Archives For January 2016

The Rescuers

Lisa Misner —  January 28, 2016

Massive cleanup is underway after December floods. Illinois teams put their backs—and hearts—into the work.

Disaster Relief mud-out work in Arnold, Missouri.

During their mud-out work in Missouri, a team from First Baptist Church of Galatia, IL, reporting leading five flood victims to faith in Christ.


When the Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief (DR) team arrived at the home of an elderly Missouri couple, they were initially received with some hesitancy.

“The couple was tormented with questions about why God did this to them,” said Debbie Porter, a member of First Baptist Church, Galatia, and a IBSA Disaster Relief volunteer for the last 11 years. “Also, other groups had already visited them and left much of the work unfinished. They thought we would be there for an hour and do the same, but we stayed until the job was done—nearly 24 work hours.”

The couple’s home was one of thousands impacted by Christmas floodwaters in communities like Arnold, located just south of St. Louis, as well as in Illinois and throughout the Midwest. Porter and her husband, Butch, were part of a team of 13 DR volunteers from Galatia, Carlyle, Eldorado, Carterville and Hamilton County who answered God’s call to help Missouri homeowners with flood damage.

DR garage

Volunteers from FBC Galatia were on the scene in Arnold, Mo., following winter rains that affected thousands of homeowners.


The team spent a week doing “mud-outs,” a process of debris removal, drywall removal, power washing and sanitizing homes. Equipped with a tractor and a homemade platform, Porter said the team was able to pull out even the heaviest and most water-soaked items.

“We went to the home of a retired Baptist minister who has diabetes,” she said. “The guys removed all of his Bibles and his entire ministerial library, as well as six or seven desks and big filing cabinets, all ruined.”

Along with Illinois, DR volunteers from Kansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Michigan, New Mexico and Nebraska have joined the cleanup effort. Dwain Carter, director of Disaster Relief for the Missouri Baptist Convention, said though the floodwater has receded, the need is still great.

“Since Jan. 1 we’ve had 362 accepted work orders and we’ve completed 202,” Carter said. “We’ve had teams come from multiple states into two different areas of St. Louis, some doing mud-outs and some cooking for the Red Cross.”

But though the work has been messy and difficult, Porter said the Lord is working through the muck.

“We meet and pray with the homeowners, but we also come across people and we’re able to tell them about what we’re doing,” she said. “We are staying at First Baptist Church, Arnold, so we get to tell how the church is providing for us and how it’s a great church to get plugged into.”

Porter said working with DR is both an honor and a blessing and she prays that other Illinois Baptists would consider going through the training and join this important and powerful ministry.

“When we come back to our home church from a mission like this, we are enthusiastic and recharged and eager to recruit others to join with us the next time,” she said. “I want to encourage people to not let age or health restrictions stop them.

“Get the training and go where there is a need. It may be one of the greatest joys in your life. We work around medical issues, taking breaks when we need breaks and we don’t push beyond what we know we can do. There is power in numbers.”

As the work continues and more DR teams come to Missouri to help, Carter said all Southern Baptists are able join in the cleanup effort through prayer.

“We need prayers for safety,” he said. “People have been working here for weeks and are getting tired and they need energy and strength. Also, one of the greatest things is that we’ve had at least five people that I know of accept Christ during this time. Please pray for more opportunities to share God’s love.”

For more information about IBSA Disaster Relief, visit or call Rex Alexander, IBSA Disaster Relief Coordinator, at (217) 391-3134.

Kayla Rinker is a reporter living in Missouri.

ILS16 Bumgarner_Tuesday

Bob Bumgarner

The two-day Illinois Leadership Summit kicked off January 26 with nearly 250 leaders from around the state filling the IBSA Building in Springfield.

Keynote speaker Bob Bumgarner led participants through the first two phases of IBSA’s four-phase leadership development process: leading self, leading followers, leading leaders, and leading the organization. Bumgarner, a leadership expert, is executive pastor of Chets Creek Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida.

He shared that character is the focus of leadership development. “Leading myself is a growing self-awareness of who I am, what my strengths are and where I am headed coupled with the character, commitment, and competence required to get there.”

