Archives For April 2016

Safe zoneRecently I had an opportunity to attend a conference at one of the schools in the Illinois State University system. The conference was very informative and what I learned should benefit IBSA churches. What I learned walking through the campus may have been an even greater education.

I always enjoy being on college campuses and find the atmosphere invigorating. It’s a world that’s insulated from the stressors of work, dedicated to learning, the exchange of ideas, and full of youthful energy. But as a Christian it seems less and less welcoming.

Posters on the walls of hallways advertised events featuring authors of books on “queer” studies and “Lavender Graduation” ceremonies which the Human Rights Campaign describes as “an annual ceremony conducted on numerous campuses to honor lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and ally students and to acknowledge their achievements and contributions to the University.” The ceremony was scheduled to take place in a
few weeks in one of the rooms where my conference was meeting.

Different offices bore rainbow colored stickers emblazoned with the words, “Safe Zone.” Generally, they denote places where students can “safely” approach those inside about LGBTQ issues. I wondered how welcome I would be to walk inside and discuss Christ.

Like many of us, I consider myself well-read and informed, believing I know what’s going on in our country and culture. However, the reality of the situation hit me like a slap across the face. This is what many students from our churches encounter on their public university campuses everyday. Their beliefs are not celebrated and most likely not welcomed.

We must encourage and disciple the young people in our churches. We must do the same for them on our college campuses, and our churches must reach out to those on the campuses who do not know Christ. The culture is leading the next generation away from Christ, and we must speak truth into that culture—the truth that is Christ.

Christian college students can’t do it alone. Remember yourself as a student and the pressures you faced. Those pressures have only multiplied. Our churches must stand alongside them.

During a break between sessions, I found my way to the restrooms—one marked “men” and another marked “women.” I couldn’t help but wonder who I might encounter inside.

– LMS

Dr. Doug Munton, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of O’Fallon, Illinois

Dr. Doug Munton, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of O’Fallon, Illinois

Doug Munton, pastor of First Baptist Church, O’Fallon, Ill., announced April 26 he will be nominated for First Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Media release — Illinois Pastor Doug Munton to be Nominated for First Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention 

“I am excited to hear that Doug will be nominated for this national role, after experiencing his strong leadership here in Illinois as our state convention president and as longtime pastor of one of our leading churches,” said Illinois Baptist State Association Executive Director Nate Adams. “Doug has all the qualities I would hope for in SBC leadership. He is a conservative, cooperative, humble, thoughtful, missions-hearted pastor who will lead both as statesman and by personal example.”

The nomination will be made by John Marshall, pastor of Second Baptist Church, Springfield, Mo., during the SBC’s annual meeting in St. Louis June 14-15.

Munton, 56, has pastored FBC O’Fallon for more than 20 years, during which time the church has grown from 550 to over 1,600 people in average attendance and has baptized about 2,000 people. In the 2014-15 reporting year, the church gave just over 8% of budget receipts through the Cooperative Program—Southern Baptists unified method of supporting missions and ministry.

He served as president of the Illinois Baptist State Association for two years, and is currently on the SBC’s Committee on Committees. His wife, Vickie, is the president of the Ministers’ Wives Conference this year at the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis. The Muntons have four adult children and will soon have their seventh grandchild.

Asked about his reasons for allowing his name to be submitted in nomination, Munton said, “I want to see a continued move in our Convention towards racial diversity and unity. I want to encourage our churches to participate in missions through support of the Cooperative Program. I hope to encourage prayer for a spiritual awakening in our convention and nation.”

The 2016 Southern Baptist Convention will be held at the America’s Center in St. Louis June 14-15. The election for First Vice President is slated for the Wednesday afternoon business session.

Statements from and about Doug Munton, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of O’Fallon, Illinois

The BriefingTransgender student wins restroom case appeal
In Virginia, federal appellate court has “for the first time ever” held that a public high school may not provide separate restrooms and locker rooms for students on the basis of biological sex alone, according to dissenting judge’s opinion. Although gender identity is not mentioned explicitly in Title IX, the judges said Supreme Court precedent requires that the Department of Education be allowed to interpret its own regulations where ambiguity exists.

#BoycottTarget reaches 500,000 signers
Less than a week after Target, the nation’s second-largest discount retailer, announced that transgender customers may use the restroom that “corresponds with their gender identity,” nearly 500,000 people have signed a #BoycottTarget online petition launched by the American Family Association.

Building the Museum of the Bible
When finished in 2017, the Museum of the Bible will be 430,000 square feet of exhibits dedicated to the Bible. The total cost will exceed $1 billion. The Green family, the same clan that owns the Hobby Lobby retail chain, has put up the seed money behind the project, including about $50 million to purchase the real estate on which the building sits in Washington, D.C.

Pro-abortion baby-shaped cookies
Pro-choicers go to great lengths not to use the term “babies” when it comes to unborn children. Which is what makes it ironic that a University of North Georgia pro-abortion group decide to feature cookies in the shape of said babies to promote keeping abortion legal.

Ga. fires physician for lay sermons
First Liberty Institute has filed a lawsuit for a bivocational lay minister and physician Eric Walsh, alleging the state of Georgia fired him because of sermons he delivered in the pulpit before his employment as a district health director. The termination violates Walsh’s rights to free speech, free exercise of religion and freedom of association guaranteed under the First Amendment, the suit asserts.

Sources: Baptist Press, Religion News, World Magazine, National Review, The Guardian, Baptist Press

debate 2There aren’t many aspects of the current national election that should be emulated at the upcoming Southern Baptist Convention. But here’s one: Messengers in St. Louis would be well served by a candidates’ debate of sorts—a public discussion among those running for SBC president.

There are several reasons to add this kind of discussion to the Convention schedule, starting with the issues poised to be central to the 2016 meeting. The key topics Baptists are beginning to talk about now will be very significant in how the SBC moves forward on matters like supporting missionaries, doing evangelism well, and shaping the denomination’s identity in a post-Christian culture.

Last year’s Convention used panel discussions to offer various perspectives on pressing issues. The format could translate easily to a conversation about what each candidate sees as the key issues facing the SBC, and why they feel they’re qualified for the job.

Furthermore, each of the announced candidates has proven they’re willing to work with the larger Baptist family to accomplish shared goals. David Crosby worked with other pastors in New Orleans to help rebuild the city following Hurricane Katrina. Steve Gaines was part of the committee that revised The Baptist Faith and Message in 2000. J.D. Greear has shared platforms and panels with a variety of thinkers from across the Convention.

Surely they’d be willing to share their ideas about the SBC and its future if it meant more messengers (voters) would have a clearer picture of who they believe can lead it best.

Blogger and pastor Dave Miller recently noted what is perhaps the most practical reason for a debate: Everybody’s talking about this stuff already.

Miller advocated in a March post on SBC Voices that Baptists break with tradition and encourage campaigning for the office of SBC president, with one of his main reasons being that “politicking” has always been a part of the process, just a behind-the-scenes part. With the rise of social media, Miller wrote, “we have the opportunity to hear from our candidates.”

Yes, prior to the Convention, we can hear from the candidates through one-on-one interviews and podcasts. But let’s go one step further. Let’s have a civil, helpful discourse in St. Louis on the state of the SBC, its current challenges, and how each candidate would direct the denomination toward fulfilling God’s Great Commission to make disciples.

See you in St. Louis?

ib2newseditor —  April 25, 2016

St. Louis map pin2

What takes place at the convention is important—in the meetings and in the streets.

When the national Southern Baptist Convention convenes in St. Louis on June 14, I’m hoping there will be a record number of messengers from Illinois churches present. Among the cities where the SBC has met in recent years, St. Louis is certainly the most accessible to a majority of Illinois churches. But convenience isn’t the main reason I’m hoping to see hundreds, even thousands of messengers from Illinois.

First, this is an important SBC presidential election year. As President Ronnie Floyd is completing his second one-year term, three pastors have announced their intent to be nominated. As in the campaign for U. S. President, there are clear and important differences to be found in the leadership records, public statements, and declared priorities of each person seeking to lead the SBC into the future.

In fact, this year’s candidates have notable differences, not just in ministry experience, but in doctrinal conviction and missions cooperation. Messengers will want to study these in advance of the Convention, and arrive prepared to support the nominee who best represents not only their own churches’ practices and convictions, but also the direction they feel is best for our Great Commission cooperation as Baptist churches in the future.

Through the Illinois Baptist, IBSA.org, and other channels, IBSA is providing churches with objective information about and from the SBC President nominees and other issues anticipated at the Convention. IBSA will host a reception for Illinois Baptists at the St. Louis convention center on Monday night following the Pastors’ Conference and just prior to the convention’s start on Tuesday morning. So please, stay engaged and informed!

It’s also important that representatives from your church arrive as registered messengers, and not just as guests. Remember to elect messengers in advance at a church business meeting and register them online if possible. If you need help with this process, contact us here at IBSA.

A second important reason for coming to St. Louis is the evangelistic opportunity called Crossover that takes place just prior to the Convention. In fact, many Illinois churches could participate in Crossover on Saturday, June 11, return to worship in their own churches on June 12, and return for the Pastors’ Conference and Convention the following week.

Metro East Baptist Association Director of Missions Ronny Carroll and others have been representing the Illinois side of the river in planning this emphasis, which includes a variety of volunteer opportunities. You can find a complete listing online at meba.org/crossover-st-louis-2016/.

The people of the cities where the annual SBC is hosted certainly notice when Southern Baptists come to town. The Southern Baptist Convention is a major event, often covered in the news. Church messengers saturate the convention center, hotels and restaurants, and sometimes outside protesters try to step into the spotlight to advance their agendas.

This very public setting provides a wonderful opportunity for thousands of evangelistic volunteers to come and bring the host city both sacrificial service and the good news of the gospel. What takes place in the reporting, worship and business sessions of the SBC meeting itself is vitally important, and worth our time as messengers from Illinois churches, especially this year. And what takes place out in the streets at Crossover can be eternally significant to those who may meet Christ there. It’s well worth our time, both in St. Louis and in our own communities. And these are two very good reasons why I hope I will see you in St. Louis.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.

TentI often find myself at denominational functions looking around the room and wondering, “What is it that really brings us together here?” Is our unity based simply on an expressed common desire to reach the lost? Or do we gladly join together in mission because we have deeply shared doctrinal convictions?

I’ve found some guidelines in a couple of the smallest books in the Bible, 2 and 3 John. One way to read these short letters (which combine for a total of just 28 verses) is to put them side-by-side as two crucial lessons in cooperation.

First, here is some background to both books: a church planting movement is taking root in the Roman world furthered by traveling missionaries who depend upon support from other Christians, primarily in the form of food and lodging.

In 2 John the tone and feel is one of caution: “Many deceivers have gone out into the world.” “Watch yourselves.” The emphasis is on getting the gospel right. Specifically, some of these traveling missionaries “do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh,” what has been referred to as the “Gnostic heresy.” John speaks soberly of remaining in Christ’s teaching and not going beyond it. He then directs genuine believers: “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your home… for the one who says, ‘Welcome’ to him shares in his evil works.” In other words, don’t cooperate with everyone!

The tenor is different in 3 John. Here John is commending a “dear friend” for his generosity to certain missionaries. The emphasis in this mini-epistle is on getting the gospel out. “You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God.” These missionaries “set out for the sake of the Name” and trusted God to provide through his people. “Therefore, we ought to support such men,” says John. He even calls out a guy named Diotrephes for his independent spirit. “He not only refuses to welcome the brothers himself, but he even stops those who want to do so.” Don’t be like Diotrephes. Don’t cooperate with no one!

2 John teaches us not to make our tent too big. 3 John encourages us not to draw our circle too small. We need both messages.

Notice the disproportionate amount of times the words truth and love occur in these two short letters. We absolutely cannot disconnect them. There are people who have great drive, but do not have good doctrine. We have to be discerning about who we partner with. On the other hand, there are Christians who are cranky and overly separatist. We must be large-hearted and kingdom-minded.

Because of 2 John I know that the Apostle John would applaud the “Conservative Resurgence” in the SBC. Is it not amazing that we have six top-notch seminaries that are committed to robust and orthodox theological training?

At the same time, based on 3 John, I am pretty certain that the Apostle would thoroughly endorse the concept of the Cooperative Program and be thrilled with our North American and International Mission Boards. It is wonderful that we have state and local associations. And is it not telling that we have Directors of Mission and not District Superintendents? We are the people who come up with campaigns like “Million More in ’54.” And I love that I live in what was once a Strategic Focus City, now a SEND City.

However, we have not always gotten this balance right. At times I have seen people approved for work in the SBC based on their passion without an examination of their doctrine. And at other times I have seen people who were well qualified turned away because of a technicality.

In all of our missional zeal, may we never fudge on doctrinal clarity. And in making sure we are all on the same page about what the gospel is, may we make sure we are doing whatever it takes to get the gospel out. If we are truly faithful to Scripture, we will heed the lessons of both 2 and 3 John. But there just might be something to the fact that 2 John comes before 3 John.

Nathan Carter is pastor of Immanuel Baptist in the University District of Chicago.

The BriefingSouthern Baptists called to prayer
On June 14, the entire Tuesday evening session of the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis will be committed to praying for spiritual leaders, our churches, nation, and world. Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd issued the call stating, “the critical need of the hour in America, the state of our churches, the needs of our pastors, the status of our evangelism or lack of it, and the exponential lostness of the world while we are bringing home hundreds of our missionaries… it is time to pray.”

New churches outpace dying ones
America is launching new Protestant churches faster than it loses old ones, attracting many people who previously didn’t attend church anywhere, new LifeWay Research studies show. More than 4,000 new churches opened their doors in 2014, outpacing the 3,700 that closed, according to estimates from 34 denominational statisticians.

Christian women most persecuted
A survey of 192 countries has demonstrated scientifically what many have long known anecdotally to be true: Christian women are more religious than Christian men. The lesser known fact: those women bear the brunt of persecution in the 50 countries where it is hardest to be a Christian.

Tax-exemptions for churches questioned
Massachusetts authorities have challenged the tax-exempt status of a Catholic shrine and retreat center. The center offers daily Masses, religious conferences, a soup kitchen for the hungry, and a Christmas festival of lights. The case which has gone to the state’s supreme court, begs a deeper question: Do religious organizations decide for themselves what they require for their devotional and educational missions, or do municipal tax authorities decide for them?

Porn labeled ‘public health hazard’
The effort to reverse the spread of sexually explicit material and its effects received a boost when Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a resolution saying pornography is establishing “a public health crisis.” The first-of-its-kind resolution, which National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) helped craft and the state legislature approved unanimously, recognizes “the need for education, prevention, research, and policy change” to confront “the pornography epidemic.”

Sources: IB2news, Facts & Trends, Christianity Today, Boston Globe, BPnews.net