Archives For July 2015

COMMENTARY | Mark Emerson

Mark_Emerson_July30We’ve barely finished summer and it’s already time to plan spring and summer mission trips for next year. But before you get out a map and some darts, consider these questions:

• Has God brought to our attention a need, area, or people group?

• Have we identified our Acts 1:8 mission fields? What, if anything, are we doing locally, in our state, North America, and the world?

• How can we develop a long-term partnership with a missionary, church plant, or people group? What can we do in Illinois?

• Does our church understand the purpose of missions involvement?

As short-term missions increase in popularity, a plethora of reasons is being offered regarding why we are going on mission trips. Don’t get lost in a side purpose; the reason we participate in short-term missions is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.

With that as our purpose, we now know who should join us (those currently sharing the gospel), we know how to prepare our team (teach them to share the gospel), and we know what we will be doing when we get there (sharing the gospel).

Of course, many teams use creative means to earn the right to share the gospel, but do not lose sight of your ultimate purpose. Mission trips not centered on that purpose are nothing more than spiritual tourism.

Long-haul missions
Leaders who take the approach of engaging a different area each year may find that their efforts are as temporary as their trip. Mission leaders who are willing to invest in a long-term strategy through partnering with a full-time missionary will find their effectiveness continues beyond the tenure of their trip.

As Southern Baptists, we are part of one of the largest evangelical mission forces on the planet. There are plenty of places to discover partnerships. Effective mission trips await those churches that are willing to stop organizing projects and start developing mission partnerships.

More than 24,000 members of IBSA churches participated in missions last year. IBSA helps many churches connect with missionaries and develop mission strategies each year. Contact the Church Resources Team at (217) 391-3138 to learn more.

Mark Emerson is associate executive director for IBSA’s Church Resources Team.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Baptists will hear from two presidential hopefuls at next week’s SEND North America Conference in Nashville, Tenn. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, will interview former Florida Governor Jeb Bush Aug. 4. The conference also will include a pre-recorded interview with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

The_Briefing“Evangelicals are looking for leaders who not only understand their convictions about human dignity and family stability but have plans to address them,” Moore said in a press release, “and this event will provide the opportunity for precisely this kind of discussion with some of the leading presidential candidates, and I am greatly looking forward to it.”

The SEND Conference, which is hosted by the North American and International Mission Boards, is expected to see 13,000 attenders.

In its press release, the ERLC said the leading candidates from each major party were invited to participate, including Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, Moore said in a July 22 blog post. The Aug. 4 conversations will be the first in a series of discussions with candidates, Moore added.

Pakistani woman’s execution temporarily stayed pending court review
The Pakistani Supreme Court said July 22 they will review the case of Aasiya Noreen, known in media reports as Asia Bibi. The mother of two (and stepmother of three other children) was sentenced to death in 2010 for allegedly making derogatory comments about Muhammad. Read the full story from Morning Star News via Baptist Press.

San Diego’s landmark cross will stay
A veterans memorial in San Diego has been sold to a private group, effectively ending years of legal battles over its constitutionality. The Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial, which includes a 43-foot cross, was purchased from the U.S. Defense Department by the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association for slightly less than $1.4 million, The Christian Post reports. The group hopes to turn it into a tourist destination on par with the San Diego Zoo.

GuideStone appeals to Supreme Court
GuideStone Financial Resources has filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court against a health care mandate that would require some companies it works with to provide abortion-inducing drugs. GuideStone, a Southern Baptist entity, and the churches it represents are exempt from the mandate, Baptist Press reports. But some other religious employers are at risk, they contend, even as the federal government argues it offers an accommodation for them.

Kenyan mall reopens almost two years after terrorist attack
Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi reopened July 18, 22 months after extremist group al-Shabab staged a multi-day attack that killed 67 people and wounded 175. Katherine Walton, an International Mission Board “missionary kid” now living in Kenya with her own family, was in the mall with her children during the attack, Baptist Press reports.