More simply, he said, “We have to understand that before we can lead others well, we have to learn to lead ourselves.”

Bumgarner shared, “When we develop our heart we are accepting our assignment. The goal for personal responsibility is accepting responsibility for our actions when we lead… We don’t do that because it’s our job, we do that because it’s our calling.”

Stressing the importance of good leadership, Bumgarner noted, “Our impact on the people we lead either makes them better or worse.”

The job of the leader is to help the people your leading see and shape the future. “These are people who said I will trust and follow you,” he said. “What do you really want to accomplish? Until you tell them what you want to accomplish, they don’t know how to contribute.”

The Illinois Leadership Summit is part of IBSA’s ongoing leadership development plan. The conference features 27 speakers in 32 breakout sessions, including some Illinois pastors sharing experiences from their churches.

The Summit continues January 27. For coverage of the event, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. #ILS16

Update: Saeed Abedini has returned to Boise, Idahio, and has seen his children. In developing news, Saeed’s wife Naghmeh has filed a domestic relations case against him today (Jan. 27).

Saeed Abedini was released last week after more than three years in an Iranian prison. Upon his release he was taken to a U.S. Air Force Base in Germany for debriefing and medical assessment, then to the Billy Graham Training Center (the Cove) in Asheville, NC,  for a period of rest and time with his parents. The pastor from Idaho next planned a reunion with his wife, Naghmeh, and their children.

His freedom, part of a prisoner exchange with Iran following that nation’s nuclear disarmament agreement with the U.S. was announced January 16.

In his first media interview since his release from an Iranian prison was announced Jan. 16, Abedini told FOX News’ Greta Van Susteren of the brutal physical and psychological torture he suffered in Iran for three and half years. Abedini prayed hours at times to survive years of abuse and unjust imprisonment in Iran for his Christian faith, and described his prayers as a “wonderful time with the Lord” which he enjoyed.

“I was beaten within to death kind of,” he told Van Susteren in broken English. “God saved me over there.” During a botched trial, the judge closed him in a room where guards beat him so badly with their fists that he suffered internal bleeding in his stomach. And at another time, he said, he was beaten on the face and body with a heavy metal chair.

Abedini’s wife Naghmeh has twice been delayed in seeing him since his prison release. She cancelled plans to visit him in Germany, where he was treated at a U.S. military hospital before his Jan. 21 arrival in the U.S., to give him more time to recover before reuniting with their children Rebekkah and Jacob. She told Baptist Press of plans to meet him Jan. 25 at the Cove, but according to news reports, that visit had also been delayed, Reuters News reported.

“We are ready to welcome him home,” Naghmeh said in a January 17 interview with FOX News, noting that the couple’s young children were making welcome home signs.

Leaders who have long called for the pastor’s release, including Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore, were quick to respond to the news. “Praise God,” he posted.

“The prayers of the Body of Christ all over the world have been answered,” Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said later in a statement released by the ERLC. “This day of celebration should remind us to pray and work all the more for the multitudes still persecuted for their faith all over the world, including in Iran. We hope and long for the day when Iran, and nations like it, are free from those who wish to enslave the conscience at the point of a sword.”

Abedini was serving an eight-year sentence after being arrested in 2012. The pastor, who was raised in Iran and later became an American citizen, had organized Christian house churches in the Muslim country.

The ERLC gave Abedini a religious liberty award in 2014, which his wife accepted on his behalf at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Baltimore. Naghmeh returned to the SBC in 2015, where pastors prayed for her family and her husband’s release during the annual Pastors’ Conference.

During much of his imprisonment, Naghmeh advocated publicly for Saeed, organizing prayer vigils for him and sharing updates on social media. Late last year, though, she stepped back from the public campaign after e-mails she sent to supporters were leaked. The messages noted “physical, emotional, psychological and sexual abuse (through Saeed’s addiction to pornography)” that had marked the couple’s marriage. After her husband’s release, Naghmeh confirmed to the Washington Post that the abuse had started early in their marriage and grew worse during Saeed’s imprisonment.

