Archives For August 2016

The BriefingReport debunks ‘born that way’ narrative
A stunning new report on sexuality and gender exposes the shaky science behind the LGBT “born that way” narrative and the push to label young kids as “transgender.” The report comes as the health-care industry, pressured by the Obama administration, imposes new protocols pertaining to “sexual orientation and gender identity” grounded in faulty science and often dismissive of parents’ rights and children’s well-being.

‘Insanity of God’ showing Aug. 30 across U.S.
“The Insanity of God,” the true story of missionaries Nik and Ruth Ripken and their work with the persecuted church, will be shown in 500 U.S. theaters Aug. 30 for a special one-night, feature event. The presentation will include International Mission Board President, author and speaker David Platt interviewing Nik Ripken, as well as a performance by music artist Todd Smith.

Progressives embrace religious liberty
Religious liberty has often been a thorn in the side of progressives, especially when it’s used by conservatives to defend everything from Christians-only clubs on campus to merchants who won’t serve gays. But progressives are now leveraging the First Amendment principle as a vehicle to advance causes of their own.

Christians wait for Egypt to authorize new churches
Egypt is scheduled to vote as early as September on a law that would ease the country’s historic restrictions on church construction. Current laws, which have been in place since 1856, require Christians to get the consent of the local Muslim community—and the country’s president—before building a church.

States, religious groups sue HHS over transgender treatment requirements
Five states, joined by Christian health care providers, have filed a lawsuit challenging the Obama administration over new federal rules they say could force doctors to perform gender-transition procedures that violate their religious beliefs or medical judgment. The lawsuit claims doctors could be forced to perform procedures such as gender-reassignment surgery and hysterectomies.

Sources: The Federalist, Religion News Service, Baptist Press, Christianity Today, Fox News

My spiritual blind spot

ib2newseditor —  August 29, 2016

Reaching the unreached in Illinois

unreached

I’ve lived in Illinois my entire life. I was born and raised in the capitol and attended college at ISU (Illinois State University). I’ve visited family each year in southern Illinois and taken countless road trips to Chicago and the northern suburbs. I’ve also been an Illinois Baptist my entire life.

MIO-box-smallHaving grown up here and very involved in the church, I know well the Baptist beliefs, as well as the spiritual state of this mission field we call home. What I didn’t know, though, is that there are 83 unreached people groups right here in the U.S… and almost 10 in our own backyard!

One (or both) of two barriers typically define what qualifies as an unreached people group: understanding and acceptance.

The issue of understanding largely comes down to language. And where many may think this is only a problem in third world countries and isolated jungles, you may be surprised to learn as I was that in Illinois, we have 9 official unreached people groups that fall into this category. Then there are many more who fall into the latter—those who are unengaged and simply refuse to accept the truth of the Bible.

Watch “Reaching the Unreached” to learn more about the unreached people groups in Illinois.

Combined, the total adds up to more than 8 million here who are lost.

And I’m sure it comes as no surprise to anyone that many of these unreached, unengaged people reside in the greater Chicagoland area—a region where approximately 70% of our state’s population lives. It’s not only the biggest, most diverse region in Illinois, but one of the nation’s largest cultural melting pots. Which is why the work of church planters there is as crucial as ever.

In this one city are millions of people from all walks of life and backgrounds. Isolated neighborhoods that look and function as if you were in a completely different country. Unreached people groups hiding among the throngs.

The potential reach of the gospel in Chicago is astounding. But the message of Jesus Christ is only going to go forth there as long as there are generous, prayerful people and willing church planters willing to support this Great Commission endeavor. To bridge the gap and meet these lost and searching individuals where they are, we must pray, give, and go.

Read the Sept. 12 edition of the Illinois Baptist to learn more about one Chicago church planter, Kenyatta Smith, and his mission to reach unbelievers and give people another chance in Christ.

My eyes have been opened to the unreached. What’s in your spiritual blind spot?

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering and Week of Prayer September 11-18.

– Morgan Jackson is an editorial contributor for IBSA and freelance writer living in Bloomington, IL.

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Disaster_Relief_logo_ILSix teams of Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers are scheduled to go to flood-ravaged southern Louisiana over the next month. The first team, from Harrisburg First Baptist Church in Saline Baptist Association, will serve from August 28-September 3. It will include flood recovery and chaplaincy volunteers.

