Archives For June 2016

Graham and Lincoln

Franklin Graham speaks at the Illinois Capitol. Photo courtesy Micheal Henderson

Springfield | On Tuesday, June 14, thousands gathered in Springfield to hear Franklin Graham, oldest son of evangelist Billy Graham, as he stopped in Illinois for his 50 state, Decision America Tour. Many braved the 90-degree weather and lined the streets and lawns surrounding the Illinois state capitol, as Graham challenged Christians to pray for the country and take a stand for their faith.

Churches from across the state were represented with many bringing vans of supporters. The crowd enthusiastically sang “How Great Thou Art” preceding the rally.

When Graham arrived, he began the time leading everyone in prayer for the people affected by the Orlando shooting. Using the tragedy as an example of our country’s sinfulness, Graham plainly stated that he has no hope in either the Democratic or Republican Party to turn things around.

“The only hope for the United States of America is the Almighty God,” Graham proclaimed, stating that God’s truth and righteousness should be the utmost focus of every evangelical Christian who calls this country home.

Graham went on that Christians must make their voices heard if America is to be preserved, and the Christian heritage restored that has given us the liberties we now enjoy.

Without telling people who to vote for, Graham simply asked those in attendance to consider pledging to: daily live out biblical principles, honor God in public, vote for political candidates if at all possible who uphold biblical standards, pray for our country, and lastly, consider if God so leads, to run for office.

Graham’s parting words: “Our job as Christians is to make the impact of Christ felt in every [area] of life – religious, social, economic, political… But we can only do [this] as we surrender ourselves completely to God, allowing Him to work through us… Let’s elect men and women to office who will lead this nation back to really being one nation under God.”

– Morgan Jackson

Dave Miller copyIowa pastor and blogger Dave Miller has been elected president of next year’s SBC Pastors’ Conference. Prior to the meeting here in St. Louis, Miller had blogged about his proposed direction for the Pastors’ Conference, with a focus on inviting pastors of small and medium-sized churches to preach.

“I am both excited and I’m terrified,” Miller posted on SBC Voices following the election. “Brutally terrified. The budget of this two day event is pretty much the annual budget of my church. The logistics are a little bit more complicated than putting together a church potluck back home. But we are in this together and we are going to be looking to expand our circle. I believe we can do something that will be different. And in a good way.”

Announcing Miller’s nomination May 9,  Indiana pastor Todd Benkert told Baptist Press he wants “to nominate a small church guy and do a different kind of Pastors’ Conference [next] year.”

Miller “is a small church pastor,” Benkert said. “Dave has shown over the years both in his blogging and participating in convention life that he’s committed to unity in the SBC and he’s committed to broad participation among the various groups that make up the SBC. When we first spoke about a vision for the Pastors’ Conference, we were looking at [inviting speakers who were] diverse geographically [and in terms of] age, ethnicity, soteriology — all those things that make up who we are as Southern Baptists.”

Miller, pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Sioux City, Iowa, is an Iowa native and son of missionary parents.

Additional reporting by Baptist Press



Steve GainesFirst Baptist Church in O’Fallon had a guest pastor in its pulpit Sunday morning. Memphis pastor and candidate for Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines delivered the message at each of the church’s three morning worship services June 12.

The Bellevue Baptist Church pastor lamented Southern Baptist’s lack of focus on evangelism. “What’s happening in the Southern Baptist Convention is a tragedy,” Gaines declared. “We’re in a 17-year nose dive. This is unprecedented, we have more SBC churches, but fewer baptisms. If the people in those churches we’re planting aren’t evangelistic and soul-winning, we’re not going to reach this nation.”

His primary sermon text was taken from Acts 2:40-47. Gaines used Christ’s instructions for the church to exhort churches today to be more evangelistic.

He urged Southern Baptists to invite God back into their churches. “When God comes to church people start getting saved and baptized.” When people walk into a church “it doesn’t need to be dead. It ought to be alive with the power of God.”

Gaines stressed, “We should never plan a worship service to attract people. Instead, we should plan worship services that will attract the manifest presence of God – He will in turn will attract the people.”