“When he gets home, we can address the serious issues that have happened and continued,” she said. Naghmeh also told Washington Post religion reporter Sarah Pulliam Bailey that it’s unclear whether her husband will continue to be a pastor.

“I think he would have to deal with a lot of issues,” she said. “There will need to be a time of healing for him and his family.” Evangelist Franklin Graham is “coming alongside our family through the next steps of the difficult journey ahead,” Naghmeh posted on Facebook January 20.

The American Center for Law and Justice, who had lobbied extensively for Abedini’s release, credited God’s intervention for his freedom. “We want to rejoice that the Lord has set these individuals free,” said Chief Counsel Jordan Sekulow.

“At the end of the day, this was a move of God, because so many circumstances had to line up correctly for this to happen, and it did. And that’s not humans doing that; that is the Lord and we were just instruments to do our part.

Eric Reed with additional reporting from Baptist Press.

Split ticket

Evangelicals are divided going into the presidential primaries, and few candidates are courting them.

If there is a nexus of evangelical politics so far in the 2016 presidential election, it may be the platform at the Liberty University arena in Lynchburg, Virginia. The conservative Baptist school founded by Moral Majority leader Jerry Falwell has hosted Democrat Bernie Sanders, Republicans Ben Carson and Ted Cruz (who announced his candidacy there), and most recently Donald Trump.

“Evangelicals love me!” Trump declared. “I’m big with evangelicals.”

With those words Trump reminded Christian and conservative voters of what didn’t seem possible a year ago: Polling shows the New York businessman and former reality TV star is the candidate more evangelicals favor than any other. Perhaps it’s because few candidates are overtly courting “the evangelical vote.” And while Trump and Cruz are leaders among likely evangelical voters, the bloc is split.

Evangelicals’ influence was still a factor in the presidential election four years ago, when pundits wondered whether they’d get behind a Mormon, Mitt Romney, and whether he would miss their support if they didn’t.

With faith seeming to be less at issue in this campaign cycle, some surmise the waning evangelical influence wondered about in 2012 is a reality in 2016. “You cannot, if you’re a Republican [candidate] ignore the evangelical bloc, because it’s such a large percentage of the Republican voting electorate,” Andrew Walker, director of policy studies for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, told the Illinois Baptist.

But, “I think that our issues as a share of the electorate have tragically become less influential,” he added. For example, when President George W. Bush won the Republican nomination and then ree

The Trump factor

FOX News released a poll Jan. 9 that showed Cruz (33%) leading Trump (26%) among voters who call themselves “very” conservative. But among evangelical Christians, the poll showed Trump at 28% over Cruz’s 26%.

Another poll released Jan. 12 by The New York Times and CBS showed evangelicals supporting Trump by 42% over Ted Cruz at 25%.

The New York Times reported Jan. 18 it had interviewed “dozens of evangelical voters in 16 states” about their support for Trump. According to the Times, the voters called him “a decent man who simply wanted to get things done.”

They also believed “that his heart was in the right place, that his intentions for the country were pure, that he alone was capable of delivering to a troubled country salvation in the here and now.”

But Trump’s stump stop in Lynchburg raised more questions than it answered. Trump told the audience Christianity is under attack and as president he would defend it. “You look at the different places, and Christianity, it’s under siege. We’re going to protect Christianity. If you look at what’s going on throughout the world—you look at Syria, where if you’re Christian, they’re chopping off heads.” That drew cheers. But when Trump quoted Liberty’s theme verse, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” from 2 Corinthians 3:17, he said “Two Corinthians” rather than “Second Corinthians” and drew chuckles from the student-audience and guffaws on social media.

Washington Post religion writer Sarah Pulliam Bailey later pointed out “Two Corinthians” is a common British pronunciation and Trump’s mother is of Scottish origin. Trump describes himself as Presbyterian, but not as born again.

CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Trump if he regrets past remarks he made about his faith—that he has never asked God for forgiveness—and whether he believes those remarks hurt his chances with Christian voters.