According to Baptist Press, over 65,000 homes and 60 churches in southern Louisiana have been affected by the recent flooding. IBSA is offering a one-day Disaster Relief Training event Saturday, August 27 at Living Faith Baptist Church in Sherman. Potential volunteers will have the opportunity to train in flood recovery or food preparation. To learn how you can participate, visit IBSA.org.

Dwayne Doyle, State Disaster Relief Coordinator, shared, “Disaster Relief teams will be traveling through flood zones with recovery trailers and heavy equipment. Please pray for their safety. Pray for open doors in affected communities as volunteers offer physical assistance and spiritual comfort. Our chaplains often report salvation decisions from their work sites as people suffering after disaster turn to Christ.”

Doyle said he has received phone calls and e-mails asking, “if we will be accepting practical supplies like buckets, mops, and the such for the response. At this point, we will not be receiving practical supplies like these, but are needing funds to help mobilize our many volunteers and equipment. Your sacrificial giving helps Illinois Disaster Relief meet the many needs of those who are suffering.”

Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief is funded through individual and church donations. When you give, 100% of your offering will assist storm victims as disaster relief volunteers assist in recovery efforts. Ask your pastor to take up a special offering for Illinois Disaster Relief this Sunday. You may also give individually by mail or online. Mail a check payable to Illinois Disaster Relief to: Illinois Baptist State Association, P.O. Box 19247, Springfield, IL 62703.

Denham-Springs,-La.-from-blackhawk

The city of Denham Springs is among the hardest-hit in flooding across south Louisiana. Baptist Press/Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness

This isn’t Illinois Disaster Relief volunteers first time to serve in the state this year. Volunteers participated in Louisiana flood recovery efforts in March and April. It was during that call-out that volunteer Don Fulkerson, a member of First Baptist Church of Galatia, IL., died of a heart attack while serving flood victims in Leesville, LA. His team returned to Louisiana to finish the work it began later in the spring.

IBSA has over 1,600 trained volunteers who serve as part of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Disaster Relief ministry, the third largest relief agency in the United States. Disaster Relief often responds to natural disasters by providing feeding stations, mobile kitchens, child care and chaplains. In the case of flooding, volunteers in their signature yellow shirts help homeowners with “mudout,” clearing flooded properties of debris and contaminated building materials, so they can begin rebuilding and recovery.

If you are already a trained volunteer and want to go to Louisiana, contact one of the team leaders below.

Team Leader: Joe Jackson – Region 6
Date: August 28-September 3, 2016
Location: Southern Louisiana
Needed: Mud-out/Flood Recovery and Chaplaincy
Contact: joeluj@frontier.com

Team Leader: Don Kragness – Region 4
Date: September 4-12, 2016
Location: Southern Louisiana
Needed: Mud-out/Flood Recovery and Chaplaincy
Contact: donjank1@gmail.com

Team Leader: Dennis Felix – Region 4
Date: September 4-12, 2016
Location: Southern Louisiana
Needed: Mud-out/Flood Recovery and Chaplaincy
Contact: crossconnect2u@hotmail.com

Team Leader: Don Ile – Region 3
Date: September 11-18, 2016
Location: Southern Louisiana
Needed: Mud-out/Flood Recovery and Chaplaincy
Contact: donruthsawdust@gmail.com

Team Leader: Butch Porter – Region 6
Date: September 14-21, 2016
Location: Southern Louisiana
Needed: Mud-out/Flood Recovery and Chaplaincy
Contact: bp.dp@hotmail.com

Team Leader: David Howard – Region 2
Date: September 17-24, 2016
Location: Southern Louisiana
Needed: Mud-out/Flood Recovery and Chaplaincy
Contact: david@capcity.org

Media contact:
Lisa Sergent, IBSA Director of Communications
(217) 391-3119
LisaSergent@IBSA.org
Springfield, IL

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coffee cup with a world map

I am ashamed to admit that I haven’t always understood why being on mission both personally and as a church is so vital. I used to skip the “missions” chapel services in seminary because I wrongly believed that missions and being a pastor were two separate callings. I just wanted to be a pastor. Sadly, the first church I pastored wasn’t very mission-minded because I wasn’t.

However, I am now convinced that one of the vital roles of pastors and church leaders is to lead the church to fully embrace God’s call to be involved in their local community and beyond. My heart now understands that the church should be a strong community of mobilized missionaries. It is now my desire to lead the church through preaching, mission trips, and other creative ways so that missions becomes part of our church’s DNA.