Sharing Christ isn’t difficult he noted. “If you knew enough to get saved, you know enough to tell someone how to get saved.”

Prior to the sermon O’Fallon’s Pastor Doug Munton, who will be nominated to serve as the convention’s First Vice President at tomorrow afternoon’s meeting, introduced Gaines as his good friend. He then endorsed Gaines for Southern Baptist Convention President saying, “I’m biased, I believe Steve is the right guy, at the right place, at the right time.”

Gaines is one of three candidates who will be nominated for the job of SBC President tomorrow afternoon. David Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church, New Orleans, LA, and JD Greear, pastor of the The Summit Church in Raleigh, NC, are also candidates.





Josef Latham, 16, serves at his church’s Crossover block party in Mascoutah on June 11.

Mascoutah | Three months ago, Josef Latham was a self-described agnostic struggling with difficulties he didn’t know how to handle. He asked a friend what he should do, and she advised him to pray, believing God would hear him.

Her advice eventually led him to First Baptist Church, Mascoutah, where he accepted Christ during the week after Palm Sunday and was baptized on Easter.

On Friday, June 10, Josef shared his testimony at a community worship service hosted by the church as part of Crossover, the evangelistic outreach held before the Southern Baptist Convention each year. Mascoutah’s youth group spent the week painting pavilions at a local park and starting conversations with pool-goers and walkers.

They had some 300 conversations during the week, said youth pastor Matt Burton.

“I know that the person I was before I was saved, I would have never ever had the courage to reach out to these people, to speak like I did last night,” Josef said Saturday at a block party culminating the week. “And I think there’s absolutely no way that it wasn’t Him.”

Burton started planning for the church’s Crossover project late last year. The youth group has participated in World Changers projects the past several summers, so Burton planned a mission week based on that model: community service projects in the morning and worship in the evening, with evangelism training—based on the “3 Circles” guide to starting gospel conversations—in the afternoon.

“It’s really exciting just to see the boldness of some of these kids,” Burton said. Like 11-year-old Gracie Wood, for whom Mascoutah Changers and Crossover was her first ever youth event. At the beginning of the week, Burton said, she was tentative and shy. But by the last day, she was approaching people to ask how she could pray for them.

“I have no doubt some of these kids, whether they’re in vocational ministry or not, are going want to do mission trips, are going to share the gospel.”

Josef Latham is already doing that. Taking time away to serve with his youth group all week strained some of his old relationships, he said, but he had the opportunity to encourage one of his friends to pray, just like someone told him once. And while he’s still working on how to start conversations that lead to the gospel, he was joyful for the opportunity to share his salvation story with his youth group.

It’s like youth leader Bonnie Bodiford told him: “You are the gospel now.” Jesus’s love for people made manifest in Mascoutah, and a story to tell there and beyond.


Members of the Idlewild Baptist, Tampa, Fla. Crossover team: (l-r) Catherine Corpus, Lina Freeman, Frank Mira, and Elroy Rodriguez.

“The walk to the top was the hardest part,” Armando Fernandez shared. “The ride down was easy.”

Fernandez, a Crossover volunteer from Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa, Fla., was talking about the zip line ride at the Crossover block party at Sterling Baptist Church in Fairview Heights, IL. His description was not unlike the efforts to share the gospel through the many Crossover events that took place June 11. It can be tough to get started sharing the gospel, but once you do, it’s easy.

Sharing the gospel with the local community is what Crossover is all about. Each year hundreds of volunteers come to the Southern Baptist Convention a few days early to participate in Crossover evangelism outreach projects in and around the host city.

The St. Louis metro area – in both Missouri and Illinois – was the recipient of the the outpouring of the gospel. “We’re in love with the metroplex,” said David Gray, Sterling’s pastor. It’s that love that inspired the church to be a Crossover ministry site. Jesse Wilham, student pastor at Sterling, worked to lay the ground work for the evangelistic event.

Zip line

For many, the zip line was the highlight of the block party.

Whether it’s sharing the gospel story or planning an evangelistic event, the groundwork must be laid. Cooperation from a number of Christian ministries and agencies made the it easy for volunteers to be placed in situations where they could share Christ.