Trump replied he has no regrets.

“I have a very great relationship with God, and I have a very great relationship with evangelicals, and I think that’s why I’m doing so well with Iowa,” Trump said.

“This would be hilarious if it weren’t so counter to the mission of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” ERLC President Russell Moore tweeted during Trump’s presentation. Moore later talked to CNN’s Erin Burnett about his sharp response to the candidate’s speech.

“I think the problem was this is someone who as recently as yesterday has said that he has nothing to seek forgiveness for,” Moore said, noting Trump’s marital history, involvement in the gambling industry, and use of racially charged language.

Last September, Moore wrote an op-ed piece for The New York Times that asked, “Have evangelicals who support Trump lost their values?” Perhaps the question now, a few months later, is exactly which evangelicals are supporting him?

“I would say that Ted Cruz is leading in the ‘Jerry Falwell’ wing, Marco Rubio is leading the ‘Billy Graham’ wing and Trump is leading the ‘Jimmy Swagger’ wing,” Moore told Roll Call for an article which asked, “Can Marco Rubio appeal to evangelicals?”

The article went on to explain the comments:
‘…meaning that Cruz has largely followed the classic Moral Majority model that was the face of the conservative movement—he has received endorsements from figures such as Focus on the Family founder James Dobson—while Trump ‘tends to work most closely with the prosperity wing of Pentecostalism’ which tends to believe that God would financially reward believers.”

“I personally question the so-called fanfare that Trump has among evangelicals. I sense, instead, that Donald Trump’s main appeal is to a segment of the population that is burnt out and feels disenfranchised by an American culture and economy that has seemingly passed them by,” said Moore’s colleague Andrew Walker.

Walker called Trump’s appearance, and his apparent support by Jerry Falwell Jr., who has succeeded his late father, “embarassing.”

“It sets the maturing of Christian politics back and it alienates greatly younger evangelicals who are searching for a political identity as Christians, but know that what we saw at Liberty is not acceptable for them.”

Who will get their vote?

“You see definitely different strategies with candidates right now, and how they are lining up and trying to get the evangelical constituency,” Walker said.

For example, he noted, Cruz, a Southern Baptist, is reaching out to traditionalists who would have a “take back America for God” mentality, whereas Rubio, a Roman Catholic, “speaks the evangelical language as well as anyone, but he’s not doing it in a Christian America template.” His “common good Christianity” sees it less as recovering Christian America, and more as bringing Christian values into the public square, in order to shape the public square for righteousness’ sake, Walker said.

That mentality may fare better with younger evangelicals who are cynical about moral majority politics, he said. While no less political than their elders, “they’re trying to do Christian politics less through the vein of ‘let’s take back America for God,’ and more as ‘let’s bring our Christian values into the public square for the sake of the common good.’”

Democrats, meanwhile, are making no overt approaches to evangelicals in Iowa, where there is a substantial bloc, or in New Hampshire, where there is almost none. Other than his Liberty University appearance, where Sanders, who is Jewish, was received politely if not warmly, Democrats have kept quiet on religion.

Hillary Clinton, a United Methodist, commented when she was First Lady that she had Bible verse cards in her purse. Her most recent comment on faith was visual rather than verbal: On Face the Nation last week, Clinton wore a necklace with a cross that also appeared to have symbols of other religions. The strategy for Democrats, and many Republicans as well, is to keep it ecumenical, or better yet, keep it quiet on religion.

A Christian’s responsibility

“One of the things that is really important for Christians to realize is that we are both citizens of God’s Kingdom and our country,” Mark Quintanilla, history professor at Hannibal-LaGrange University in Hannibal, Missouri, told the Illinois Baptist. “In our political views we need to be searching for what God would have us to do.”

In Southern Baptist life, some leaders have spoken clearly about particular candidates. Others are saying simply, pray about it and do your duty.

The outgoing president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, Tommy Kelly, has endorsed Cruz. The ERLC has critiqued Trump among others, while some of their staff have tweeted favorably about Rubio. Saddleback Community Church pastor Rick Warren has served on Rubio’s advisory committee, but has declined to endorse him.