“It has been and still is a difficult journey in recovery. The children have all dealt with their own issues, but on the whole have done remarkably well,” she told BP. “God has been really good to us, and we keep moving forward, learning more about ourselves and about God during recovery.”

Prayer: Keep it going

Meredith Flynn —  July 27, 2015
Chicago leaders convened a one-day prayer meeting and equipping conference in January at Lighthouse Fellowship Baptist Church in Franklin.

Chicago leaders convened a one-day prayer meeting and equipping conference in January at Lighthouse Fellowship Baptist Church in Franklin.

HEARTLAND | Phil Miglioratti

God is moving, and his Spirit is stirring people in Illinois to pray. Since the Concert of Prayer at the IBSA Annual Meeting last November, we have heard reports from many places about prayer events. To all these reports I say, keep it going.

Chicago Metro, Gateway and Lake County Associations all held prayer concerts this spring. Three Rivers Association held three concerts in a single month. And many churches have reported giving whole worship services over to prayer.

“The concert of prayer during the IBSA meeting was an inspirational, powerful worship experience and served as a catalyst to do something similar in our local church context,” said Kevin Carrothers, pastor of Rochester FBC.

“The need to see people actively engaged in the worship and prayer experience rather than being a spectator was also a compelling factor in the concert of prayer,” he said.

Some churches have used the cycle of prayer IBSA developed from Isaiah 6: lament, repent, intercede, and commit. It is a mix of Scripture, prayer, and songs in equal measure. It’s easy to adapt an existing format or to select some Scripture and let the passage guide the movements in prayer. My approach is to develop a service that is

• Spirit-led: It’s not a performance.

• Worship-bred: Every aspect of the experience is born out of worship, especially the songs and hymns

• Scripture-fed: Even without a sermon, Scripture is foundational.

• Corporate-said: Attenders are participants, not an audience.

• Global-spread: Our prayers are for God’s kingdom to come and his will to be done rather than the usual prayer list items.

After I led a prayer concert at First Baptist Church of Winthrop Harbor, deacon Kenneth Anthony commented that, of the four phases in prayer, it was the time of confession that most affected him.

“We seldom stop and actually think about our own sin,” he said. “Our church, our community, our nation needs real revival and the only way to begin it is for the people of God to admit where we are at fault. If we don’t confess our sins and return to
God, the nation never will.”

Phil Miglioratti is IBSA’s prayer coordinator.

St. Louis skylineCOMMENTARY from | Ronnie Floyd

Coming off our largest convention meeting since 2012 in New Orleans, our Southern Baptist family begins to dream and cast the vision for our next gathering in 2016 in St. Louis. More importantly than the size of our gathering in Columbus this year, our great and mighty God met with us powerfully.

Save the date: June 14-15, 2016.

Will I see you in St. Louis on June 14-15, 2016, for our Southern Baptist Convention? Please mark your calendar now for this upcoming and dynamic experience with our Southern Baptist family. Make these dates non-negotiable and decide now to be in St. Louis for our 2016 Southern Baptist Convention and bring people with you.

See the vision: Get St. Louis on your heart

Metropolitan St. Louis needs the saving message of Jesus Christ. Our nearly 2,000 Southern Baptist churches in Missouri need the encouragement of our greater Southern Baptist family.

Why should we see the vision of metro St. Louis?
-2.73 million people live in metro St. Louis
-1 out of 7 Missourians live in metro St. Louis
-50.9% of the population is unaffiliated with any religious body
-Only 17.9 percent of the population of metro St. Louis is affiliated with an evangelical church
-St. Louis is one of the North American Mission Board’s SEND focus cities. Watch this video to learn more.

Southern Baptists, how do we not go and make a difference in metro St. Louis? You see, when we speak of metro St. Louis, we are also talking about East St. Louis, Ill. Two states will be impacted by our gathering next year.

How can your church participate in Crossover St. Louis a few days ahead of our convention? They will be able to assist new church plants or help established churches. This leads up to the major Crossover event on Saturday, June 11. Then, your church members can stay and attend our convention on June 14-15. Please strongly consider this.

