Archives For May 2016

The BriefingSanctity of life argued after gorilla killing
The protests after Cincinnati Zoo officials killed a gorilla to protect the life of a young boy reveals a modern confusion over the dignity and sanctity of human life. Al Mohler says this confusion is not only a matter concern, but one of deadly significance as some call the endangered animal’s death “worse than murder.”

Pro-abortion bill on governor’s desk
Last week, the Illinois House passed SB 1564 by a vote of 61-54 — a bill that would force doctors, nurses, and pharmacists to distribute information to help patients find morally objectionable medical services such as abortion, sterilization, and certain end-of-life care. This proposal was passed by the Illinois Senate in 2015 by a vote of 34-19. The bill now awaits Governor Bruce Rauner’s signature.

Methodists reverse abortion support
The UMC held its quadrennial General Conference (GC) and considered more than a thousand resolutions. LGBTQ activists, anti-Israel advocates, and pro-choice “reproductive rights” feminists all lobbied to liberalize the denomination. Instead, the denomination moved in the opposite direction, making substantive progress toward a biblically-founded social witness.

States sue over Obama restroom rules
Eleven states and two school districts filed a lawsuit challenging President Barack Obama’s directive demanding all federally funded schools apply a controversial interpretation of Title IX requiring schools to define a student’s sexual identity based not on biological traits, but on feelings. Declaring the federal demands are “unlawful” and “capricious and arbitrary,” the lawsuit calls for a permanent injunction preventing the administration from implementing and enforcing its rules.

Christians lead NBA teams to finals
NBA watchers called the Western Conference finals one of the most exciting playoff series ever, with two excellent teams led by two men known for their basketball prowess and outspoken Christian witness: Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant. It’s Curry’s team that will now take on the Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers.


Sources:, Illinois Family Institute,, Baptist Press, WORLD Magazine

Headline prayers

ib2newseditor —  May 30, 2016

Today’s headlines are driving me frequently to deeper and more desperate prayer. Many of us probably whisper something like “God help them” when we see a tragedy reported on the news. But I’m not primarily referring to headlines about a natural disaster, or a rare, heinous crime by an isolated, evil person. The headlines driving me to deeper prayer are those that reveal a declining morality in our culture that seems more and more widely accepted.

My main dose of these daily headlines usually comes in the early morning while I’m exercising in front of the TV. As I flip from one news channel to another, I more and more regularly see behaviors and lifestyles and decisions that would have been considered shameful or scandalous a generation ago. Now they are reported as progressive, or even normal. And the proud spokespeople for many of these decadent trends are interviewed by often adoring news anchors, as if they were the civil rights voices of today.

I often find myself asking “Help them, help us, help me.”

Unrestricted freedom of individual choice, preference, and expression seem to have become idols in American culture today. Just this past week, a story and its follow up interview so shocked and deflated me that I moaned out loud, “Oh God, help them!”

“Help them to see the deception they have bought into, and the damage they are doing, and the long-term consequences of the sinful lifestyle they are advocating, both to themselves and to others. Convict them of sin, God, and show them the same mercy and grace that you show me when you convict me of my sin.”

But as the disturbing interview went on, I also found my prayer deepening. “Yes, God, help them, but also help us! Your gospel had no voice in that headline, and your church had no spokesperson in that panel discussion. Interviewer and interviewee alike just presented that issue totally void of biblical perspective or truth. God, don’t let that happen! Don’t let millions of viewers gradually learn to accept that position as true and normative. Give your truth a voice through your people!”

The story passed, and I don’t know what was on the screen next, because my prayer was driven even deeper. “Yes God, help them, and help us. But oh God, help me too!  My voice is so silent. My life is so impotent. My efforts to carry the truth of your word and the power of your gospel are so weak. I’m going to go to the office in a few minutes to answer some e-mails, sit in some meetings, and move some projects along. But what will I have personally done to make any difference in the cultural decline I have just witnessed?”

My feeling of powerlessness was frustrating. And that frustration made me angry. I found myself wanting to pray for God’s righteous judgment to simply fall upon these people, and upon our land if necessary, and make it all right again.

But I’ve learned to be careful, even fearful, about calling for God’s judgment. I am too often deserving of it myself. And when I was most deserving of it, when I was still a sinner by lifestyle and choice, when I was just as far from God as the frustrating people in the headlines, that’s when God in Christ reached out to me in mercy, and with conviction and grace and forgiveness. And he still does that today.