President of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Franklin Graham is traveling to the capitals of all 50 states this year. His “Decision America Tour” urges Christians to vote and to elect candidates who “stand for biblical principles and biblical truth,” Graham told NBC.

Frank Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, outlined the importance of Christian citizenship and participation in the election process in a recent Baptist Press article, citing Romans 13:3-7. “We know that God’s purpose through government is to aid the good and punish the evil…Assuming that the government fulfills its purpose, one reason for obeying our laws would be the fear of punishment. However, for Christians there is a more worthy motive, namely to be good citizens as part of being a positive Christian witness in society.”

Page said he is “aware that we are in the midst of one of the most interesting election cycles in our history. There is deep division in our country as to what needs to happen in the days ahead.” He urged Christians to be involved in the election process. “To relegate that responsibility to nonbelievers is irresponsible at best.”

Quintanilla cautioned Christians, “When we nominate or elect a candidate we must scrutinize which of them lives up to our Christian ideals. As nice as it is to vote our pocketbooks, I’m not sure that this should be our direction.” Analyzing comments from evangelicals in social media, he said, “It is concerning, the views people have and the lack of concern about our higher calling.

“We need to scrutinize the candidates and their views,” Quintanilla said. “As ambassadors of Christ, we are to be mindful that we are a reflection of God’s Kingdom.

– Illinois Baptist team report by Meredith Flynn, Lisa Sergent, and Eric Reed.

The BriefingNY Times interviews SBC President on race & reconciliation
The New York Times interviewed Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd and National Baptist Convention USA President Jerry Young about their public conversation late last year on racial reconciliation in Jackson, Miss.

Evangelicals for Life Conf. bolsters ‘burden’ for unborn
The first Evangelicals for Life conference, co-sponsored by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and Focus on the Family, set out to increase participation by evangelicals in the annual March for Life on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The predominantly young audience arrived days ahead of the march (and winter storm Jonas) to select from presentations by nearly 40 evangelical pro-life leaders who taught how to extend their influence with a broader, more diverse base of support.

Terrorists kill 7 missionaries in Burkina Faso
The director of an orphanage and six others were among 28 people killed in an attack by Al Qaeda-linked militants in Burkina Faso. American Michael Riddering and his wife, Amy, had served with the missions group Sheltering Wings in the West African nation since 2011. The other six killed were Canadians on three-week mission trip. Also that day, two missionaries from Australia were kidnapped.

0.0% of Icelanders under 25 believe God created the world
Less than half of Icelanders claim they are religious and more than 40% of young Icelanders identify as atheist. Remarkably the poll failed to find young Icelanders who accept the creation story of the Bible. 93.9% of Icelanders younger than 25 believed the world was created in the big bang, 6.1% either had no opinion or thought it had come into existence through some other means and 0.0% believed it had been created by God.

Study: monthly porn exposure the norm for teens
Half of teenagers and nearly three-quarters of young adults come across pornography at least monthly, and both groups on average consider viewing pornographic images less immoral than failing to recycle. The new study by Josh McDowell Ministry and the Barna Group also found porn use is on the rise among young women and that 14 percent of senior pastors surveyed “currently struggle with using porn.”

Sources: Baptist Press, Christianity Today, Facts & Trends, Iceland Magazine

The State of the Mission

Lisa Misner —  January 25, 2016

Nate Adams State of the MissionI’m writing this the day after watching President Obama’s final State of the Union Address. After almost an hour of evidence and persuasion, the President neared the end of his address by declaring, “And that’s why I stand here, as confident as I have ever been, that the state of our Union is strong.”

A few minutes later, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley delivered the Republican response, acknowledging that President Obama “spoke eloquently about grand things,” and that “he is at his best when he does that.” Then she quickly added, “Unfortunately, the President’s record has often fallen short of his soaring words.” She went on to describe what she called a weak economy, a crushing national debt, an ineffective healthcare plan, chaotic unrest in many cities, and “the most dangerous terrorist threat our nation has seen since September 11th.”

