Archives For May 2018

New Places

By Van Kicklighter, Associate Executive Director, Church Planting

Of the three Go New Places commitments, the first is prayer (Pray, Partner, Plant). There is no more needed, yet neglected, activity in the Christian life than prayer. While this is true of us personally, it is also true of the missionary activity we call church planting.

There are two compelling needs for prayer in church planting. The first is for us as Illinois Baptists to pray for the hundreds of places around our state where a new church is needed. I don’t understand how it works, but God is moved to open doors of opportunity in response to our praying about people who need to hear the Good News of Jesus. As we talk to the Father about lost people (prayer), He responds by giving us opportunities to share the gospel. We have 200 priority church planting needs (people and places) across the state. Would you commit to take one of these and consistently pray for the people who live there, that they will have an opportunity to hear the Gospel?

Second, we need Illinois Baptists to pray for the church planters who are already sharing the gospel and planting churches to help people grow into mature disciples of Jesus. Church planting is exciting, new, and dynamic; it is also hard, lonely, and sometimes discouraging. Church planters face spiritual opposition from the Evil One. They often work without resources. Too often, they are working alone. Even the Apostle Paul recognized the need to have people praying for him:

“Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. For this I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I might be bold enough in Him to speak as I should” (Eph. 6:19-20 HCSB).

Will you commit to pray consistently for one of our church planters? I will be glad to help you connect with a church planter somewhere in Illinois.

Learn more at PioneeringSpirit.org

Uphill climb

Lisa Misner —  May 14, 2018

Fifty years after Martin Luther King’s death, racial unity is more dream than reality in America. But what about the church?

I am a man

Personhood and justice were the themes of a 1968 sanitation workers’ strike memorialized today by a mural in Memphis. Managing editor Meredith Flynn returned home to Memphis to learn what has developed in racial equality and unity, as the city observed the 50th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Meredith Flynn

In 1968, striking sanitation workers carried signs in Memphis proclaiming “I Am A Man.” They marched to protest working conditions that had recently left two of their own dead. It was their protest that brought Martin Luther King, Jr. to Memphis, and to the Lorraine Motel, where he was asassinated.

Fifty years later, people convened at the site to see what has happened with civil rights, and nearby, Southern Baptist leaders questioned the state of race relations and unity in the church. About 4,000 people met at the city’s convention center for MLK50, a conference on race and the church, co-sponsored by the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

The meeting featured a diverse group of speakers on an even broader list of topics: race and politics, systemic injustice, coming to terms with the past—and present. In their messages was this plea: Churches can no longer be silent on the issue of racial justice.
“We have expected you to be our greatest allies in the struggle against injustice,” Chicago pastor Charlie Dates told fellow pastors. “And we wanted you to shout it from your pulpits.”

In a letter written from jail in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963, Dr. King expressed similar disappointment with white ministers who were either opposed to the Civil Rights movement or cautious about getting too involved. King’s words for the latter are hard to read— they “have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows,” he wrote.

“Often, we can fool ourselves into believing that somehow history itself will take care of problems of racial injustice,” said Russell Moore, president of the ERLC. “That somehow inevitably, these things will work themselves out.”

But they haven’t. Racially motivated violence took the lives of nine members of a black church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015. White supremacists marched in Virginia and elsewhere, just last year. While most people don’t use racial slurs or march behind the Confederate flag, Moore said, we still retreat to the places and mindsets where we’re most comfortable.

All the while, the church has the solution: the power of the gospel to redeem sinners, and to transform  brokenness. Speakers on the MLK50 stage implored pastors and Christians to work toward a radical view of unity—one that lays down personal preference and seeks to understand others, for the glory of God and for the sake of the gospel.

It starts with courageous leaders, said Kevin Smith, executive director for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. “Nothing changes about the church in America without the pulpit changing.”