I believe that one of the first ways to lead your church to be on mission is to be a leader who is on mission. I am convinced that when the leader of a church is passionate about the mission of God and living a missional life, that focus and zeal will naturally overflow into the hearts of those in the pew.

When a leader is passionate about the mission of God, that zeal will overflow to people in the pews.

All throughout Scripture we clearly hear God’s call to missional living. We see a clear gospel focus when Christ sends out the 12 disciples in Luke 9 and again when he sends out the 70 in Luke 10. We hear God’s heart when we read the Great Commission and Acts 1:8. In our head, we can know that God wants us to live this life with passion for the gospel, but it is so hard to keep the main thing the main thing.

When being on mission becomes part of the leader’s DNA, the church hears about it through his preaching, sees it through his life, and feels it through his tears for people who are lost without Christ.

Though my mind is now thoroughly convinced of the importance of leading my church to be on mission, I must continually remind my heart about God’s mission. Here are some of the practices that help my heart to be missions-minded:

Personally participating in at least one mission trip a year. These times are good for my walk with God. I need to see God move in ways I cannot explain. Often these trips become spiritual revivals for my heart. I try to alternate between going overseas and going somewhere in the U.S. each year.

Reading missions books and biographies of missionaries. Some of the books that make me cry are “10 Who Changed the World” by Daniel Akin, “The Insanity of God” by Nik Ripken, “The Hole in our Gospel” by Richard Stearns, and “Seven Men” by Eric Metaxas.

Attending missions training sponsored by IBSA, and conferences sponsored by the North American Mission Board. Some of the conferences that have recently helped my missions heart are NAMB’s Send Conference, the Midwest Leadership Summit hosted by IBSA, an IMB Missionary Commissioning service, and the IBSA and SBC Annual Meetings.

I’m not always looking for new programs or new ideas at these conferences, though I often come home with an idea for how we can do missions differently or better at Immanuel.

Talking with missionaries. I love hearing their heart, their struggles, and their successes. You can connect with church planting missionaries on a vision tour hosted by NAMB or IBSA, and the International Mission Board is always happy to send a missionary on furlough to preach at your church.

Most missionaries also send out regular e-mail prayer newsletters. While these messages remind me to pray for the missionary, they also encourage me as I read about some creative things others are doing all across the world for King Jesus.

Spending time with other believers who are on fire for Jesus and who are getting it done sharing the gospel. Often, these lunches and the time I spend with these kinds of believers greatly challenges me.

What a joy it can be when a church understands that God has commissioned them to be the light in a dark world. What a joy it can be when church members leave to plant churches, surrender to ministry, lead their co-worker to Christ, and go to the nations.

The steps you take to fuel your missions heart are steps toward God’s heart, enabling your entire church to be on mission! Keep chasing him, my friends.

– Sammy Simmons is pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Benton.

The BriefingPastors sue Illinois over gay conversion therapy ban
A group of pastors is suing Illinois over a law that bars therapists and counselors from trying to change a minor’s sexual orientation, saying the prohibition violates free speech and religious rights. The federal lawsuit seeks to exclude clergy from the ban that took effect Jan. 1, arguing that homosexuality is “contrary to God’s purpose” and a disorder that “can be resisted or overcome by those who seek to be faithful to God and His Word.”

Olympics wrap-up: God praised by athletes in triumph, defeat
The images and memories of the 2016 Olympics will endure for much longer than the torch’s flame. Several athletes who are professing Christians joined in the medal haul. Helen Maroulis won the first gold medal ever for the United States in women’s wrestling, and said that throughout her competition she repeated to herself the mantra, “Christ in me, I am enough.”

Judge blocks transgender restroom order
A federal judge in Texas has temporarily blocked the Obama administration’s directive forcing schools to allow transgender students to use restroom and locker room facilities based on gender identity, rather than their biological sex. District Judge Reed O’Connor said the departments of Education and Justice failed to follow the Administrative Procedures Act, which requires advanced notice and a public comment period before issuing such guidelines.

Judge under fire for praying in courtroom
A Texas judge could be sued for starting every court session with a short prayer. The Freedom From Religion Foundation alleges that Judge Wayne Mack’s invocation is “unconstitutional,” and the organization is currently considering a lawsuit. Mack pointed out that both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Texas Supreme Court start their opening sessions with an invocation, and he’s just “following in their footsteps.”