And so viewers were left to wonder which facts to believe, which leader to trust, and which picture of America is most accurate.

I understand the dilemma, though. Here at IBSA, we are at the time of year when we cumulate and analyze data from almost a thousand churches’ Annual Church Profiles (ACPs).

Looking at some measurements, the state of our mission here in Illinois appears strong, at least compared to the previous year. The number of new church plants rebounded from 7 in 2014 to 22 in 2015. Cooperative Program missions giving was up 1.5% in 2015, and Mission Illinois Offering giving was up more than 10%. Mission trip participation remained strong at just under 24,000 volunteers.

But other measurements might produce a different picture. Baptisms reported by IBSA churches in 2015 are down from 2013 for the second straight year, and overall worship attendance and Bible study participation were flat to down as well.

My primary concern is that, in total, our churches’ statewide, cumulative impact on lostness in Illinois is not growing, at least not numerically.

President Obama quipped near the beginning of his address that he would try to be brief, because he knew there were several in Congress who were anxious to get back to Iowa (to campaign for the 2016 Presidential election). His joke underscored the reality that, whatever you may think about the current state of things, the more important issue is where we go from here.

To advance our mission here in Illinois, I would challenge us toward two primary imperatives—evangelism and leadership development.

I wrote recently about five actions in churches that, statistically speaking, most often result in people coming to faith in Christ. They are an evangelistic prayer strategy, Vacation Bible School, witness training, outreach events, and starting intentional new groups. If your church could use some help in these areas, our IBSA staff would love to assist.

I would also challenge us all to develop leaders more intentionally in our churches. At this month’s Illinois Leadership Summit, more than 200 church leaders are gathering at the IBSA Building in Springfield to explore what it means to “lead self, lead followers, lead leaders, and lead organizations” more effectively. Even if you miss the Summit, our IBSA staff will welcome the opportunity to help you and your church leaders with an intentional leadership development process.

In many ways, the state of our churches’ mission here in Illinois is still strong. But to keep it that way, and to advance the gospel into the lostness of Illinois, we must recommit to the important work of evangelism and leadership development.

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


This is the time of year when millions of Americans tune in to hear our president give his State of the Union address. He will give his assessment of our national security, our priorities and our vision for the future.

This is a tricky word — “our.”

These days it seems as if America can hardly find “our vision” for anything, much less the future. Our nation is deeply polarized around our political parties and is totally unrelenting in fighting against one another. Despite growing national security threats, violence erupting, escalating racial tensions, the devaluing of human life and economic insecurity, we find ourselves unable to agree on almost anything.

What’s especially alarming to me, serving as the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, is that we fail to realize how the spiritual health of our nation affects the state of our union. As our spiritual lives go, so goes the nation.

It wasn’t meant to be this way in America. One of the reasons our founders so cemented Judeo-Christian principles in our nation is because they were skeptical of men’s ability to govern themselves. America would be a nation first subject to God — and subject to His higher law — so that our respect for our creator would provide a baseline for our “more perfect union.”

We would at least be united around important things when we couldn’t find unity among many things. Where are the leaders in America today who can bring people together, rather than separate us?

Our founders knew that the moment we no longer saw ourselves subject to God — and to His higher law — that we would begin to fight over everything in an attempt to gather God’s authority for ourselves.

When our political leaders and the people of America lack fear of God, we become subject to that awful temptation we find in Judges 17:6 — “to do what is right in their own eyes.”

Since the beginning of time, we have been tempted to be like God. And when a nation’s leaders and her people lose their fear of God and replace it with their own authority, we begin to live in a kind of chaotic unity — not with one another — but in an unholy union with the very sin that brought sin to earth in the Garden of Eden. Aside from all of the others, we fail to follow the very first commandment given to us through Moses, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

In America, we have replaced God with government and granted politicians the ability to circumvent God’s higher law at will. It is our fault as citizens because we are a country that elects our leaders.

While we profess to remain “one nation under God” — and while we have inscribed such belief on our currency and in marble all over the nation’s capital — we seem to be more interested in “God bless America” than in actually being “one nation under God.”