Lessons from Lorraine Motel
To grow up in Memphis is to be well acquainted with Dr. King and Rosa Parks and the Freedom Riders. The Lorraine Motel is a city landmark, and when the museum opened downtown in the mid-90’s, school groups started taking field trips there. Still, in a city so closely entwined with the Civil Rights movement, it’s surprisingly easy to grow up holding history at arm’s length.

On April 4 of this year, attenders at the MLK50 conference took a break to join the city’s celebration of Dr. King. At the motel, the courtyard and parking lot under the balcony where he was shot were cordoned off. Folding chairs were set up for guests invited to attend the ceremony in his honor. Other visitors to the site stood well behind them, at the top of a small hill overlooking the hotel.

Down the street, pop-up booths sold T-shirts and other memorabilia. Upbeat music poured out of an open shop door. At 6:01 p.m., the festivities stopped for a moment of silence in observance of King’s death. What resounded at the event, over the beat of reggae music and over the momentary silence, was an invitation to lean in and learn.
The same was true at the conference. A Southern Baptist pastor crystallized a call to action for the denomination: “Every time there’s an opportunity to drive a nail in the coffin of racism, every white Southern Baptist should be very quick to grab the hammer,” said Vance Pitman, pastor of Hope Church in Las Vegas. He was one of four Baptist leaders who took part in a panel discussion on the SBC and race, a session that started with a look at the denomination’s historical struggle to overcome prejudice and discrimination.

This is an ongoing struggle. In 1995, Baptists approved a resolution repenting of racism and asking African-Americans for forgiveness. In 2016, messengers repudiated the Confederate flag, and in two emotional sessions last year, messengers resoundingly approved another resolution condemning “alt-right” racism.

“It’s something that we’re going to have to constantly—as a convention, as a denomination—deal with and address as we move forward to continue to work towards the kind of reconciliation that we need to see happen,” Pitman said.

The panel, which also included Kevin Smith, National African American Fellowship President Byron Day, and Iowa pastor Jeff Dodge, discussed the “missiological consequences” of not pursuing racial unity, as well as the value of individual relationships across racial boundaries. When the conversation eventually turned to leadership of SBC entities, Pitman said it is “imperative” that at least one of two vacant posts—president/CEO of the Executive Committee and president of the International Mission Board—be filled with minority leadership.

Representation and leadership are key issues on the local church level as well, said Randle Bishop, an elder of Immanuel Baptist Church in Chicago, who attended the MLK50 conference. “One area that lacks unity in our churches and other Christian ministries is the glaring lack of submission to minority leadership,” Bishop told the Illinois Baptist.

“The reason for this is surely complex,” Bishop said. “However, if whites were to join biblically-faithful black and Hispanic churches and Christian ministries, this could be an additional approach to advancing greater unity in the body of Christ.”

A biblical imperative
Many of the addresses given in Memphis had at their root the Bible’s words about unity among Christ-followers. They called racism by its name—sin—and described its effect on American society and the church. “Namely,” said Bishop, referencing Genesis 1:27, “sin has deeply affected the way we relate to one another as image-bearers.”

“One takeaway for me was seeing how clearly the Bible addresses the hypocrisy of those who sinfully act out in racism towards other people. We do not have to take our cues in this conversation from the world and we must not,” Bishop said. “Jesus has clearly spoken in his word. He has said, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Throughout the conference, speakers made it apparent that how to go about loving your neighbor as yourself, especially in the realms of racial identity and justice, is an exceedingly complex matter. But, they seemed to say, it starts with humility, and a willingness to set aside personal preferences in order to pick up unfamiliar burdens.

“We’re free to love each other,” Moore said. “Free to listen to each other. Free to be led by one another. Free to serve one another. We’re free to be the church of Jesus Christ. And if we have to change our worship styles, let’s crucify our worship styles. If God’s way upsets our political alliances, let’s crucify our political alliances.

“To be a gospel people means that we don’t seek a cheap reconciliation, but a cross reconciliation.”

Meredith Flynn is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist.

