Archives For September 2015

The BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Pope Francis’ historic address to Congress proved troubling in both its lack of clarity on moral issues and in its church-state impropriety, Southern Baptist leaders and pastors said.

Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the invitation by congressional leaders to the head of a religious body to speak to legislators was problematic. Baptists “historically have been very opposed to the United States government recognizing any religion or religious leader in such a way,” Mohler had told BP before the pope’s visit to Washington.

Bart Barber, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas, told Baptist Press, “For Congress to treat a church as though it were a state and the head of a church as though he were the head of a state runs contrary to basic First Amendment principles of disestablishment.” Read more from Baptist Press.

Southern Baptist rep. announces bid for House Speaker

Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has announced he is running for Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. McCarthy and his family are members of Valley Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Bakersfield.  The House Majority Leader announced his bid Monday (Sept. 28) to replace John Boehner (R-OH) who resigned from the position last week.

Sandi Patty announces retirement

Five-time Grammy and 40-time Dove Award winner Sandi Patty announced her retirement Monday (Sept. 28) in New York City. “No matter what you do, there comes a time when you should step away. And mine has finally come,” shared the 59-year-old Patty.

Patty will embark on a yearlong farewell tour in Feb. 2016.

Rainbow Doritos introduced to support LBGT charity

Frito-Lay, the parent company of Doritos, has introduced rainbow-colored chips in support of the LBGT non-profit the It Gets Better Project. But, you won’t be seeing the Cool Ranch flavor chips on store shelves. They are only available through a $10 donation to the charity project.

CCCU accepts resignations of Goshen, EMU

The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities Board of Directors announced the resignations of Goshen College in Goshen, Ind., and Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va. The two schools sparked dissension — and prompted other schools to withdraw from the council — after expanding their hiring and benefits policies to embrace same-sex marriage.

The board also appointed a task force to review CCCU categories of association to accommodate the changing face of religious liberty.

Sources: Baptist Press, CNN,, RNS. U.S. News

How is tithing like football?The numbers may be surprising. A people who claim generous giving as a way of life, with the biblical standard of 10% as their benchmark, give only about 3% of their income to charitable causes, including their local church.

And of evangelicals, only

12% qualify as tithers, giving 10% or more of their income to their church (or other organizations), according to researcher George Barna.

So, what’s the disconnect? We talk about tithing. We teach tithing. But many believers don’t tithe. Why?

And here’s a better question: What’s at stake if we don’t give generously?

First and ten

The play is complete, the ball is down, but the purpose of the next play is unclear. If the football has been moved 10 yards, it’s a first down and the offense gets to start counting its march downfield from its new vantage point. If not, the play could be the last, for now. Ground gained could be lost.

So the chain gang comes in from the sidelines to measure the advance of the ball. Was it 10? Is the offense positioned to start another advance?

Similarly, in ministry, gospel advance is often determined by the resources available to move the mission forward. And month after month, we call in the chain gang to measure our progress financially.

Sometimes we pass the line.

Often we fall short.

At issue is how we teach people to give, and how we budget based on those expectations.

Many evangelicals have a firm commitment to tithing as a New Testament command. Tithing is commanded in the Old Testament. In fact, multiple tithes are collected from the Israelites to support the priests, the temple, and the poor.

It is the prophet Malachi who puts the sharpest point on the one-tenth rule: “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me!….By not making the payments of the tenth and the contributions. You are suffering under a curse, yet you—the whole nation—are still robbing Me. Bring the full tenth into the storehouse so that there may be food in My house. Test Me in this way,” says the Lord of Hosts (Mal. 3:8-10, HCSB).

When Jesus speaks about giving 400 years after Malachi, the tenth is assumed (Matt. 23:23). But Jesus, criticizing the legalistic actions of the Pharisees, expresses concern about the heart in giving. And Paul prescribes giving that is compassionate, generous, systematic, and regular (1 Cor. 16:1-2).