The first phrase infers what we want from God while the second phrase infers what God requires. We want His blessing, but His blessing comes with our being subject to His authority.

Rarely is God ever mentioned in the State of the Union address except with that customary salutation, “God bless America.” It’s all about what we can get from God and less about what we need from Him.

So, what is the actual spiritual state of our union?

It is very simple.

We need to repent, come back to God and put our trust in God alone. America needs a Great Spiritual Awakening.

Now is the time to elect leaders who fear God and we need to learn to fear God again ourselves.

We need not say phrases like “God Bless America” because they are our tradition. We need to speak them with a holy reverence for God’s authority, for without God there never would have been an America at all, and without God at its center, America would not exist as it has.

I’m trusting that 2016 is a year where we apply a simple verse from 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

Ronnie Floyd is serving his second one-year term as president of the Southern Baptist Convention. He is senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas. This column first appeared on his blog,


The Briefing‘Saeed Is Free:’ wife offers thanks
Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of released Pastor Saeed Abedini, has thanked President Barack Obama, the Rev. Franklin Graham, the various groups that campaigned for her husband’s release, and the millions of people around the world who signed petitions for the cause. “I wanted to say thank you to all of you for having prayed and have wept with us, have signed petitions and have called your government officials. Thank you for having stood with our family during this difficult journey,” Abedini wrote on Facebook.

LGBT activist group targets Baptist schools
The homosexual activist group Human Rights Campaign has targeted 23 institutions of higher learning with Southern Baptist ties in a report that also names 35 other colleges and universities with distinct Christian identities. The report, “Hidden Discrimination: Title IX Religious Exemptions Putting LGBT Students at Risk,” asks education officials to increase reporting requirements for these 58 schools because each was granted “exemptions of interest” relating to either “gender identity” or “sexual orientation” or both.

SBC entities: Mandate violates religious liberty
The Obama administration’s abortion/contraception mandate forces Christians to violate either their religious beliefs or the government’s rules, Southern Baptist entities have told the U.S. Supreme Court. In a friend-of-the-court brief filed Jan. 11, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), the International Mission Board (IMB) and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary — as well as Southern’s president, R. Albert Mohler Jr. — urged the high court to rule the controversial, federal regulation infringes religious freedom.

Boy and girl locker rooms going extinct on U.S. coasts
At the end of 2015, two human rights commissions over 2,800 miles apart enacted new rules that could be precedent-setting for the gender battle across the nation, including giving people the right to use whichever locker rooms and bathrooms they choose. Now, concerns abound in Washington State and New York City over bathroom safety and privacy in wake of the transgender policies enacted last month by unelected officials.

Catholic hospital can’t be forced to do sterilizations
A California judge declined Thursday to force a Catholic hospital to facilitate a sterilization procedure for a woman who’s having a scheduled C-section at the facility later this month. “Religious-based hospitals have an enshrined place in American history and its communities, and the religious beliefs reflected in their operation are not to be interfered with by courts at this moment in history,” Superior Court Judge Ernest Goldsmith said.

Sources: Baptist Press, Christian Post, World Magazine

Praying for revival

Lisa Misner —  January 18, 2016

College students focus of Jan. 22 meeting

A pastor in Southern Illinois is calling Christians across the state to meet together this month to pray and fast for spiritual awakening among the more than 850,000 college students in Illinois.

Phil Nelson, pastor of Lakeland Baptist Church in Carbondale, sent a letter to Illinois Baptist churches late last year, urging churches toward increased prayer for and involvement on college campuses.

“In 1985 when I came as a campus pastor to Southern Illinois University, we had over 1,000 students that claimed to be associated with a Baptist church in Illinois, but just four years ago our list from the university of students who claimed an association with a Baptist church was less than 50,” Nelson wrote.

“In a state where over 850,000 are enrolled in college work we have very few viable ministries to our American students. This cannot be our position any longer for the sake of the Gospel in the lives of our children and young adults.”