By Eric Reed

5-07-18 IB cover lgAfter our last issue of the Illinois Baptist went to press, we remembered what we left out of the article, “Why this one matters.” Our collection of items to look for at the Southern Baptist Convention in June should have included the forthcoming report on evangelism in the SBC by Steve Gaines’ blue ribbon committee. The panel, which includes Illinois’ own Doug Munton, pastor of FBC O’Fallon, is scheduled to present its study on the declining rate of baptisms in SBC churches and several key proposals to turn that around.

The report, by seminary presidents, SBC entity heads, and megachurch pastors, was to be Gaines’ parting word to the convention as he concludes two years as president. It is a very important word at crucial moment in the life of our denomination. We meant to say that in our May 7 issue previewing the Dallas convention.

We didn’t.

We forgot.

Gaines’ important prescription for recapturing the SBC’s evangelistic fervor got muscled out by breaking news about abuse of women and the argument over inappropriate statements by statesman Paige Patterson two decades ago.

The same appears likely to happen again at the convention in June.

Any one of these stories could be the headline coming out of Dallas:

“SBC shifts generation and theology in top leadership vote.”

“Proceedings slowed as messengers argue diversity among nominees.”

“Messengers debate ERLC leadership and another round of resolutions repudiating racism.”

“SBC speaks on abuse, women, and their place in the denomination.”

“Patterson announces retirement, takes final lap before exiting SBC stage.” Or, “Patterson unseated as convention’s keynote; denied final sermon after controversial comments.” (A special called Board of Trustees meeting May 25 at Southwestern Seminary may determine if either of last two headlines proves true.)

But the headline will likely not be: “SBC adopts new plan for evangelism to turn decline in baptism and refocus churches on leading the lost to faith.”

Why?

Because the overwrought news cycle of the current era has overtaken the SBC too. If only we could come out of Dallas writing stories about a fresh wind of God’s Spirit and our renewed commitment to share the gospel. If only we could file reports of our people falling on their faces in repentance for failing to share salvation with lost people, then hitting the streets to tell the good news.

Yes, all these news stories are very important. As a people, we must deal faithfully with women and our treatment of them in the church as well as the larger culture. But while we are doing that, we must remember what brought us together as a denomination in the first place. The world needs Jesus. And all today’s headlines are evidence of that great need.

Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.

The Briefing

Beth Moore pens open letter on sexism
A member of The Gospel Coalition’s Council has released an open letter, giving an apology to noted evangelical Bible teacher Beth Moore over the sexism she has experienced in some church leadership environments. Moore, the founder of Living Proof Ministries, penned an open letter describing her experiences of misogyny within certain conservative evangelical circles.

Patterson comments draw range of women’s responses
A growing group of Southern Baptist women called for Paige Patterson to be removed as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) due to what they claimed was his “unbiblical view of authority, womanhood, and sexuality.” An open letter from Southern Baptist women objecting that Paige Patterson has been “allowed to continue in leadership” despite his statements on sexuality and domestic abuse garnered more than 1,800 signatures in its first 24 hours online. Other Southern Baptist women defended Patterson’s character without affirming all his specific comments.

IL senate bill requires schools to teach LGBT history
The Illinois Senate approved a bill requiring all public schools in the state to teach about the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in history. The bill would require that textbooks “accurately portray the diversity of our society, including the role and contributions of people protected under the Illinois Human Rights Act, and must be non-discriminatory as to certain characteristics under the Act.” It would also become effective be July 1, 2019.

Disney ends Christian concert after 35 years
After 35 years, Disney World says it will no longer host the Night of Joy Christian music festival. The annual event held in early September started in 1983 and drew popular Christian artists like TobyMac, Amy Grant, Steven Curtis Chapman, MercyMe, Jars of Clay, and Michael W. Smith. Despite the cancellation, Disney says various Christian groups and artists will still continue to hold concerts at the resort in Florida.

Trump reveals White House Faith Initiative
President Donald Trump has marked the National Day of Prayer with a new policy designed to protect faith groups and their involvement with the American government. After over a year of ad-hoc meetings with evangelicals, the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative will formalize his administration’s ties with faith leaders and offer faith-based organizations equal access to government funding.

2018 SBC Credentials Committee announced, Tellers also named
Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines has announced appointees to the 2018 Credentials Committee. Gaines has also named tellers for the SBC 2018 annual meeting June 12-13 in Dallas.

Sources: Christian Post (2), Baptist Press (3), CBN, Christianity Today (2), Washington Post

Compiled by Andrew Woodrow, IBSA Multi-Media Journalist

The best offense

Lisa Misner —  May 7, 2018

By Nate Adams

During the years I played basketball, my teams had some winning seasons and some losing seasons. After one of those losing seasons, our coach decided to make some changes.

They weren’t personnel changes—our best players were on the floor most of the time. The problem was that most of our competitors were taller and bigger than we were. And none of us were great outside shooters.

But we were quick. And we played hard. And by the start of the next season, our coach made sure we were in excellent condition. Because his new strategy, and our new life, we learned, was defense.

ADF-IBSAAt first we complained, at least among ourselves, because three-fourths of our practice time focused on guarding and running. Most basketball players like to shoot the ball. But our coach shook off our looks of discouragement with this promise: “Guys, this year our best offense is going to be good defense.” And as our defense created steals, and those steals created easy baskets for us, we grew to believe him. It was good defense that was creating new opportunities, and victories, for us.

For churches in today’s rapidly changing moral and legal climate, good defense is also essential. Religious freedom is being assaulted again and again, and often by giant, imposing foes that can range from the courts, to the schools, to the entertainment elite, to the culture itself. Churches that were once noted for the good they do are now often viewed with distrust and, in some cases, those churches face direct legal challenges.

One excellent “coach” in this changing and challenging climate is a Christian organization named Alliance Defending Freedom. ADF has over 23 years of experience providing religious freedom legal services to churches and Christian organizations, and has played a role in at least 52 Supreme Court victories. Now, through its recently developed Church Alliance program, it provides member churches with religious freedom legal services ranging from facility or land use, to unconstitutional regulation, to tax exemption issues.

Churches that join ADF’s Church Alliance program receive a religious liberty audit, including legal review of church bylaws and policies. They receive direct access to attorneys to answer the church’s questions about protecting its religious liberty. And they can receive consultation and/or legal representation in cases involving the church’s religious liberty.

Seeing that these services are now so valuable to churches, IBSA recently entered a partnership agreement with ADF to provide these services to IBSA churches for a flat annual membership rate, regardless of the church’s size. In fact, IBSA believes so strongly in the value of these services for individual churches, that IBSA will pay half of the first year’s annual $250 fee for any IBSA church that enrolls in ADF’s Church Alliance program. The religious liberty audit of a church’s key documents alone is worth well more than this amount, especially compared to the cost of an individual attorney for these services.

You can learn more about Alliance Defending Freedom, and receive the half-price IBSA church partnership discount (enter code IBSA2018), through the IBSA.org website, or call or e-mail the IBSA offices for a free brochure on how the ADF Church Alliance program works.
For my basketball team, playing serious defense was a game-changer, and a season-changer. We scored more points, and we won more games. But our offense was triggered by a solid, hard-working defense.

I am hopeful that hundreds of our IBSA churches will realize the threat they are facing, and get serious about defending their biblical beliefs and religious freedoms. Perhaps in doing so, we will also find new opportunities to go on offense with the gospel. Sometimes the best offense really is a good defense.

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

hands patterned with the US flag

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the National Day of Prayer. Many of us pray for America on a regular basis, but each time this year, we are able to join together across the nation and pray together in unity.

Whether you are joining a prayer gathering for the event or praying on your own throughout the year, here are some ways you can pray for America.

1. #PRAY4UNITY in America.

“Making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

The present spiritual crisis in America is calling us to pray for and take all necessary actions to come together in our nation. God is the only One who can do this, so we call upon Him to empower us to make every effort to live in unity.

2. #PRAY4UNITY in the church of America.

“Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, and that you be united with the same understanding and the same conviction” (1 Corinthians 1:10).

God is calling His Church in America to unify upon the authority of the Bible and centrality of Jesus Christ, the only Savior of the world. We must come together to make Christ known to the world by advancing the Gospel to every person in the world. Ask God for local churches to unify as one body of Christ and walk together in unity, harmony and oneness.

3. #PRAY4UNITY in the families, workplaces, communities and cities in America.

“Also, the power of God was at work in Judah to unite them to carry out the command of the king and his officials by the word of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 30:12).

God’s power upon us is the only source to unite our families, workplaces, communities and cities in America. Ask God to call families, workplaces, communities and cities to look to the only One who can unify us.

4. #PRAY4UNITY among all ethnicities and people in America.

“For he is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14).

Since each of us are made in the image of God, we bear His image regardless of the color of our skin or uniqueness of our ethnicity. Through the death of Jesus, He has torn down the wall of division among all people. In God alone, we unify and live in peace with one another, standing against all racial and ethnic division, denouncing it as sin.

5. #PRAY4UNITY for the security of our nation and for our schools, churches, and all public venues.

“The one who lives under the protection of the Most High dwells in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1).

Ask God to protect our schools, churches and all public venues. Plead with God to restrain all evil and secure our nation from all enemies. Ask God to move upon our government officials to work together to secure our schools, churches and all public venues.

6. #PRAY4UNITY that we agree clearly, unite visibly and pray extraordinarily for the next great spiritual awakening in America.

“They all were continually united in prayer” (Acts 1:14).

Ask God to convict the church of America to wake up spiritually, unite visibly and pray extraordinarily for the next Great Spiritual Awakening in America to occur in our generation and shape the future of America.

EDITOR’S NOTE: May 3 is the National Day of Prayer.

Ronnie Floyd is senior pastor of Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas and president of the National Day of Prayer. This article first appeared at LifeWay’s Facts&Trends (factsandtrends.net).

Paige Patterson clarifies comments on abuse and divorce
Southern Baptist leader Paige Patterson’s spoke out to address his position on domestic violence after old comments he made regarding counseling women in abusive marriages circulated on social media over the weekend. Patterson said he has advised and helped women to leave abusive husbands, but stood by his commitment to never recommend divorce: “How could I as a minister of the gospel? The Bible makes clear the way in which God views divorce.”

200 evangelical leaders tell Congress to pass prison reform
Well-known evangelical leaders such as Franklin Graham, Ronnie Floyd, Jack Graham, and nearly 200 others are calling on members of Congress to pass bipartisan re-entry reform legislation that aims to provide federal prisoners with the training and rehabilitation they need to be successful once they are released back into society. The letter was sent to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and congressional leaders voicing support for the Prison Reform and Redemption Act of 2017, also known as H.R. 3356.

GuideStone, ERLC defend ministerial housing allowance
GuideStone Financial Resources and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief filed April 26 that asks the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago to reverse a lower court decision invalidating the exemption. It will decide on a section of a 1954 law that permits “ministers of the gospel” to exclude for federal income tax purposes a portion or all of their gross income as a housing allowance.

Pew: 25% of survey’s Christians don’t buy biblical God
A fourth of self-identified Christians believe in what Pew described as “God or another higher power” who is not necessarily all-loving, omniscient and omnipotent as Scripture reveals. “In total, three-quarters of U.S. Christians believe that God possesses all three of these attributes — that the deity is loving, omniscient, and omnipotent,” the study found.

Butterfield: Christian hospitality’s radically different from ‘Southern hospitality’
In Rosaria Butterfield’s newest book, “The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post Christian World,” she articulates a gospel-minded hospitality that’s focused not on teacups and doilies, but on missional evangelism. It has nothing to do with entertainment—and everything to do with addressing the crisis of unbelief. Interviewer Lindsey Carlson spoke with Butterfield about opening hearts and front doors to our neighbors.

Sources: Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, Baptist Press, Christianity Today