Some would argue that the tithe is still in place for New Testament believers, that it is still a command. Others contend that, free from Law, the tithe becomes a benchmark for believers who choose to give, and that the command is instead generosity.

Call it obedience

Former Illinois pastor Rick Ezell frames tithing as an act of obedience. “If you are tithing, you are being obedient to God’s instructions. But remember that tithing has always been the floor—the place to begin, not the ceiling—the place to end, of giving to God’s work.”

In a recent devotional for his South Carolina congregation, Ezell advised taking steps to correct faulty giving patterns. “If you are not tithing, perhaps it is because of poor money management. Many believers don’t tithe not because they don’t want to, but due to their current economic situation and spending habits. Maybe you need to spend some time examining your expenses and evaluating your priorities.”

“I am very direct about preaching and teaching on generous giving,” said Doug Munton, pastor of First Baptist Church of O’Fallon. He holds up the tithe as the standard. “I have tithed and beyond all of my life and this is extremely valuable to my spiritual life. I preach on the importance of a generous life.

“Generous giving (tithing and beyond) is one of our expectations of members of FBCO. And generous giving is one of the great joys of my life.”

For Bryan Price, pastor of Love Fellowship Baptist Church in Romeoville, the tithe offers clarity. “For me, the idea of tithing gives a better guideline for people, gives a benchmark,” Price said. “Focusing on giving (rather than tithing specifically), that benchmark was missing.”

Both Munton and Price preach regularly on giving. Munton leads an annual stewardship emphasis. And Price returned to a financial series after a two-year break when he was encouraged by church leaders to address the issue again.

“Having discussion with our elders, I asked our Sunday school to join me (in a stewardship emphasis). Price admits he feels some tension when preaching on giving. “You don’t want to come across trying to beat people over the head about money,” he said, but “we made a concerted effort, and it proved beneficial.”

Especially among younger people. “You would think people would be familiar with tithing, but we have younger people coming up and newly marrieds. They’re hearing these things for the first time really.”

And the results? “We have definitely seen an increase in giving in the past several months,” Price said.

The head of an organization called Generous Giving, Brian Kluth, says pastors can’t be shy about teaching on money. “We need to learn to be open-handed people in a tight-fisted world.” Kluth had considerable success as a pastor leading his Colorado congregation in giving. “Every time you give to the Lord, you are declaring who your source is, who your help is,” Kluth said.

In a recent blog post on tithing, Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd warned against greed as the enemy of generosity: “Somehow we must grow in our faith enough to understand that when we do not give biblically by both tithing and practicing generosity, we are not walking in godliness.”

But, he admits, it will take support from the pews to overcome reticence to address money issues. “Lead the way laypeople, encouraging your pastor to preach on tithing and generosity. Encourage and defend him both privately and publicly,” Floyd wrote.

Floyd’s comments come as the SBC strains to rebound in Cooperative Program giving to missions, and to answer long-term questions about funding for SBC missions on all fronts. The potential for gospel advance would be almost unimaginable, if the biblical standards for generosity were heeded.

What if we all tithed?

Empty Tomb, Inc., a Champaign-based research firm, asked this question when average giving by church members was at its lowest point in their annual surveys (2.46% in 2008): What if all givers tithed? The researchers projected that if every church member in the U.S. gave 10% rather than the average 3%, the additional amount available for kingdom work would be $172-Billion.

Empty Tomb speculated, “If those members had specified that 60% of their increased giving were to be given to international missions, there would have been an additional $103-Billion available for the international work of the church. That would have left an additional $34-Billion for domestic missions, including poverty conditions in the U.S., and this all on top of our current church activities.”

Meanwhile, the ball moves ahead in fit and starts, while the measuring gang rattles the chains on the sidelines.

Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist where this article first appeared in the September 21 issue. Read the Illinois Baptist online now.

Sad truth: Pastors are sinners tooCOMMENTARY | John Gibson was fun and funny. He was smart and caring. He was a good teacher and a fine preacher. He was also troubled. He wrestled with depression for many years, and recently we learned he struggled with pornography.

That came to light because John confessed it in his suicide note.

I said “no way” when LifeWay Research President Ed Stetzer predicted 400 pastors might resign on the Sunday after 32 million names were revealed in the hacking of adulterous hook-up site Ashley Madison. Again I said “no way” when others predicted a wave of suicides among those outed in August.

In the end, Patheos blog reports, three Christian leaders resigned and one died.

I knew the man who died.

John Gibson was a few years ahead of me at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. If memory serves, he was working on a doctorate and served as grader for my evangelism professor. He left to pastor a church, and some years later returned to New Orleans to serve on staff and eventually to teach. Some people knew of his struggle with depression. There aren’t many secrets on a seminary campus.

But apparently his wrestling with sexual addiction was not widely known. Gibson’s wife, Christi, said her husband knew he would lose his job when his name appeared on the hacked list, and he couldn’t face the humiliation.

Christi found his body in their seminary campus home on August 24. Then she had to tell their two children.

“There is brokenness in every single one of us. We all have things that we struggle with,” she told CNN last week. “It wasn’t so bad that we wouldn’t have forgiven it, and so many people have said that to us, but for John, it carried…such shame.”

Gibson’s family shared some of his story in a service at the seminary chapel. “My dad was a great man,” son Trey, 24, said. “He was a great man with struggles. My dad reached a point of such hopelessness and despair that he took his own life.”

“I still believe it could have been fixed,” Gibson’s wife said to cable news viewers. “It could have been healed.”

As a newsman, not much surprises me anymore. As a pastor, not much disappoints me, except the lack of grace when people need it most. To the sad truth that pastors are sinners, we offer this good news: Jesus died to save sinners.

Including pastors.


The BriefingTHE BRIEFING | As Pope Francis visits the U.S., Southern Baptist leaders say they stand with his statements of biblical morality but urge Catholics to reject the Vatican’s official teaching on salvation in favor of a personal relationship with Christ by faith alone.

“I hope the pope speaks with clarity about the dignity of all human life, including that of the unborn; the stability of the family, including the necessity of mothers and fathers for children; and religious liberty for all,” ERLC President Russell Moore told Baptist Press. “I also hope he speaks directly as he has before to our responsibility for the most vulnerable among us, the poor, the prisoner, the immigrant and the orphan.” Read what others are saying at

ISIS using churches as torture chambers

Christian Freedom International, a Virginia-based aid organization, reports captured church buildings into torture chambers that are being used to coerce Iraqi Christians into renouncing Christ and converting to its brand of radical Islam. The organization also estimates more Christians have been martyred in the 20th and 21st centuries than in the previous 19 centuries combined.

House OKs PPFA defunding, abortion survivors’ bills

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Sept. 18 to defund Planned Parenthood in the wake of the release of undercover videos providing evidence the organization trades in baby body parts. That same day, the House also approved legislation to protect babies who survive abortions.

Representatives voted 241-187 for the Defund Planned Parenthood Act, H.R. 3134. The bill would place a one-year moratorium on federal money for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its affiliates while Congress investigates the organization.

Gay rights group opens office in Springfield

Equality Illinois, the state’s largest LGBT rights group, has open its first office outside Chicagoland in Springfield. The group is seeking to expand its strategy statewide and hopes to open offices in the southern and western parts of the state.

The Muppets return to TV a bit worse for wear

The new Muppets primetime television show isn’t the show Gen Xers remember from their childhood. A reviewer for The Guardian, a British newspaper, calls the new show for ABC a “spoof documentary” in the style of reality television.

According to the paper, “In one scene, Animal laments his consequence-free promiscuity. In another, Zoot from The Electric Mayhem is outed as an alcoholic. And then, most heartbreakingly of all, there’s Kermit…This Kermit badmouths fellow celebrities, openly discusses his sex life and, at one point, describes his life as ‘a living hell.’”

Say it isn’t so Kermit.

In the Middle

Lisa Misner —  September 21, 2015


I am reminded lately of the song “Stuck in the Middle with You.” The song was written by Gerry Rafferty and Joe Eagan, and recorded by their band, Stealers Wheel, in 1972. The song was inspired when Rafferty and Egan were seated at a restaurant table with record company representatives on one side of them and producers on the other. The executives were talking across them, conducting business, and the singers were “stuck in the middle.”

Neither the IBSA staff and missionaries nor I feel “stuck” in any sense of the word, but I do feel we’re in the middle of something. As a middle-sized state convention here in the middle of the country, and now in the middle of a funding challenge, we are also in the middle of some crucial questions about how we do ministry, how we advance the gospel, and how we sustain our shared work financially.

Nate Adams

In the previous issue of the Illinois Baptist, I outlined reasons that inspire me personally to give through my church to the Mission Illinois Offering each year. (See

I unapologetically ask IBSA churches to receive an annual offering for state missions. But there are some additional dynamics that make the Mission Illinois Offering even more important this year.

For one thing, Cooperative Program giving in Illinois, the primary funding source of our missions and ministries, has not yet rebounded from what’s now called “The Great Recession” of 2007-2009. Yet expenses, especially “people costs” such as healthcare and travel, continue to rise. For example, IBSA’s healthcare premiums will increase 20% next year, or almost $65,000. Yet CP income planned in the 2016 IBSA budget is actually $340,000 less than we received in 2009.

Compounding the CP shortfall is a strategic shift by our partners at the North American Mission Board to focus almost exclusively on church planting in larger cities. Of course church planting is a top priority for us in Illinois too. But now funding for staff and ministries such as WMU and women’s ministries, collegiate ministry, IBSA’s church consultants and partnership with local Associations, and soon our funding of the Christian Activity Center in East St. Louis, must come 100% from the IBSA budget, rather than being shared by both NAMB and IBSA.

We appreciate the partnership NAMB provides for church planting, especially in Chicago and metro St. Louis. But we must ask how other Illinois ministries can continue to be funded. The Mission Illinois Offering is the single most important factor in answering that question.

Over the past five years, larger state conventions have downsized by a third or more. Smaller state conventions who are much more dependent on NAMB funding have needed to focus their attention more exclusively on church planting, often at the expense of assisting existing churches.

While we in Illinois have also downsized and economized, we’ve done so gradually, without layoffs or major loss of services or ministries. In a sense, we benefit from being “medium-sized,” with enough resources to be somewhat self-sufficient, and yet not so many institutional obligations that limit our options for trimming budgets.

You and your church can help through generous participation in the Mission Illinois Offering. If your church does not collect the Mission Illinois Offering, you can contribute directly. Visit and click on the “donate” tab. Or mail your gift labeled “MIO” directly to IBSA at 3085 Stevenson Dr., Springfield, IL 62703.

And for the record, there’s still no place in the world I’d rather be than here in the middle with you.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond to his column at

This is the Week of Prayer for the Mission Illinois Offering. Pray for our missionaries and that we will reach the $475,000 statewide offering goal.

Giving to the Mission Illinois Offering aids in the continued health and strength of local churches right here in our own state.

This offering supports the salaries of church planters, missionaries, and leadership trainers. It supports campus ministries and reaching the thousands of Illinois college students. It provides ministry supplies, equipping for church leaders, and the mobilization of mission volunteers. But overall, it supports the goal of living out the Great Commission and carrying the gospel to those in Illinois who are lost.

Pray: As Illinois Baptist churches collect the offering this week, pray that hearts will be moved to give.

Pray that God will prompt people to be generous with their resources and that each congregation will reach its goal. Pray that the overall state goal will also be exceeded. And pray about your own financial commitment, that God will reveal how he is calling you personally to support state missions through the Mission Illinois Offering.

Take time to pray today

Mission Illinois Offering: The Week of Prayer

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering at #mio2015

This is the Week of Prayer for the Mission Illinois Offering. Pray for our missionaries and that we will reach the $475,000 statewide offering goal.

Nearly one out of every seven Illinois residents is an immigrant to the United States. Nowhere is cultural diversity more evident than in Chicagoland: 53% Anglo, 22% Hispanic, 18% African American and 7% Asian/ Pacific Islander.

The metro area is also home to a large number of second-generation churches and church plants—congregations reaching out to the children of immigrants.

Pray: For John Yi, an IBSA church planting catalyst in Chicago, as he works with second generation churches who are doing the challenging work of sharing the gospel across cultural boundaries.

Pray also for church planters working to start congregations to reach the state’s numerous people groups, from Effingham, where Tony Munoz helps start new churches among the Hispanic population, to Chicagoland, where planters including Eric Aidoo (Bolingbrook), Cody Lorance (Aurora) and Zhenjun Wang (Clarendon Hills) seek to reach West Africans and East Asians.

Take time to pray today

Mission Illinois Offering – Real Church, Real Faith

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering at #mio2015

MIO Devotions: Day 6 IBSA Staff

Lisa Misner —  September 18, 2015

This is the Week of Prayer for the Mission Illinois Offering. Pray for our missionaries and that we will reach the $475,000 statewide offering goal.

Whether they travel the state for conferences and training events, or specialize in behind-the-scenes work from Springfield, IBSA staff members are called to one mission: helping equip church leaders for missions and evangelism.

Pray: For IBSA executive director Nate Adams and IBSA’s five teams: Church Communications, Church Consulting, Church Cooperation, Church Planting and Church Resources.

Pray for staff members who are often on the road: for Sylvan Knobloch as he helps improve the spiritual health of churches; for Steve Hamrick as he guides church leaders in the areas of worship and technology; and for Rex Alexander as he leads the state’s 1,600 Disaster Relief volunteers.

Pray for leaders who work alongside IBSA staff to equip individuals and churches in areas including chaplaincy (Dan Lovin) and prayer (Phil Miglioratti). Pray also for Philip Hall (Lake Sallateeska) and Nick Candler (Streator) as they direct ministries at IBSA’s two camp facilities.

Take time to pray today

MIO: Reaching College Students

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering at #mio2015

This is the Week of Prayer for the Mission Illinois Offering. Pray for our missionaries and that we will reach the $475,000 statewide offering goal.

Chicago isn’t the only place in need of more churches. New churches are effective at reaching new people, but the work is challenging: Muslims now outnumber Southern Baptists in Illinois.

Nearly 1 million people live in Metro East St. Louis, but in the region there’s only one Southern Baptist church for every 7,889 residents. The state’s northern region has 10 counties with no IBSA church.

Pray: Ask God to call more Illinois leaders into church planting, and surround them with partnering churches to encourage and support their work.

Pray for Van Kicklighter as he leads IBSA’s Church Planting Team, and for church planting facilitators Charles Campbell (Southern Illinois), Eddie Pullen (Metro East) and John Mattingly (Northwest Illinois).

Take time to pray today

Mission Illinois Offering – Against All Odds

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering at #mio2015

This is the Week of Prayer for the Mission Illinois Offering. Pray for our missionaries and that we will reach the $475,000 statewide offering goal.

The spiritual need is great in Metro Chicago, home to 10 million people and only one Southern Baptist church for every 35,105 residents. Let the church-to-people ratio prompt you to pray fervently and frequently for those in the city and suburbs who have never experienced God’s love and the saving power of Jesus Christ.

Pray: Ask God to guide IBSA staff members who are facilitating church planting in Chicagoland: Dennis Conner, Tim Bailey, Edward Jones, and Jorge Melendez. Pray specifically that the seeds planted during this summer’s ChicaGO Week would continue to grow, and that leaders in the city would find favor with their neighbors, schools, and local officials.

Take time to pray today

Mission Illinois Offering – Chicago: Christ is Needed Here

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering at #mio2015