Stand together with us to reach the world

When you fly or drive into St. Louis, you will notice the Gateway Arch as you enter the city. It stands 630 feet tall and 630 feet wide. This remarkable structure has been known as America’s gateway to the West, with St. Louis the Gateway City.

In 2016, Southern Baptists need to converge on this city from all over the world and see it as our gateway to reach the world for Jesus Christ. Stand with us!

7 reasons to come to St. Louis on June 14-15, 2016
1. We need to be with our family, our Southern Baptist family.

2. We need to be inspired to believe again that God can awaken America spiritually and the world can be reached for Christ.

3. We need to hear the Word of God proclaimed, pray and worship together by the thousands, and have our spiritual lives set on fire again.

4. We need to hear the wonderful testimonies and reports about what God is doing across America and the world through our work together.

5. We need to hear how our churches’ financial investment in the Cooperative Program and mission offerings is being used to share the Gospel.

6. We need to be encouraged to know that when we are together and working together there is hope in America and this world.

7. We need to join together by the thousands as we pray for our nation at this critical time, calling out to God to revive His church and awaken America so we can reach the world for Christ.

Now is the time for Southern Baptists to lead. Let these words encourage your life today as you lead others into the future:

“An awakening can bring about the evangelization of the world in our generation” (American evangelist Billy Graham).

“The one who mobilizes the Christian church to pray will make the greatest contribution to world evangelization in history” (South African pastor Andrew Murray).

God is not finished with Southern Baptists, America or the world.

Ronnie Floyd is president of the Southern Baptist Convention. This column, reprinted from Baptist Press, first appeared at his website,

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The_BriefingTwo men who were shot in the July 16 attacks on Tennessee military facilities were connected to Southern Baptist churches. Lance Cpl. Skip Wells, 21, was killed by Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez at a Navy support center in Chattanooga. Three other Marines also were killed, and a Navy petty officer later died from injuries sustained in the attack.

The Sunday following the shootings, Wells’ one-time church, First Baptist of Woodstock, Ga., placed a Marine flag at the seat he occupied as a clarinetist in the church orchestra, Baptist Press reported.

In Harrison, Tenn., near Chattanooga, members of Bayside Baptist Church prayed for the families of the victims and for Dennis Pedigo, a church member and police officer injured during the attacks. Pedigo, whose name was released after this Baptist Press story was published, is expected to make a full recovery.

Former Planned Parenthood clinic director reaches out to exec caught on video
Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director who now has a ministry dedicated to helping abortion workers find a way out of the industry, has written an open letter to Deborah Nucatola, the subject of a video made by an anti-abortion organization in which she discusses the sale of body parts gained through abortion.

“We want you to find peace,” wrote Johnson, former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Texas. “We want you to find true happiness. We know that won’t happen as long as you are involved in Planned Parenthood.” More from Johnson’s letter, published by LifeSiteNews, can be read at, with this warning: The letter contains some graphic details that are difficult to read.

Christian colleges could hire staff in same-sex marriages
Two Christian colleges have added “sexual orientation” to their non-discrimination policies, said Christianity Today, meaning they could hire faculty and staff members who are in same-sex marriages. Both schools–Goshen College in Goshen, Ind., and Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va., are affiliated with the Mennonite Church USA, which voted in July to reaffirm same-sex marriage as a sin, but also to allow churches to perform same-sex marriages if their regional conferences allow it.

GuideStone loses case against health care mandate
“Today was a setback. It is not the final outcome,” said GuideStone Financial Services President O.S. Hawkins after a federal appeals court ruled it must comply with a mandate requiring employers to cover the cost of contraceptives–including some that can potentially cause abortions. GuideStone, the Southern Baptist entity responsible for health and financial benefits, is considering an appeal of the ruling, according to a statement on the organization’s website.

Americans rooted in their communities, Barna finds
59% of Americans aren’t sure they’ll move from the place they currently live, or never plan to, according to a Barna survey on why people put down roots in a particular place. Among the findings: The largest share of Americans–45%–describe their community as suburban, and 24% currently live in the city or town where they were born. Among those who don’t, family ranked as the most popular reason they moved to their current location.

Churches, institutions prepare for fallout from marriage decision

NEWS | From the Illinois Baptist

Now that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states, leaders of churches and Christian institutions are asking several key questions: Is the threat to religious liberty as real as we imagined? And will our insurance cover the costs if our churches and schools are sued?

The U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26 decision to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide flipped the final switch on a new marriage culture many observers believed was a foregone conclusion. In the days and weeks following the announcement, Christian leaders urged churches and ministries to evaluate their policies to determine if they will be adequately protected against potential infringements on religious liberty.

“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,” IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams said immediately following the Court’s decision.

“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.”

New research from Barna indicates 56% of Americans are concerned that religious freedom will be more restricted in the next five years, with adults over age 40 more likely to say so than those under 40.

The numbers soar when Christians answer the question: 77% of practicing Christians and 93% of evangelicals are concerned about religious freedom over the next five years.

Those polled by Barna were more likely to protect the rights of churches than those of businesses: 38% of U.S. adults say businesses should have to provide services for same-sex weddings, while only 19% say religious institutions should be legally required to perform same-sex weddings.

But some, including Illinois pastor Danny Holliday, say churches could be in danger. “I think some churches are going to end up having to close because of the Human Rights Act and the building usage issue,” Holliday, pastor of Victory Baptist Church in Alton, told the Illinois Baptist.

(Illinois’ Human Rights Act protects individuals from discrimination based on classifications like race, gender, and sexual orientation. It was used by Chick-Fil-A opponents in 2012 to file complaints against the company after President Dan Cathy vocalized the business’ views on marriage and family.)

Prior to the Supreme Court decision, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission released “Protecting Your Ministry,” a booklet for churches, schools, and businesses. The guide, available for free at, provides checklists for navigating the new marriage culture (and avoiding lawsuits).

If churches do face lawsuits resulting from their refusal to perform same-sex weddings, said Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company attorney Joshua Lederman, the claim would most likely be “emotional injury as a result of improper discrimination.”

While some insurance companies only cover emotional injury claims caused by physical injury, said Lederman, Brotherhood
Mutual offers a Religious Freedom Liability Coverage endorsement that covers “alleged discriminatory acts, religious communication, challenges to your ministry’s tax exempt status, reimbursement for declaratory judgment actions that your ministry initiates in order to protect its right to pursue a belief-based decision or practice, and liability defense reimbursement coverage.”

Churches aren’t the only institutions potentially affected by the ruling: Oral arguments heard by the Court in April touched on
concerns for schools, specifically related to whether they could lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex unions.

A few weeks after the Court’s ruling, two Christian colleges, Hope College in Holland, Mich., and Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., announced they would extend benefits to same-sex spouses of employees. But Shapri LoMaglio, a representative for the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, told Baptist Press that as long as Christian colleges and universities “ensure that all of their policies are clearly tied to their religious beliefs,” the threats of losing tax-exempt status and being held liable for discrimination aren’t immediate.

While nothing will change for most Christian organizations in the short term, said David Dockery, president of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill., schools like his and other institutions could face challenges in the areas of hiring, financial aid and accrediting.

“It is also possible that the ‘free exercise of religion’ as defined by the First Amendment and echoed in the Civil Rights Acts of
the 1960s could be reduced to a more narrow understanding of ‘freedom of worship,’ thus applicable only for the ‘heart, the home, and the pew,’” Dockery told the Illinois Baptist. “As Chief Justice Roberts suggested in his minority expression, this could have implications for religious expressions in education, publishing, social services, or other spheres.”

That’s why a holistic understanding of religious liberty—one that harkens back to Baptist leaders in the 18th century—is important, Dockery said.

“We want Mormon schools to be able to hire only Mormons if they choose to do so. We want Buddhists to be able to hire only Buddhists if they choose to do so. We want Muslims to be able to only hire Muslims if they choose to do so.”

Following the Court’s ruling, Dockery advised a “wise, careful, and prudent” approach for Christians in the days ahead.

“At this point it is important for Christians to carry out their callings in a faithful and joyful manner, seeking to be kind and civil in all of our responses with all people, even as we seek to remain convictional about the teaching of Scripture and the pattern of Christian truth.”

Read the July 20 issue of the Illinois Baptist newspaper online at

HEARTLAND | Nate Adams

Many Illinois Baptists know by now that Melissa Phillips, who was Associate Executive Director of IBSA’s Church Cooperation (Business) Team, went home to be with the Lord on July 2, almost a year after her initial cancer diagnosis.

Melissa was strong and determined, and she managed her initial months of chemo and radiation treatments so amazingly well that we all grew optimistic. And of course we were praying, diligently and daily (often wearing “Team Melissa” buttons). So her rapid health decline in June and then her passing have seemed sudden, especially to those who only saw her occasionally. For those of you just joining us in that grief, I am truly sorry for your loss, too.

Nate_Adams_July20Near the end of the movie, “The Last Samurai,” Tom Cruise’s character, Nathan Algren, travels to Tokyo to present the emperor with the sword of Samurai Lord Katsoumoto, who has just heroically given his life in battle. Somberly, the emperor says to Captain Algren, “Tell me how he died.” And with great respect and tear-filled eyes, Algren instead replies, “I will tell you how he lived.”

So let me write just a few words here about how Melissa Phillips lived. Melissa was one of the most loving, serving, capable professionals I have ever known. She was intelligent, intuitive, poised and articulate. I trusted her completely, and she brought the highest integrity and work ethic to every decision she made and every task she performed. She was often the first person at her desk in the morning, and the last to leave at night.

Melissa was 18 when she started at IBSA. It was just a few days after graduating from high school, and marrying her sweetheart Doug. As I said during her funeral service, in her 35 years at IBSA she not only trained a husband and two daughters, she trained six different executive directors. I am privileged to have been the most recent, and now the last.

Melissa was a reluctant executive, preferring to serve others and work behind the scenes for the good of IBSA, its churches and leaders. Yet she led well, and was strong and decisive when she needed to be, or when I needed her to be. Her moral compass and her wisdom were rooted deeply in her relationship to Jesus Christ and her understanding of God’s Word and his ways.

A few years ago, our son Caleb and Melissa’s daughter Laura got reacquainted at the annual IBSA family picnic. Talking led
to writing, and writing led to visits, and then a courtship led to marriage. So while Melissa has now gone on to be with the Lord, our families continue to be lovingly intertwined. And so in addition to all she gave me personally as a friend and staff member, through God’s providence she and Doug also gave us a daughter, one who seems to me to grow more like her mother every day.

As I watched hundreds of people patiently file through during the funeral visitation, and then pack every square foot of Springfield Southern Baptist Church for Melissa’s home-going service the next day, it became evident to me how many people loved and respected Melissa. The sentiment many expressed could be summed up by the question, “How can we go
on without her?”

This of course is the question Jesus’ disciples were asking themselves after his seemingly sudden death. Yet because Jesus then conquered death, and because he sent his Spirit to be present with us, and help us continue his example and his mission to the world, we find joy and purpose in moving forward, longing eagerly to see him again. How like Melissa to follow Jesus’ example, and leave those of us who loved and depended on her so much with that same wonderful assurance and hope.

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

NEWS | Imprisoned pastor Saeed Abedini has become a key figure in news coverage surrounding the nuclear deal with Iran struck by President Barack Obama and other world leaders this week.

Image from a May 2012 YouTube video Saeed Abedini made before his imprisonment.

Image from a May 2012 YouTube video Saeed Abedini made before his imprisonment.

Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, expressed her disappointment that a deal was reached without securing the release of her husband and other Americans imprisoned in Iran. Mrs. Abedini’s legal representation, the American Center for Law and Justice, released a petition calling Congress to reject the deal, The Christian Post reports.

“It is unconscionable that the Obama Administration would sign a deal with Iran without securing the freedom of Pastor Saeed who has been imprisoned for nearly three years simply because of his Christian faith,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel at ACLJ, in a news release.

“President Obama told the Abedini family face-to-face that he considered the release of Pastor Saeed a ‘top priority.’ How could that be a ‘top priority’ when a deal is reached and Pastor Saeed is left behind? What happened today makes a bad deal even worse. We will now focus our attention on convincing Congress to reject this deal.”

Obama faced similar opposition in-person, when CBS News reporter Major Garrett asked him in a press conference why he is “content with all the fanfare around this deal to leave the conscience of this nation, the strength of this nation unaccounted for in relation to these four Americans?”

Calling that notion “nonsense,” the President said he previously met with the families of some of the imprisoned Americans and that connecting their release with the deal would have encouraged Iran to seek more concessions, CNN Money reported after the exchange.

Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd told Baptist Press, “While still learning more about this deal made with Iran, I stand appalled that we would make any kind of deal that would not demand the immediate release of the four Americans held hostage, including Pastor Saeed Abedini.

“Additionally, I am concerned for the safety of the people of Israel, America’s great ally. All of this calls the church to rise up and pray for the peace of Jerusalem, as well as recommit ourselves to the evangelization of the world.”

Disaster Relief volunteers clean up tornado damage at Woodhaven Lakes Camping Resort in Sublette.

Disaster Relief volunteers clean up tornado damage at Woodhaven Lakes Camping Resort in Sublette.

HEARTLAND | IBSA Disaster Relief volunteers are busy serving and ministering at home in Illinois and on the east coast in July.

Disaster Relief chainsaw teams will continue their work next week at Woodhaven Lakes Camping Resort. On June 22 an EF-2 tornado tore through the private camping resort in Sublette, a community two hours west of Chicago.

Hundreds of downed trees and limbs still need to be cleared and removed from several properties.

Many residents don’t have insurance and those who do, have found the damage is not covered by their policy. “People were really overwhelmed,” shared Debbie Porter, a member of the FBC Galatia Chainsaw Team that served there from July 6-11. “They’ve greeted us with open arms and embraced us. They can’t believe we came to help for free.”

The FBC Galatia team was joined by chainsaw teams from Greater Wabash, Salem South, Sinnissippi, Three Rivers and Williamson Associations. The 50 volunteers completed 65 jobs while in Sublette.

Teams from Salem South and Three Rivers Associations will join with teams from FBC Harrisburg and Sullivan Southern July 20-25 to finish the work the previous teams started.

“Once you start a response it is always an extra blessing if you can finish it,” shared Rex Alexander, Illinois State Disaster Relief Coordinator. “We anticipate about 120 volunteers working together to bring help, healing, and hope to this community.” Alexander estimates at least 150 jobs remain to be completed.

Teams from Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee will bring bucket trucks, shower trailers and chainsaws next week to assist the Illinois teams. Lodging for volunteers will be provided by Northside Baptist in Dixon, Victory Baptist in Mendota, and FBC La Moille.

Alexander said the Illinois teams still need additional trained volunteers to help. “We could use some additional individuals to fill out some of our chainsaw teams, serve as chaplains, and serve as assessors,” he noted. “We could also use one or two more tractors and operators. Most jobs at Woodhaven involve cutting huge trees (sometimes on top of structures or tangled together). Moving these trees to the curb after they are cut up involves a significant amount of human labor. Teams with tractors, bobcats, or skid steers can accomplish the work much faster than teams without this heavy equipment.”

Meanwhile, IBSA Disaster Relief feeding teams are serving this week and next in Long Island, NY in support of the Hurricane Sandy Rebuild Ministry. Fifteen volunteers are feeding mission teams there to rebuild homes damaged by the hurricane, which devastated parts of New Jersey and New York in October 2012. The volunteers from churches around the state will serve through July 26.