So I am meeting the morning headlines these days with these three prayers: God, help them. Help us. Help me. I invite you to join me in these prayers.

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

Governor Rauner crop

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner

Religion and faith were on display at the Illinois Governor’s Prayer Breakfast as around 200 Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, and others gathered at the Executive Mansion in Springfield May 26.

Yet, even in this setting with representatives of several religions, Jesus was lifted up. The gospel was clearly presented in song through the harmonies of The Gibson Girls, Scripture readings from Isaiah 2:1-4 and John 17, and prayer.

At the event, Governor Bruce Rauner asked attendees to pray for the state government. “I hope you will join us and people all around the state of Illinois in prayer. Keep us in your prayers. We need prayers for inspiration and to have good judgment.”

He also shared from his own personal faith background. His father is Catholic, while his mother is Swedish Lutheran. Rauner said he was baptized and confirmed in the Episcopalian Church and his wife is Jewish. “We have interesting conversations around the dinner table,” he joked.

But Rauner said he was inspired by his grandparents’ faith and the lessons they taught him: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” from Luke 6:31 and “For whom much is given, much shall be required,” from Luke 12:48. He spoke of the responsibility he felt after earning his own wealth, and said it was their examples that lead him to set up a charitable foundation to give to causes as well as to serve.

The governor shared about the importance of continuing the tradition of the breakfast, which some feared would not take place this year. In early May, a member of the organization that normally hosts the event, told media the breakfast would not be held due to state budget problems. Upon hearing the news, the Rauner expressed his disappointment and his office sought sponsors to host the event. Three organizations — the Abundant Faith Christian Center, the One Nation Under God Foundation, and the Illinois Executive Mansion Association — stepped up to sponsor the event, held every year since 1963. No government dollars were used to pay for this years event.

Bob Vanden Bosch, chairman of the One Nation Under God Foundation, told the Springfield State-Journal Register last week, “For us, this is a faith initiative. It’s not something that’s political. … I believe that prayer could be used by the state of Illinois right now.”

The event did include a reading from the Koran, but the overall tone of the event was Judeo-Christian.

Illinois Southern Baptists were represented at the event by two of the Illinois Baptist newspaper’s editors, Eric Reed and Lisa Sergent.

The BriefingFloyd among evangelicals to meet with Trump
Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd is among 500 evangelicals and other conservatives planning to meet with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump about his faith and values at a June 21 meeting in New York. Floyd is part of a small group of leaders to spearhead the meeting as the steering committee.

Trump’s other outreach efforts include an address at the Washington conference of conservative Christians sponsored by the Faith & Freedom Coalition and Concerned Women for America June 10.

Military chaplains need the Russell Amendment
Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives kept in place an amendment to this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that protects the rights of military chaplains. The Russell Amendment is a provision that applies to the religious exemption of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to federal contractors. It provides important protection to chaplains who have substantial discretion to supplement religious support programs via Department of Defense contractors and vendors.

Methodists postpone debate of LGBT issues
Amid protest, song and fears of a denominational breakup, United Methodists at their quadrennial General Conference decided yet again not to decide anything regarding LGBT rights. However, delegates voted 428-405 to allow the church’s Council of Bishops to appoint a commission to discuss whether to accept same-sex marriage or ordain LGBT clergy.

Same-sex marriage advocates work to oust WY judge
In what could be the nation’s first religious litmus test for holding a judicial post, the Wyoming Supreme Court is being asked to dismiss a municipal court judge because of her biblical views about marriage. Attorneys for Judge Ruth Neely argue the efforts of an unelected state commission to remove her from office are rooted in religious bias and misinterpretation of the law.

Churches hosting job fairs
Churches are partnering with Church Job Fairs, a faith-based organization that helps churches plan and promote job recruitment events. The events take place in local churches for the local community. The idea is simple: A church is meant to be a place of hope, encouragement, and love to its community. So why not host a job fair in a church and meet both physical and spiritual needs?

Sources: Baptist Press, Religion News, The Hill, Religion News, Baptist Press, WORLD Magazine


Online registration by messengers urged; big prayer meeting Tuesday night

Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd has clear objectives in mind for Baptists meeting June 14-15 in the Gateway City. When they depart from St. Louis, he told Baptist Press, he’s praying they will do so with a “deep burden for our nation, a new commitment to racial unity and an extraordinary commitment to evangelize America.”