Nelson said the idea for the prayer meetings began to take shape at the 2015 IBSA Annual Meeting, where he connected with potential host pastors. Four churches so far have committed to host a prayer meeting on January 22, and there is still time for more to sign on, Nelson said. The four sites currently are:

• Evanston Baptist Church, Evanston

• College Avenue Baptist Church, Normal

• First Baptist Church, Bethalto

• Stonefort Missionary Baptist Church, Stonefort

Each meeting will begin at 9 p.m. and end at 6 the next morning. Each hour of prayer is divided into several segments and will include times of group prayer, worship and fellowship. Pray-ers are invited to come and go, Nelson said.

The format is based on a prayer gathering he attended in 1976, shortly after he became a Christian as a college student at Southern Illinois University. That meeting “changed the campus make-up at Carbondale,” Nelson told the Illinois Baptist. He shared more about the experience in his letter to churches:

“I participated in an all-night prayer meeting where many evangelical campus ministries came together to pray and fast throughout the night and ask God to bring an awakening on our campus,” Nelson wrote.

“That spring we saw many students in every ministry come to trust Christ and many of those who trusted Christ are now still spread across this globe in active evangelical ministries to this day.”

For more information about the January 22 prayer meetings, contact Nelson at or (618) 529-4906.


The weekend weatherman surprised us, not with his forecast but with an off-hand remark. Following a news story about the mounting Powerball jackpot that promised to make someone a billionaire, the anchor cheerleading for Lotto asked him, “What would you do if you won? Where would you be the next day?”

“I’d be right here,” he responded, “because I don’t play the lottery.”

Good for you, weather guy. You’d expect Russell Moore and Al Mohler to sound off on the folly of the lottery. And Baptist pastors were certain to preach and blog on the sinfulness of gambling. But the TV meteorologist? And what about the law professor at a secular university who declared this massive state-run lottery “our national disgrace.”

Ultimately three winners split almost $1.6-Billion in what a radio reporter called “a shot at the American dream.”

Really? The American dream once was owning your own home and being able to send your kids to college. But as that dream moves farther out of reach for many people, a new concept of the “dream” has been blown out of proportion by greed. Perhaps it’s greed that’s our national disgrace.

Many would nominate abortion as chief of our national sins, and it certainly qualifies. Or moral decline or child abuse or drug use or racism or gun violence or failing education or our inability to shut down terrorists. But what prompted Colorado attorney and Salon writer Paul Campos to cite Powerball as such a disgrace is the impact it has on those who can least afford to play the “game.”

Americans spent $70-Billion on state lotteries in 2014. That’s an average of $285 per U.S. adult. But only half of the adult population buys tickets, so the average amount spent by actual players is about $570. And, as Campos points out, 20% of the players buy 70% of the tickets. One in eight U.S. adults spends $1,800 per year on the lottery, including in equal proportions households making less that $15,000 per year.

Campos contends “what drives much of the spending on lottery tickets, and especially the spending by poor people, is not some lighthearted search for a cheap thrill, but genuine despair….The eagerness with which almost every state government exploits the desperation of its most hopeless citizens is a national disgrace.”

Quotable: The lottery’s real losers

“…The reality is that, regardless of who wins the Powerball, it is the poorest in our communities that are guaranteed to lose.

Casinos and lotteries are marketed directly to those people who most feel compelled to get more money quickly, and therefore, have less hesitancy to spending part—or all—of their income trying to do so.

It’s not hard to see that gambling is a form of economic predation. Gambling grinds the faces of the poor into the ground.”

– Russell Moore (from

“Many economists have noted… that most lottery sales, and most lottery sales outlets, are actually in the most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods in American cities.

Governments are targeting the most economically disadvantaged, knowing that they are most likely to buy lottery tickets because they feel they have very little to lose and because they are easily persuaded that there is at least a possibility, albeit a very small possibility, that they will all of the sudden strike it rich.

We need to understand that the state is putting itself in the position of economically exploiting its own citizens. As one major economist famously remarked, a lottery is basically a tax on the stupid.”

– Al Mohler  (from The Briefing, 1/11/2016)