If you are a trained IBSA Disaster Relief volunteer and would like to help at Woodhaven Lake Camping Resort in Sublette, e-mail Alexander at or call (217) 391-134.

Disaster relief call-outs are expensive with many teams coming from the southern part of the state and Alexander said any monetary donations would be appreciated. To donate online go to and click on the “Donate” link. Checks may be mailed to IBSA Disaster Relief, P.O. Box 19247, Springfield, IL 62794-6247.

If you would like to become an IBSA Disaster Relief volunteer, the next training opportunity is October 9-10 at Lake Sallateeska Baptist Camp. Visit or call (217) 391-142 for more information.

COMMENTARY | Charles Lyons

Floyd and Rad certainly stood out when they showed up in our tiny congregation. I had been pastoring a couple years. Obviously not from around here, they did seem familiar with church. Conversation revealed they were both from Arkansas; one from a Baptist church, the other from an Assembly of God church. Maybe they were 20 years old. My guess is they met in high school.

Charles_Lyons_July16They, like thousands before them, had fled home and familiarity for faraway, big-city anonymity. I’m not sure why, but they didn’t hide their homosexuality from me. I’ll never forget the anguished question during one tearful conversation with Floyd:
“How can this be wrong?” He was overwhelmed with need, emotion, passion, and counterfeit love.

I have to say, getting to know them as individuals radically changed my rabid hostility toward those I before would have called “perverts.” I didn’t change what I believed. My conviction that God’s Word is true was not threatened. But I had an overwhelming desire to be a channel of grace and, as John puts it, “love in truth.”

It was God’s truth and love by God’s definition that eventually contributed to Floyd and Rad drifting away from the church,
looking for something else I could not offer.

Let me tell you! I’m as opinionated a person as you’ll ever meet. Furthermore, I am able to passionately, hey, vehemently
articulate my views. I’m especially dogmatic and emphatic when it comes to behavior I don’t engage in, and I can really preach against that stuff!

Many of us have gone through a process to get where we are today. We used to regularly rant against “easy targets” like communists and hippies, and these days those targets have been replaced by homosexuals, transgender, and “gay marriage” (as if there really were such a thing). And some continue to rant rather than to take a Bible approach.

Should we ignore these things or begin to accept them? Of course not, but we need to confront them biblically. After all, we
are not just guarding our culture or doing battle with sinners. We are representing God and his grace as well as his warning.

Jesus’ harshest condemnations target self-righteous religious zealots. His greatest compassion is expressed to those most
ignorant of, rebellious toward, or distant from God. He said, “I didn’t come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

It goes without saying, those who are determined to pursue any kind of sin are not going to be comfortable or in close fellowship in a Bible-preaching church.

That said, there is a whole slice of “sinnerdom,” and for sure some wrestling with same-sex attraction, who would seek help
from people they knew loved them. Is that not the spirit of Jesus?

How do we communicate God’s love?

How do we communicate God’s love to those who are out of bounds in any way, shape, or form? Think over-indulgence. Adultery. Consider any form of destructive behavior. What about unnecessarily angry people?

How do we express God’s love to those who are way, way out of bounds?

Is God’s love unconditional? Is the love I live, preach, teach, and lead our congregation to demonstrate just as unconditional?

Should the church be the last place these out-of-bounds think of for seeking help?

Do the kids attending our churches know these are safe places to bare their souls and share their secrets?

Understand me. There is always someone reading between the lines looking for compromise if not sellout, and I am not advocating in any way changing or messing with what God says about any particular sin. I am saying our churches need to be havens of hope, dispensaries of love and deliverance, places of grace.

The rebels and unrepentants will cast themselves into an eternity without God… but they should go with the knowledge that we loved them. Those willing to believe God’s promises, trusting him for rescue, and willing to fight the flesh in fellowship with God’s people should never wonder if they have a home.

Charles Lyons pastors Armitage Baptist Church in Chicago.