Floyd, completing his second one-year term as SBC President, is planning the second-annual Convention-wide prayer meeting for the Tuesday evening session in St. Louis. “A National Call to Prayer for Spiritual Leadership, Revived Churches, Nationwide and Global Awakening” will feature SBC leaders and pastors, with music by Keith and Kristyn Getty, the composers of modern hymns including “In Christ Alone.”

“Here is what I know: If we do not plan to pray, we will not pray!” Floyd blogged in April.

“It is past time for us to prioritize prayer, both personally and in the church, as well as in our Southern Baptist Convention. For far too long, we have seen what we can do; it is time for us to see what God can do. This can only happen when we pray.”

The 2015 prayer meeting highlighted the need for racial unity and diversity in the SBC. In St. Louis, African American pastor Jerry Young, president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., will participate in the prayer meeting and also in a Tuesday morning session titled “A National Conversation on Racial Unity in America.” Marshall Blalock, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charleston, S.C., also will join the conversation.

“With the racial unrest in St. Louis due to what happened in Ferguson in August of 2014, Southern Baptists will have a strong opportunity to represent Christ through Crossover ministry in the city,” Floyd said, noting the evangelistic effort prior to the Convention.

“I believe we will leave St. Louis with a powerful, strong, clear and encouraging testimony of the need for loving one another, regardless of the color of one’s skin.”

In addition to racial unity, the convention will include a panel discussion on pastors, churches and politics, and a Q&A session with SBC entity leaders, who will answer questions from messengers.

Meeting highlights

The North American and International Mission Boards will host a Sending Celebration to conclude the Convention Wednesday afternoon. NAMB also will launch “Send Relief,” an initiative to train church members to engage their communities with gospel-centered compassion ministries.

Prior to the convention, NAMB will host several ministry opportunities in the St. Louis area, including a partnership with First Baptist Church, Ferguson, Mo., to give away Backpacks of Hope and host a carnival for Ferguson children. Southern Baptist volunteers, in partnership with the Red Cross, will also go door-to-door to install free smoke detectors for Ferguson residents.

“We hope Southern Baptists can walk away from the convention this year knowing that there is a very attainable ministry that they can be involved with that will help them engage with and reach their community,” said David Melber, NAMB’s vice president for Send Relief.

The mission board also will operate mobile dental and medical clinics in St. Louis, and plans to make the units available to churches desiring to do similar ministry in their communities.

LifeWay Christian Resources will screen two movies during the Convention, including “The Insanity of God,” a documentary featuring real-life stories of persecuted Christians around the world. The film, produced by the International Mission Board, is based on the book of the same name by Nik Ripken.

“The Insanity of God” will be shown free of charge in Ferrara Theatre at America’s Center Monday, June 13, at 9 p.m. Tickets are not required, but seating will be limited. LifeWay Films will screen an additional movie following the Tuesday evening session.

The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission will release the first three books in its “Gospel for Life” series in St. Louis. The 9-book series “aims to help the church in navigating through ethical and cultural issues,” said ERLC President Russell Moore. The first three books in the series focus on religious liberty, racial reconciliation, and same-sex marriage.

The SBC Exhibit Hall will once again include a Wellness Center hosted by GuideStone Financial Resources. The center will offer cholesterol and glucose screenings, as well as data to determine body mass index. Participants will receive a personalized report that is suitable to take to their family doctors, and on-site medical professionals will be available to discuss results.

GuideStone also will offer three seminars aimed at various audiences: “Retirement Income Solutions,” “Health Care Reform Impacts Your Church, Too,” and “The Struggle is Real: The Solution is Simple,” a seminar for younger investors. All seminars are free, space is limited. Visit to register.

Business notes

In addition to the three candidates for SBC President (see page B-3), Illinois pastor Doug Munton has announced he will be nominated for the office of First Vice President. John Yeats, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention, will be nominated for a 20th term as SBC Recording Secretary.

John Avant, pastor of First Baptist Concord in Knoxville, Tenn., will be nominated for president of the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference.

Several Baptists from Illinois have been selected for committees meeting during the Convention: Munton and Michael Allen, pastor of Uptown Baptist Church in Chicago, will serve on the Committee on Committees, which nominates members of the Committee on Nominations who, in turn, nominate trustees for the boards of SBC entities.

Dan Eddington, director of missions for Three Rivers Baptist Association, and Ric Worshill, a member of Crossroads Community Church in Port Barrington, will serve on the SBC Credentials Committee.

Online registration tools

Convention messengers can register online at under the Messengers/Guests tab. To help ensure the orderly flow of attendees and enhance security of the convention hall, this year each messenger, exhibitor, and guest must be registered and properly badged for entrance into the general sessions June 14-15.

After completing online registration, each individual will receive an eight-digit registration code to present at the express registration lane. There, the code can be entered into a computer and a nametag will be printed.

Registration is also open for preschool child care, Giant Cow Children’s Ministries, Children in Action Missions Camp, and Youth on Mission in conjunction with annual meeting. All activities for children and youth will be housed at America’s Center. Youth who have completed grades 7-12 will begin their days at the convention center with worship before going into the community for hands-on mission projects.

Pre-registration is required and is available online at under the Children/Youth tab.

The SBC Annual Meetings app is again available to Convention-goers, including a listing of speakers for the SBC Pastors’ Conference and SBC annual meeting, as well as the daily program schedule, daily events, exhibitor listing, convention center maps, 2016 Book of Reports and more.

For more information on the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention and the SBC Pastors’ Conference in St. Louis, as well as other meetings and events, go to

– From Baptist Press reports

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

Doug Munton

Doug Munton, expected Southern Baptist Convention First Vice President nominee, is a featured guest on SBC This Week’s May 20 podcast. You can listen to the interview and learn more about his vision for the SBC and the Cooperative Program at

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

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.

Ready with a reason

ib2newseditor —  May 19, 2016

Crossover volunteers prepare for St. Louis


Stephen Glover

Last summer, Steven and Robin Glover went home again—kind of. The Chicago couple and their children traveled to Columbus, Ohio, for the Southern Baptist Convention and Crossover, the annual evangelistic outreach held prior to the SBC.

Steven Glover, born and raised in Columbus, is an IBSA zone consultant in Chicagoland. His wife, Robin, is a writer and homeschool teacher to their four daughters. The Glovers lived in Ohio before moving to Chicago in January 2015, where Steven began a church planting internship at Uptown Baptist Church.

Each year before the SBC’s annual meeting, Uptown sends a team to work with a church in the convention host city. In Columbus, Uptown’s volunteers led a practicum on prayer, evangelism and discipleship at United Faith International Church. They gathered for training, then went out into the community to put into practice what they’d learned.

“Two groups comprised of 8-10 people targeted a neighborhood near the church for prayer walking as well as evangelism,” Steven said. “Upon arrival, the evangelism team had an immediate opportunity to share the gospel with young men hanging out in a local park who happened to be Muslims from Ethiopia.”

Glover and a man from the partnering church launched into an apologetics discussion with one of the young men who was interested in talking about his faith. They talked about Jesus, discussing the places where Islamic and Christian scriptures differed. “[We] took the opportunity to explain the purpose of Christ coming and the importance of his death, burial, and resurrection,” Glover said.

Nearby, his wife, Robin, and others on the team prayed for the conversation, even asking God for a break from the heat. “We were very hot and the sun was beaming down, so we prayed for a breeze,” she remembered. “Soon thereafter, there was a nice breeze and some light rain. The sun then returned to its work of warming.

“God was with us in Columbus. I was blessed to have joined him while he worked.”
Their Columbus experience gave the Glovers some advice for volunteers who will serve through Crossover in St. Louis.

“It is important that mission teams participating in Crossover 2016 be familiar with the demographic make-up of St. Louis,” Steven advised. “Through prior research, our mission team discovered that Columbus is known to have a large Islamic population, therefore, I brought with me a Quran (in English) to use in a witnessing conversation in order to establish the true identity and ministry of Jesus Christ.”

He referenced 1 Peter 3:15: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (KJV).

For a list of Crossover projects in Illinois, go to Watch the Crossover St. Louis video at

The BriefingRestroom directive harms the transgendered
The Obama administration’s directive regarding restroom use for transgender students at public schools and universities likely will harm children struggling with their gender identity and increase the number who become transgendered. That’s the conclusion of two Southern Baptist psychologists who have treated adolescents with gender dysphoria.

