churches.

Transplant, a summer initiative for students sponsored by IBSA, placed four “mobilizers” in various parts of Chicagoland in June, each paired with a church planter reaching out to people in the city or suburbs. Cassidy Winters said the mobilizers’ goal is to give their planters “more arms” to reach out in the community.

The college freshman from Edwardsville is serving alongside Dave and Kirsten Andreson, who are planting Resurrection City Church in Avondale on the city’s North Side. This is Winters’ second summer in Chicago. Last year, she admits, she didn’t know much about church planting. Shortly after her arrival, she remembers texting her mother something along the lines of, “I’m starting a church, Mom!”

This summer, Winters is helping the Andresons as they plant a church in a community of 40,000—and little evangelical presence. Growing up in her Christian home, Winters said, she “kind of got stuck in a Christian bubble…just not ever thinking about people who don’t love Jesus.” But in Chicago, there is a lot of hurt, and a lot of love is needed. Winters is helping the Andresons identify the projects they’ll tackle during ChicaGO Week, when teens from around the state come to Chicago for a week-long church planting practicum.

Cody Wilson is another student serving in the city this summer, along with a group a mobilizers recruited by the North American Mission Board for the Generation Send program. Instead of spending most of their time working with existing church plants, Gen Send-ers will develop a prospectus for a future planter who will start something new in a specific community.

Wilson, a student at Middle Tennessee State University, is serving in the Lakeview neighborhood and looking for what he calls “third spaces.” These are the coffeeshops, gyms, and arts programs where people hang out, and where a church planter might go to build relationships.

He had met a lot of people after just over two weeks in the city. “But it’s still obvious that in one of the busiest cities in the world…people are incredibly lonely and have very high walls and don’t let people in.”

In mid-June, team members joined Wilson, Winters and their fellow mobilizers to help further develop their prospectuses and projects. Their teams bring the total number of college students serving in Chicagoland through IBSA and NAMB to around 55 for the summer.

Look for more updates from Transplant and Generation Send interns, and a full report from ChicaGO Week, in the July and August issues of the Illinois Baptist.

Jim Breeden, director of missions for the St. Louis Metro Baptist Association, accepts the hand-off for the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention.

Jim Breeden, director of missions for the St. Louis Metro Baptist Association, accepts the hand-off for the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention.

Columbus | Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd officially closed the 2015 annual meeting this afternoon, but not before calling to the platform leaders from St. Louis and Missouri who will carry the torch for next year’s meeting in the Gateway City.

Ohioans and Missourians stood with one another on the stage, celebrating the evangelistic outreach done in Columbus through Crossover, and appealing to Baptists to come to St. Louis June 14-15, 2016. (Crossover Saturday is June 12).

Thank you for following the news from Columbus this week! You can read more in the next edition of the Illinois Baptist, online at http://ibonline.IBSA.org.

SBC Presidents' press conferenceCurrent SBC President Ronnie Floyd and 16 past presidents released a joint statement June 17 at the Southern Baptist Convention in Columbus, Ohio, stating their commitment to the biblical definition of marriage.

The presidents—all current or retired pastors—stated, “We stake our lives upon the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus.”

The statement also included a notice to the country and the sitting Supreme Court justices that they “will not recognize same-sex ‘marriages,’ our churches will not host same-sex ceremonies, and we will not perform such ceremonies.”

Later this month, the Supreme Court will release its decision on a case which could potentially make same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states.

At the press conference, James Merritt, pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Ga., paraphrased the words of Martin Luther: “Here we stand, and we can do no other. God help us.”

The presidents also stressed the need for churches to be prepared by having clear bylaws and constitutions that say what it means to be married in their churches.

Paige Patterson, president, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, urged Christian colleges, universities, and seminaries to do the same. He said he could see a time forthcoming where accrediting bodies may not provide accreditation to Christian educational institutions that do not approve of same-sex marriage or transgenderism.

What he said concerns him most are the medium and small churches “that have never thought through their bylaws and constitutions. Challenges will probably come to those small churches that are ill-prepared.”

Floyd said the issue is a matter of preparation and encouragement. “It’s not about anything more than helping our churches and being clear and compassionate.”

They also offered encouragement to church members whose religious liberties are threatened in the workplace to prepare and stand firm. Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, said, “We want to challenge pastors and church members. This is coming and it’s coming now. The trajectory is on breakneck speed…We encourage Christian leaders everywhere to make some noise and to be a voice.”

Floyd encouraged Christians who face hostility for their biblical views on same-sex marriage and other such issues. “I think we engage by showing compassion…it’s about love and truth. You can’t preach the gospel without preaching the grace of God and the love of God.

The press conference ended with a word from Floyd reaffirming the stance of the Convention. “The Southern Baptist Convention has not moved, the culture has moved. We stand on the Word of God that abides forever, always, has been, and will forever be.”

The press statement was signed by every living past president of the SBC. Nine total presidents were attended the press conference.

Visit the Baptist Press website to read the statement and to hear audio of the press conference.

Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board

Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board

Columbus | Missionaries aren’t sent out on their own. Or even solely through the power of missions agencies like the North American and International Mission Boards. Churches–supporting, sending churches–are central to the process.

David Platt, president of the International Mission Board

David Platt, president of the International Mission Board

That was the main idea behind this morning’s Sending Celebration, hosted by Southern Baptists’ two mission agencies following brief reports by both. Instead of their traditional separate presentations highlighting missionaries, NAMB and IMB joined forces to celebrate people serving around the world, and the churches who have helped send them. In hopes that more will catch the vision for how they can be engaged with taking the gospel to the world.

Worship leaders Shane & Shane

Worship leaders Shane & Shane

“Churches almost unknowingly begin to farm out missions to missions organizations,” Platt said. “But this is not how God designed it.” You won’t see IMB or NAMB in the New Testament, he said. Instead, you see churches like the one at Antioch.

“We want to see 46,000-plus Antiochs,” Platt said at the beginning of the sending celebration.

As worship artists Shane & Shane led music from the stage, slides introduced church planters serving across North America and others working across the globe. As their slides showed on giant screens in the convention hall, many of the missionaries stood, illuminated only by simple, book-shaped lights fanned out in front of them.

At the end of the service, they stood again together, and people sitting around them stood and prayed over them as Platt and Ezell led from the stage.

“Not one of us is guaranteed today, much less tomorrow,” Platt had said during his final charge to those in the audience. “So, brothers and sisters, let’s make it count. Let’s make our lives and our churches and churches in this convention count.”