Lutherans recognize agreement with Catholic Church
Nearly 500 years after Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Castle Church door, the largest Lutheran denomination in the U.S. has approved a declaration recognizing “there are no longer church-dividing issues” on many points with the Roman Catholic Church. The “Declaration on the Way” was approved 931-9 by the 2016 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Churchwide Assembly in New Orleans.

Sources: Big Story AP, Baptist Press, World Magazine, Fox News, Religion News Service

South_Asia

An mission team member teaches girls at a missions center in South Asia last March.

The best kind of advertising is free advertising, I’m pretty sure I heard in my college “Introduction to Public Relations” class. When it comes to missions, I think my professor knew what he was talking about.

Have you ever talked to someone who just got back from a mission trip? It’s like the old joke (that has been given new life with modern phenomena like veganism and CrossFit):

How do you know someone just got back from a mission trip (or is a vegan, or does CrossFit)?

MIO-box-smallDon’t worry, they’ll tell you about it.

And isn’t that a good thing? To share missions stories and try to help the people who weren’t there understand why you felt compelled to go—and probably go back? Even better, talking about a mission trip gives you an opportunity to challenge them to go.

Mark Emerson recently described a mission volunteer as a “living brochure.” The woman he was talking about, Lindsay McDonald, is a pastor’s wife from Casey, Ill., who went to South Asia in March with a small team from Illinois. The group shared the gospel in villages  where more than 90% of the population is Muslim.

Watch the Mission Illinois Offering video, Mobilizing Volunteers Worldwide, to learn more about Lindsay McDonald’s South Asia trip

They also visited community centers where women are learning job skills and Bible stories.

When the team got back to Illinois, they started telling their stories. The group is contagious, Emerson said, but in the best possible way. And people are catching what they have.

When the team got back to Illinois, they started telling their stories. The group is contagious, but in the best possible way.

I went to Haiti with an IBSA GO Team in 2013. When I got back to Illinois, it was all I talked about for a few weeks. My husband was on the team too, so we talked about it at home. I wrote about it in the Illinois Baptist. We shared with our community group and local church about the trip.

Haiti was constantly on our lips and on our hearts.

Before you get too impressed, I should confess that a weekend spent binge-watching Downton Abbey has had the same effect on me. Without meaning to, I start using the cadence and accent of early 1900s Britain. That’s what an immersive experience does: We adopt the passion and language of the experience that has captivated us.

We become living brochures. And in the best cases, what we’re advertising is the call to sacrifice time, money, energy, comfort, even safety, for the sake of taking the gospel to a place and a people deeply in need of it.

Free advertising, for a really great product.

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering and Week of Prayer September 11-18.

– Meredith Flynn is an editorial contributor to the Illinois Baptist

Who’s at the table?

ib2newseditor —  August 18, 2016

Office chairLooking around the table at a leadership meeting, I noted who was there. More important, I realized who wasn’t.

This was the first meeting under the church’s new leadership structure. Most of the people had served in leadership capacities and most of them had served together at one time or another. But they had not all served together at the same time.

So we brought them together.

The need in this congregation was enhanced communication among ministry planners. The church’s various ministries had a history of bumping heads. There was confusion over use of rooms and recruiting workers. There was often a sense that no one really knew what was going on. And it was evident that the ministry teams held differing views on their own purposes, and different interpretations of the vision of the church.

Surely a regular meeting of the leaders would help to fix this. But it didn’t.

Not all the leaders were there. One man who said he hated meetings chose not to attend, so his cause had no voice in the allocation of dates and resources. Another team had three people in attendance, so the discussion felt tilted to their interests.

Sitting there, I made a few notes:

• Everyone here is a longtime member. Are there new people with fresh ideas we should bring to the table?

• Everyone is from the same generation. How can we bring other age groups to the discussion?

• Everyone is from an elected position, but not all ministries are represented. And a couple don’t need this level of input. Which are the right ministries to include so the vision is accomplished?

• Our discussion seems dominated by a few not-well-prepared people. How can we improve their preparation or dismiss them from the group?

• After this meeting, we still need buy-in from “unelected” leaders. How can we bring opinion leaders to the table?

Next time you’re at a leadership meeting, give some thought to who’s at the table.

 This article first appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of the Resource Magazine. Read it online at Resource.IBSA.org.

 – Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist