Archives For February 2018

Leadership developers

ib2newseditor —  February 27, 2018

MENTORING sketch on notebook

I don’t recall aspiring to be a leader. I do have childhood memories of realizing that I was one of the fastest on the playground, or that I got better grades than my friends. But the moments when I realized that I might be able to lead were different. Almost always, those moments involved the recognition and encouragement of someone else.

Mr. Showers asked me to consider joining my high school’s student council. Mr. Hsieh encouraged me to apply to be a resident advisor in the college dorm. My parents and then Pastor Oliver assured me that I could lead youth ministry on a church staff.

I would not have considered myself ready for any of those challenges. I believed in their value, and I respected those who were already leading in those ways. But in each case, it wasn’t until someone told me I was ready, and told me they believed in me, and gave me an opportunity, that I was willing to try leading in those areas.

It’s a pattern that I now see looking back over my career and ministry too. Keith told me I was ready to be a manager. Roy told me I was ready to be a director and then a vice president. Tim told me that I could help lead a new church plant.

Churches only stay healthy when they intentionally develop and enable new leaders.

Each of those leadership encouragers in my life were also leadership developers. They not only told me I could do it and gave me an opportunity. They also came alongside me to show me how to lead in those areas, and to support me, both as I grew, and when I failed.

In most cases, they were able to stay nearby until I didn’t need their help anymore. By then, they often had moved on to something else, because my development as a leader actually enabled their own development and opportunities.

In fact, as I look back, not many of my leadership developers had my development as their primary goal. In almost all cases, they were people who had some larger goal, some important job to get done, some mission about which they were passionate. It was their passion to advance that mission that led them to enlist help. And along the way, they discovered that additional leaders are the best kind of help for a mission.

Every healthy church needs leadership developers. In fact, churches only stay healthy and have opportunities to grow when they intentionally develop and enable new leaders. It always involves some risk, and it always requires patience with mistakes. It always demands that current leaders be willing to let go, even in areas where they are leading effectively, because there is always something else that needs to be done.

The “something else that needs to be done” is so important, too, because leaders are not just needed in each local church, but also in the state, national, and international mission fields of that church. One pastor I know has a “preaching school” within his church, where he develops pastors to help other churches in the area. Another pastor I know is intentionally developing church planters and campus pastors so that their church’s witness can expand to other communities.

If you are in any way a leader in your church, or in other settings, you too can probably list the leadership developers in your life, those who encouraged you and gave you opportunities. They are probably among the most respected people of your life. Let me encourage you, in your church setting in particular, to be one of those leadership developers. New leaders are desperately needed to advance the gospel, both in your church, and the mission fields of the world.

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

 

 

The Briefing

Wheaton College wins battle against birth control mandate
Wheaton College has won a five-year battle in not having to provide services like the week-after pill and abortion-inducing drugs in its healthcare plans. A district court judge has ruled that the government would violate federal civil rights laws if it forced the Illinois-based Christian liberal arts college to provide some services against its religious beliefs. The decision permanently protects Wheaton from any current or future version of the mandate, according to the nonprofit Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented the college.

DE schools push for kids to choose own race, gender
Children as young as five would be permitted to choose their own race and gender-identity —without approval from their parents — under a controversial new policy proposed in Delaware. Drafted by the state Department of Education, “Regulation 225 Prohibition of Discrimination” would require schools to provide access to facilities and activities consistent with a student’s gender identity — regardless of the child’s sex at birth or age, even if their parents object.

US Embassy in Jerusalem to open in May
The United States plans to open its new embassy in Jerusalem in May 2018, coinciding with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s declared independence following the Arab-Israeli War, U.S. officials said. Most U.S. diplomatic staff will continue to operate from Tel Aviv.

Christians in India: ‘Most traumatic’ persecution in years
As Christian persecution continues to rise in India under the governance of a Hindu nationalist party, a report by an evangelical group describes the year 2017 as “one of the most traumatic for the Christian community” in 10 years. About 100 Christians were killed and thousands of Christian homes were burned down or destroyed, says the Annual Report on Hate Crimes against Christians in India in 2017.

US puts Iranian Christians at risk of persecution
The Trump administration has denied asylum to more than 100 Iranian Christians and other refugees who face possible persecution in their home country. The group of refugees, mostly Christians along with other non-Muslims, have been stranded in Vienna for more than a year, waiting for final approval to resettle in the United States. Now they face possible deportation back to Iran, where rights advocates say they face potential retaliation or imprisonment by the regime in Tehran for seeking asylum in the United States.

Sources: The Christian Post (3), The Times of Israel, Foreign Policy, Christianity Today

The Briefing

Details on Billy Graham Memorial events
Watch the live stream of all major events from the Billy Graham memorial website. In the meantime, viewers can watch classic Billy Graham sermons, along with live commentary from his ministry headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Related:

Graham’s indelible impact on global missions
Not only did Billy Graham preach in person to large gatherings in more than 180 countries, but for 40 years he led in organizing international conferences on missions and evangelism that introduced the concept of “unreached people groups” that today lies at the heart of global strategy. And the simple fact those meetings solicited representation from many countries — not just traditional mission senders in the West — drew Christian groups from less-developed countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America into their own global mission undertakings.

Billy Graham’s 5 greatest sermons
Watch five of Graham’s greatest sermons, from the spiritual revival that made him a household name to the last address he ever gave, on his 95th birthday in 2013.

Study shows far-reaching impact of Billy Graham
About 80 years after he began his ministry, Billy Graham continued to impact the faith of millions with nearly half of all Protestant churchgoers saying they have watched one of his sermons on television. Only 4% of churchgoers said they “have no idea who Billy Graham is.”

Related:

Graham had pride and regret on civil rights issues
The Rev. Billy Graham was single-minded when he preached about God, prefacing sermon points with the phrase “The Bible says …” Yet he had a complicated role in race relations, particularly when confronting segregation in his native South. “Ultimately, what Graham put forth was what we might now call a colorblind gospel,” Steven P. Miller, a scholar who has written about Graham, told Fox News.

Related:

Sources: Facts & Trends, Baptist Press, Time, Christianity Today, Fox News, Illinois Review

Billy and Ruth Graham

Ruth and Billy at their Montreat, N.C., home. (Baptist Press photo)

I had the privilege of meeting Billy Graham three times in my life. Each of those encounters gave me a slightly different perspective on both the man and the far-reaching scope of his ministry and influence.

I first met Dr. Graham while a college student at Judson University, where one of his sons was also a student. The chapel was buzzing that morning with news that Billy Graham was present, and I sat down eager to hear the famous evangelist. Instead, we heard the regularly scheduled chapel speaker, and learned that Dr. Graham was there as a parent and fellow worshiper that morning. I had a brief moment to shake his hand after chapel. But the memory I walked away with was of his humility, and that he didn’t need to be in the limelight.

The second time I met Dr. Graham was in the mid-1980’s, when he visited the offices of Christianity Today Inc., where I worked as a mid-level manager. Dr. Graham founded our flagship magazine in 1956, and it had become the primary voice for evangelical Christianity, and a thoughtful alternative to the more liberal Christian Century.

Throughout my 17 years at Christianity Today, we would occasionally discuss whether anyone could personify and hold together the many strands of evangelicalism as Dr. Graham did. The memory I walked away with from those years was that this evangelist, best known for declaring the simple gospel message, also founded worldwide ministries that articulated and defended conservative, evangelical Christianity, even in leading academic and theological circles.

The final time I met Dr. Graham personally was in 1999, when the North American Mission Board and its missionary to the United Nations hosted a dinner for ambassadors and diplomats in New York City. Though the setting was by no means an evangelistic crusade, I listened as Dr. Graham masterfully, disarmingly, and yet directly delivered the gospel message in an after-dinner speech to some of the world’s most influential men and women. I walked away thinking, “That gracious, winsome man uses every opportunity he has to share the gospel.”

In those brief, personal, glimpses, I saw a humble, gracious man, a father and husband who didn’t “need” the spotlight, but who leveraged every opportunity to spread the gospel, both widely around the world and deeply into the most academic and theological circles. I hope that meeting him personally those few, brief times gives me the right to now miss him as personally as I do.

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

The Briefing

Chaplains comfort Florida families
Hours after last week’s school shooting in Florida, chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association arrived to minister to students and families. The team and others like it have traditionally been called to help after natural disasters, Christianity Today reports, but more and more of their deployments are now in response to manmade violence.

Baptists in Florida gathered to grieve and pray in the aftermath of the shooting.

T-shirts at center of conscience freedom case
A Kentucky T-shirt printer is facing a legal challenge over his refusal to print shirts for a gay pride festival. “All we are asking for is that the government not force us to promote messages against our convictions, said Blaine Adamson, owner of Hands On Originals apparel company in Lexington. “Everyone should have that freedom.”

Going offline for Lent
Social networking topped the list of what people are giving up for Lent this year, according to a list generated from posts on Twitter. Since 2009, social media has made at least one appearance in the top five every year. Filling out this year’s top five: Twitter, alcohol, chocolate, and swearing.

Headlines from the Winter Games
The Winter Games are in their second week in Pyeongchang. Former Illinois Baptist editor Tim Ellsworth is covering the Olympics for Baptist Press, including:

Fundamental change

ib2newseditor —  February 19, 2018

church pews hymnals

Church planting changed me. It was a fundamental change that has continued to influence not only the way I think and feel about church planting, but also the way I think and feel about churches in general.

Before planting, I saw the church as an organization that primarily served its members. It was the group of people that employed my dad, and later me as a youth minister. Our job was to lead worship services and classes, plan programs and activities, and nurture positive relationships. The church membership’s job was to participate, learn more about the Bible, and relate to one another with love and service. Sometimes new people visited and considered joining us.

During and after planting, I saw the church as those who seek and save the lost, and help nurture them into maturing believers who also seek and save the lost. As disciples, we worshiped and studied the Bible and enjoyed fellowship and served. But those weren’t the primary focus; they were things we did along the way as we pursued the mission of seeking and saving the lost.

How can we prioritize the lost and unchurched?

When we left our church plant in the hands of its first full-time pastor and moved to Georgia, we were fortunate enough to find a church that was still behaving like a church plant. Frankly, we had to visit several churches before finding it, and it was a half hour from our home. But it was worth it.

Though this church had its own building, full-time staff, and basic programs, it was clearly focused on engaging and serving its community, more than its members, and on being an inviting environment that expected guests every week. It created multiple entry points for the unchurched, and trained its members to engage them with relationship and with the gospel.

It doesn’t seem right to characterize my before-planting view of church as self-serving, because other church members and I often served each other selflessly. Sometimes we would even invite unsaved friends to what we were already doing, and sometimes we would go on mission trips to look for unsaved people. But we didn’t re-order our thinking and plans and resources toward the lost and unchurched. So, as a church, we were basically self-serving.

This fundamental change in my own life is on my mind and heart right now, because 2017 Annual Church Profile reports have just been totaled. They tell us that total baptisms reported by IBSA churches were lower by more than 11% for the second consecutive year. And about 40% of reporting IBSA churches did not record a baptism.
I love our IBSA churches, including the ones that didn’t see a baptism in 2017! I see so many positive ministries and sacrificial servants in every church I visit, and I recognize that churches are in different situations and settings, and have different strengths. If the gospel is proclaimed faithfully and the Lord Jesus is worshiped sincerely, and believers are maturing and serving, then there is much to celebrate.

At the same time, I would invite us all to simply ask whether a fundamental change is needed in our perspective. Many, many good things happen in a church where the members worship God and serve one another. But the best thing happens when the lost are saved and welcomed into the family of God. And that happened almost a thousand times less in our churches over the past two years.

For me, planting a church brought fundamental change to my heart and mind, that the church should seek and save the lost as its first priority. That’s now what I look for, and long for, in every church I enter. I believe it is the fundamental change that is needed in many churches, to reach the millions of lost people that live in our Illinois mission field.

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

Why I miss Nellie

ib2newseditor —  February 15, 2018

Woman praying with her bible on table

Joe Oliver met me at the front door yesterday. One of our faithful zone consultants, Joe was in town for the monthly team meeting before returning to his ministry field in the Chicago suburbs. “We’re praying for you,” he said, helping me pull the door open. His wife, DeWanna, had said the same thing to me on the same spot the month before. And in that moment, I realized that I still miss my mother-in-law.

Folks at my house have been on the injured-reserve list for a while, and I took my turn recently. In this protracted season, I have witnessed Christ at work through coworkers and their wives who have fed us and cheered us and prayed for us. The same is true of church family, who prove they are truly family, when you need them. The soups and casseroles have been terrific, but it’s the assurances about praying for us that stick with us most.

“We’re praying for you” really means something when you know it’s true.

I used to call my grandmother on occasion and ask her to pray for me, especially during college exams. (Desperate times, desperate measures, you know.) And where she left off, my mother-in-law picked up. “Call your mother,” I’d say to my wife. Especially as a pastor in a troubled inner city, I knew we needed to send for back-up. And we got it from 600 miles away. She prayed faithfully, and she would call back wanting to know the results—because she expected results. Nellie has been with Jesus 12 years now, telling him more directly, I hope, that we need his help. Baptists don’t have a doctrine of the communion of the saints, but I hope in the Hebrews 12:1 cloud of witnesses, a picture of the packed stadium at an Olympics-style event, that there’s room for my mother-in-law and so many others still cheering us on toward the faithful completion of our own race.

And not Nellie only.

Over the years, I have counted on the prayers of Louise, Leo, Ruthie, Ethel, Pat, Pam, Carole, Sheila, Yvonne, Bev, Sherry, Millie, Bea, and Arlene, among others. And more recently Susan, Beth, Robin, Kathy, Tammie, Jean, Miriam, Ashley, Diane, and many, many others. And that’s just the women.

I’m beginning to understand why Paul’s “conclusions” to his short letters are so long. There are so many people who deserve a “thank you” for their faithful intercession. If I haven’t said it adequately out loud, please know I’m saying it in prayer.

– Eric Reed