Transgender bathroom laws worry even liberal parents
Girls from a swim team in New York City’s Upper West Side are too scared to use the women’s locker room at a Parks Department swimming pool. In March, a sign appeared noting that everyone has the the right to use the restroom or locker room consistent with their “gender identity or gender expression.” Around the same time, the girls became concerned after they saw a “bearded individual” in the women’s changing room.

Abortion mandate cases returned to lower courts
The U.S. Supreme Court returned to the lower courts for reconsideration a disagreement between religious objectors and the federal government over the Obama administration’s abortion/contraception mandate, which requires employers to make contraceptives available to their workers, including ones that can potentially induce abortions. The appeals involve the Little Sisters of the Poor and GuideStone Financial Resources.

Stetzer leaving LifeWay for Wheaton College
Dr. Ed Stetzer has been appointed to a newly created chair, The Billy Graham Distinguished Endowed Chair for Church, Mission, and Evangelism. In this role, he has been named Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College (BGCE). Stetzer shared some of the details as to why he’s making the move.

Going to church could help you live longer
Researchers have found that women who went to church more than once a week had a 33% lower risk of dying during the study period compared with those who said they never went. Women who regularly attended religious services also had higher rates of social support and optimism, had lower rates of depression and were less likely to smoke.

Sources: Baptist Press, Time, Baptist Press, Christianity Today, CNN

My history attending the annual Southern Baptist Convention is not as long or as deep as many. Occasionally I meet someone who will tell me, “This is my 40th SBC,” or “I haven’t missed a convention in 25 years.”

Though my father was a pastor and then director of missions, I didn’t attend my first SBC until 1992. That year the convention came to Indianapolis, as close as it had been in many years to the Chicago suburbs where we lived. A friend from church suggested going, “because it’s rarely so close.” Indeed, the SBC would not come within 500 miles of Chicago for another 10 years. So we went and took my dad along with us.

Little did I know that only five years later I would be flying to only my second SBC in Dallas, to be voted on as a vice president with the newly formed North American Mission Board. I haven’t missed an annual SBC meeting since then. This year, Lord willing, will be 20 in a row.

If you haven’t been to the convention before, or can’t go often, this is the year.

I share this personal history to say that I really do understand why the average person may not regularly attend the annual SBC. Unless there’s a controversy or crisis of some kind, the SBC is often left primarily to professionals who have travel budgets, and pastors who may direct part of their family vacation time there. Perhaps that’s why attendance at the SBC has only topped 10,000 three times in the last 15 years. Peak attendance during the conservative resurgence of the mid-1980’s was over 40,000.

But now, let me challenge you to attend the June 14-15 SBC in St. Louis this year. As my friend said, it will be years before it’s this close to Illinois churches again. If you haven’t been before, or can’t go often, this is the year.

More importantly, this year’s elections and other actions will be significant. It was announced just last week that Illinois’ own Doug Munton, pastor of First Baptist, O’Fallon, will be nominated as First Vice President. I’m really excited about that. I hope hundreds and hundreds of Illinois Baptists will be there to support this outstanding Illinois pastor for this national role.

The election for president this year also presents a significant choice between pastors with notable differences, not just in ministry experience, but in the areas of doctrinal conviction and missions cooperation. Illinois 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 that they feel is best for our Great Commission cooperation as Baptist churches in the future.

Normally Illinois ranks about 15th of 42 state conventions in the number of messengers it sends to the national SBC. But the last time the convention was in St. Louis (2002), Illinois ranked 5th, with 611 messengers from 193 churches. And in 1987, the previous time the SBC was in St. Louis, Illinois churches sent 1,373 messengers. Yet last year only 139 messengers from Illinois churches attended the SBC in nearby Columbus.

To encourage messengers to turn out in record numbers this year, IBSA will be hosting a reception for Illinois Baptists at the St. Louis convention center, on the Monday night following the Pastors’ Conference and just prior to the convention’s start on Tuesday morning.

Whether this year is your 40th SBC, or your very first, I hope you will make the SBC in nearby St. Louis a priority this year. What happens at the SBC is really up to folks like you and me.