The North American Mission Board funded the zip line rides, which normally run $30-$50 per person. Five hundred hamburgers and hotdogs were donated by a local company. A children’s ministry from Chicago provided drinks. The city of Fairview Heights loaned tents to the church. Gray said the local Chick-Fil-A even set up a stand “because the manager said they needed to be part of the event.”

Seventy-five people from eight churches representing Florida, Illinois, and Missouri made it their mission to come to Sterling Baptist Church to help its members reach the diverse neighborhood around them — some 20,000 Anglo Americans, African Americans, Guatemalans, Puerto Ricans and Nepalese for starters.

Idlewild’s Hispanic ministries pastor, Eloy Rodriguez, said the team came to Illinois because, “We’re doing what the Lord has asked us all to do. This is our Samaria.” In Acts 1:8 Jesus instructs his followers to share the gospel in their “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.”

Their church has made it a practice to prayer walk their own community and others sharing Christ with the people they meet. “We’re doing what the Lord asked us to do, bring the Lord to the people,” said Lina Freeman.

The team arrived on Wednesday night and started canvassing the neighborhood Thursday. It was then that Rodriguez had a life-changing encounter with a neighborhood man. “We were asking people if there was anything we could pray with them about. Many said they had recently lost loved ones. But, one man said, ‘Last Sunday, I was going to kill myself.’”

The man told Rodriguez he had been in his car and was going to drive into traffic, put pulled back when he realized not only would he kill himself, but the people in the other cars as well.

Rodriguez and his team shared the gospel with the man who accept Christ as his savior. After wards, “That guy gave me the biggest hug I’ve ever had,” shared Rodriguez.

Down the street from the block party the church hosted a soccer tournament, and Saturday night featured a concert by the praise bands from Anna Heights Baptist Church and Iglesia Bautista Latina in Effingham. A Sunday night concert by the southern gospel trio Sons of the Father capped off the Crossover weekend.

Gray said his goal was to reach 1,000 people through Crossover, and by mid-Saturday the church was well on its way with 500 people registered at the block party and soccer tournament. The best news was 12 people had accepted Christ.

“It’s been phenomenal what’s happening,” Gray said.

– Lisa Sergent


SBC President Ronnie Floyd at the 2015 SBC Annual Meeting in Columbus, Ohio.

When Ronnie Floyd was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the denomination was coming to grips with the truth. After several years of describing many churches as “plateaued or declining,” leaders started speaking in frank terms about why, year after year, key measures like church membership, worship attendance, and baptisms were down denomination-wide.

“We are clearly losing our evangelistic effectiveness,” one Baptist leader said in 2014, the year Floyd was elected to his first term.

Things looked bleak, and for the first time in a while, the pressure wasn’t coming from outside opposition or controversy. Rather, the SBC seemed to be at an impasse.

Before his presidency, Floyd was already established as someone who could provide direction. As the pastor of a Southern megachurch, he led his congregation to a regional, multi-campus strategy and a new name—from First Baptist, Springdale, to Cross Church of Northwest Arkansas.

That is perhaps Floyd’s greatest legacy: He has reminded us that revival starts with prayer, and prayer starts with humility.

As chairman of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, Floyd helped lead Baptists to renewed commitment to a unified purpose—albeit with some difficult adjustments and plenty of debate over proposed funding changes between national agencies and state conventions.

But when Floyd was elected as SBC president, he looked not to drastic measures or sweeping changes—but to prayer. Unified, solidified, corporate prayer. Prayer that asked Baptists of all stripes to set aside differences for something greater than themselves: pleading with God for a great spiritual awakening.

Putting greater emphasis on the SBC annual meeting, Floyd called Baptists to Columbus, Ohio, in June of 2015 for a special prayer meeting to together confess sin—like racism and evangelism apathy—and to move forward as a humbled Convention that prioritized the work and mission of God.

In advance of the prayer meeting, which will happen again this summer in St. Louis, Floyd kept everyone in the loop through regular blog posts and columns distributed via Baptist Press and state Baptist newspapers. Throughout his presidency, he hasn’t hesitated to use the power of the pen (and keyboard) to inform, encourage, and challenge Baptists about the state of the SBC and our desperate need for spiritual awakening.

At the Southern Baptist Convention next weeek in St. Louis, the Tuesday evening session of the meeting will again be devoted to prayer. That is perhaps Floyd’s greatest legacy: He has reminded us that revival starts with prayer, and prayer starts with humility. For calling us together for that purpose, he deserves our thanks.

The BriefingMuhammad Ali heard Gospel from Graham, Rogers
Billy Graham, Adrian Rogers, and Dan Dumas are among the Christians who have told of Gospel conversations with the late  boxing champion Muhammad Ali. Concern over Ali’s religious beliefs once led his father to take the boxer to visit evangelist Billy Graham. Rogers, a former Southern Baptist Convention president, told in at least three sermons between 1986 and 1994 of sharing the Gospel with Ali.

Moore: Trump ‘lost’ soul’ who must repent
Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore has not been shy about mixing it up with Donald Trump, and now Moore is at it again, telling an interviewer that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee is a “lost person” who needs to find Jesus. Moore has for months blasted what he sees as Trump’s boorish behavior and character flaws.

How the transgender directive could affect Christian education
In response to President Barack Obama’s order that public schools allow students to use the restrooms and changing facilities that correspond to their gender identities, Christian Schools International (CSI) and Association of Christian Schools international (ACSI) issued gender policy guidelines to their members. The transgender directive will most immediately affect Christian schools participating in state sports competitions as public schools adopt new transgender policies or other policies related to LGBT students.

Baylor story shows how religious schools struggle with sex assault
Reports that Baylor University fired Ken Starr due to his handling of a sex assault scandal rocketed around political circles, but the allegations were equally big for a different reason: Baylor is the world’s largest Baptist university. The reports about Starr were explosive among many evangelicals because they tap into a couple of the most basic contemporary debates at religious schools: What is the impact of the honor codes many religious schools have around sexual behavior? Is there a conflict between being a religious school and trying to be a major athletic powerhouse?

Evangelicals feel alienated, anxious
Religious conservatives could once count on their neighbors to at least share their view of marriage. Those days are gone. Now, many evangelicals say liberals want to seal their cultural victory by silencing the church.  The Associated Press reports evangelicals see evidence of the threat in every new uproar over someone asserting a right to refuse recognition of same-sex marriages — whether it be a baker, a government clerk, or the leaders of religious charities, and schools.

Sources: Baptist Press, Religion News, WORLD Magazine, Washington Post,  Napa Valley Register

Editor’s note: Doug Munton, pastor of First Baptist Church in O’Fallon, will be nominated for First Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention when the SBC’s annual meeting convenes in St. Louis June 14.

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

Illinois Baptist: What lessons from your ministry in the Midwest do you think Southern Baptist pastors would benefit from, especially in transforming the prevailing culture?

Doug Munton: The power of the Holy Spirit is not limited geographically. We have found that loving God and loving people really matters. A church that is true to the Bible and that teaches that truth clearly, powerfully, and relevantly can impact the culture.

We have found that God can do things that some say can’t be done—“You can’t grow a church in the Midwest. You can’t reach old and young people. You can’t cross racial barriers.” These things are not too great for God and he is at work doing those things in churches across the Midwest.

IB: It appears that the SBC is fragmenting along lines of theology and philosophy of missions. Are you concerned about that?

Doug: I am concerned about our fragmentation. We can overcome differing views of soteriology, worship styles and other issues through love and respect. Unity in our fellowship can be a powerful tool for our mission.

I do hope we will be careful not to throw away the Cooperative Program and our cooperative mission approach. We can find ways to be more effective in our mission. But the Cooperative Program can be a great blessing to our mission work together. I want to encourage that cooperation.

IB: Are you concerned about the future of the Cooperative Program?

Doug: The effectiveness of the CP should not be taken lightly. It is why we have been able to send so many to the mission field in days gone by. It is a blessing to our seminarians. And, in Illinois, it has allowed us to cooperate together to do so much more than we could do separately here, nationally, and internationally.

IB: What about being a Southern Baptist in today’s culture challenges you and excites you?

Doug: These are the best of times, these are the worst of times. (I should use that line as the opening of a novel!) We are weaker in evangelism than ever in my lifetime. We have sent missionaries home from the IMB for lack of funds for the first time ever. But we also have young people who will sacrifice all for the cause of Christ. We are making strides in racial unity that give me encouragement for our future. And, our call for spiritual awakening is exactly what is needed at this time.

Perhaps we will see God move in our day as never before. May it be so and may our fellowship of churches seek God and his direction more fully than ever.

Munton is presently unopposed for First Vice President. The election will be held on Tuesday afternoon, June 14.

Meat me in St. Louie

ib2newseditor —  June 3, 2016

Embrace you inner foodie and sample some of the best food St. Louis has to offer while in town for the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention.

Food Firsts | All these became popular at the 1904 World’s Fair  

DrPepperIn 1804, Thomas Jefferson signed a check for the expansive Louisiana Purchase, and Lewis and Clark started their march from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean. A short 100 years later at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, the way was paved for the most American of all discoveries, fast food. And franchises.

TedDrewesVisitors to the Centennial expo sampled hamburgers, hot dogs in a bun, ice cream in a cone, and Dr. Pepper—all for the first time. While you’re in St. Louis, try some of the region’s current specialties.

Turn that cup upside down! Ted Drewes famous custard is so thick, it won’t move even when inverted. Others have copied the concept. Ted has 3 locations.

Top Dog | Here are winners from The Feast magazine list

Carlos’ Hot Dogs | 6th and Olive, Downtown
Portugal Native Carlos Periera serves up jumbo dogs to a happy lunchtime crowd. They’re grilled and topped with his mama’s secret sauce. The dogs, that is, not the crowd.

Dogs ‘n Frys | 503 Paul Avenue, Florissant
Of his 27 specialty dogs, owner Mo Mangal’s favorite is the PB&J dog with bacon.

HotDogWoofie’s Hot Dogs | 1919 Woodson Rd., Overland
If you’re missing your beloved Chicago-style dog, Woofie has it, even made with the real deal Vienna Beef. It’s called “the hot dog with dignity.”

Steve’s Hot Dogs | 2131 Marconi Ave., St. Louis
Musician Steve Ewing has a thriving second career peddling his famous hickory smoked, then grilled dogs.Tops on the list is the Gorilla Mac & Cheese dog (pictured).

Ribs and more | As recommended by Baptists who are hearty eaters

Pappy’s Smokehouse | 3106 Olive Street (about 2 miles from the Convention Center)
Best ribs our reviewer has ever had (and she’s from Memphis). The only drawback is that you might wait in line an hour or two.

Fitz’s | 6605 Delmar Boulevard (about 8 miles from Convention Center, but worth the trip)
Known for root beer (they make it right there) and other sodas, the restaurant is diner-y and family-friendly.

Crown Candy Kitchen | 1401 St. Louis Ave. (less than 2 miles from Convention Center)
Famous for candy, ice cream, and chili.

TheHillThe Hill
There are 52 restaurants in this Italian-American neighborhood. It’s the place to go for pasta. Take I-64 (Highway 40 West) to Kings Highway South. Exit on Shaw and follow your nose.

Messengers, exhibitors, and guests to the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis must be registered and properly badged for entrance into the general sessions June 14-15. Messengers and guests can register online by clicking on the Messengers/Guest tab at

The SBC constitution and bylaws were amended last year to broaden messenger representation. Each cooperating church that contributes to convention causes during the preceding fiscal year now automatically qualifies for two messengers; previous rules allowed for one messenger.

Additionally, the convention will recognize 10 additional messengers from a cooperating church under one of the following options:

  • One additional messenger for each full percent of the church’s undesignated receipts contributed during the fiscal year preceding through the Cooperative Program, and/or through the Executive Committee for convention causes, and/or to any convention entity.
  • One additional messenger for each $6,000 the church contributes in the preceding year through the normative combination of the Cooperative Program, designated gifts through the Executive Committee for convention causes, or to any SBC entity.