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

SBC_VotingWith another call to prayer for the redemption of America, another missionary commissioning, and another bunch of resolutions on national politics and the precipitous slide in our national moral values, this might appear to be another fairly predictable meeting when the Southern Baptist Convention convenes in St. Louis June 14-15.

It isn’t.

The more significant news from the convention is not likely to come from its political statements or from protests by cultural liberals outside the hall. What can be said about the run for the White House, same-sex marriage, or sexual identity that hasn’t already been said? It will be in the election of an SBC president to succeed outgoing Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd that messengers will signal a turn.

Floyd has issued a “national call to prayer for spiritual leadership” in the Tuesday evening session. Floyd is using the mid-America location to address issues at the spiritual heart of America, in particular the need for evangelism and spiritual awakening, and renewed efforts at racial reconciliation. (See “What are the three greatest challenges facing the SBC?”)

By the time of the prayer gathering, messengers will already have selected a new president—and perhaps a new direction. At this crossroads, signs point to missions funding, evangelism and theology, and the age of denominational leaders.

The most obvious turn could be generational. Only recently has the “greatest generation” of Southern Baptists handed off leadership to their children, the Baby Boomers born after World War II. The possible election of 43-year-old J.D. Greear over Steve Gaines, 58, or David Crosby, 63, would confirm the handoff to Generation X, or the Baby Busters. These younger leaders, born after 1964, have already assumed leadership of the Convention’s two missions boards.

Leaders have reported that the demographics of convention attenders have shifted younger over the past decade. The meeting isn’t as gray as it used to be, and that’s good news observers say. These younger Southern Baptists are making their presence known through Baptist 21, SEND conferences, and other venues aimed at Busters and their quickly advancing successors, the Millennials. Electing one of their own could hasten the transition.

“One of the things God has put on my heart is that my generation needs to take personal responsibility for the agencies and the mission boards of the SBC and not just think of them as the SBC’s, but think of them as ours,” said Greear in his nomination announcement.

A second turning point for the Convention is the future of the Cooperative Program. Implicit in the election of a president is endorsement of his view of CP funding for missions and Southern Baptist work, whether it is whole-hearted and longstanding, recently renewed as part of the Great Commission Resurgence, or newly embraced as one of many ways of funding missions. The three candidates for president all speak highly of the Cooperative Program, but their churches have notable differences in their historic support of CP and their current giving levels.

Crosby’s response to a question from the Illinois Baptist is enlightening: “As SBC president, I will not talk or act as if a return to the society method of supporting our cooperative work is progress.” (See “What are the three greatest challenges facing the SBC?”) At its foundation, this is what a church’s record of CP support demonstrates: Is missions giving through Cooperative Program the main way Southern Baptist churches fund missions, or rather one of many ways?

And third, simmering under the surface in this election is the role of election in salvation and the future commitment to evangelism in the SBC.

“Listen very carefully: We have criticized evangelism right out of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Floyd told the SBC Executive Committee in February. “Years ago, something happened where pastors and churches that reached and baptized people effectively came under the microscope of other Baptists who oftentimes did not have a heart for evangelism themselves. A culture of skepticism about evangelism began to creep into our Convention. Evangelism began to die.”

This culture shift was framed by some as evangelism versus discipleship. Evangelism was criticized as “easy believe-ism” while discipleship was elevated. Discussion of the “sinner’s prayer” at the 2012 Pastors’ Conference was followed by Executive Committee CEO Frank Page’s appointment of an ad hoc panel to address the rise of Reform Theology and whether Calvinists and “Traditionalists” as they were called at that time could peacefully coexist in the SBC tent.

Gaines was an outspoken supporter of the “sinner’s prayer” style of personal commitment at the time, while International Mission Board President David Platt, then pastor of Birmingham megachurch The Church at Brook Hills was critical of evangelism that emphasized acts of conversion, such as “walking the aisle” at church, over discipleship of new believers that emphasizes personal recognition of God’s call and sovereignty in their salvation.

This election brings up that question again. Gaines and Crosby have traditional views on evangelism and conversion, while Greear’s theology is Reform. The church Greear pastors is evangelistic, baptizing 928 in 2014, but it is also active in the Acts 29 Network of church planting, which expects its members to hold Reform views. And of the three candidates, Greear has the greatest support among the rising group of younger, Reformed pastors in the SBC.

These three issues—and the candidates holding different views on them—stand before Southern Baptists at the crossroads.

– Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist