Archives For February 2019

Sending hope

Lisa Misner —  February 28, 2019

Annual offering aids missionaries reaching the nations here at home

By North American Mission Board

AAEO

Church planter Philip Nache stands outside Hope of Nations Gospel Church in Minneapolis, the congregation he started and hopes will serve as a launching pad for more churches in his city and around the world.

Philip Nache could have given in to despair. Boko Haram, the jihadist militant group located in Nigeria, had threatened his life, martyred a convert to Christianity, and continued to intimidate Christians. But despite the danger, Nache expected to return and work among the people he’d served for nearly 20 years. He had come to the United States to attend Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, a moment of divine timing that coincided with Boko Haram’s first threats on his life.

As he contemplated whether and how to return to Nigeria, another divine appointment redirected his steps.

“At that time, God opened the door for me to come to Minneapolis,” Nache said. “When I was told about the need here in the Twin Cities, I was still thinking of Africa, but after praying, I felt convicted to go to Minnesota.”

So, he decided to plan a visit. When he arrived, he was surprised by what he saw.

“It’s like I was in Africa—the northern part of Africa. Because I [saw a] basket full of people—Africans,” Nache recalled. Seeing fellow Africans opened his mind and heart, and Nache’s disposition toward Minneapolis changed. He sensed God’s leading and prepared to go.

Nache saw how the nations had come to North America. This year he is a 2019 Week of Prayer missionary for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions.

When he moved his family to the Twin Cities, Nache discovered a hunger for new churches among the various African populations. They lacked the means to make it happen until Nache arrived with the support of Southern Baptists.

“One pastor came to me,” Nache recalled, “and said, ‘Oh, there are a lot of South Sudanese and Ethiopians and so many Africans that are there. I’ve tried even to start a church with them, but I couldn’t because of resources.’”

That believer asked Nache if he was willing to reach out to those populations even though many of them were Muslim. Nache’s response was simple. “Why not? This is [why] God has brought me.”

He joined a group of believers, started reaching out to neighbors, and began house-to-house fellowships. And that’s how God opened the door and established his church, Hope of Nations Gospel Church.

Hope of Nations has grown to two services, one for South Sudanese and another for northern Nigerians. Nache and many of his church members have a vision to reach not only their immediate neighbors but the whole world.

While in Nigeria, Nache pastored and planted churches, and now God continues to use his ministry in Minneapolis to reach the nations of Africa. In the Twin Cities, Nache said, “we are able to identify potential pastors who desire to go and reach out to their people and plant churches in their own countries.”

One such example is Khemis Artema, a refugee from South Sudan. Artema traveled through refugee camps, where he endured physical suffering and lack of medication, before arriving in the United States. Nache said that Artema remained faithful to the Lord through those trials, and now he disciples him so that he can return to South Sudan and plant a church.

Hope of Nations sent Artema on a short-term trip to South Sudan, which was the trip that solidified God’s calling for him to return. Nache continues to disciple and train future missionaries like Artema.

“Our desire is to keep multiplying and reaching out to more people groups, especially people from Africa,” said Nache. He sees donations to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering as a key part of that vision going forward.

“I must say that without the help of the Annie Armstrong support that we are getting from the North American Mission Board,” said Nache, “honestly speaking, I don’t think this work will be possible…So, I seriously appreciate and thank God for this offering. Thank God for the churches all over North America that are helping to support this work.”

Gifts made to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering go directly to support and resource North American missionaries in the field. To learn more, visit anniearmstrong.com.

The purposes of ordination

Lisa Misner —  February 27, 2019

By Nate Adams

This past month our family gathered at Calvary Baptist Church in Elgin for my middle son Noah’s ordination into pastoral ministry. It was my privilege to deliver the “charge to the candidate,” something I felt I had been doing to Noah all his life, first as a boy, then as a teenager and young man, but now specifically as a Baptist minister of the gospel.

Calvary is my mom’s home church, and the location of my father’s funeral service almost 13 years ago. I wore one of Dad’s ties into the pulpit that evening, and gave another to Noah, reminding him that he represents a third generation of ministry in our family. I’ve known some of the church members there at Calvary for more than 40 years, and I watched gratefully as some of them, and then some of their children, came down front to lay hands on Noah and to pray for him. Needless to say, it was a very special evening.

The week after Noah’s ordination, I received an e-mail survey from an associational missions strategist in Kentucky who is doing research on pastoral ordination in Southern Baptist churches. The introduction to the survey stated that it was being precipitated by a “significant discussion concerning SBC ordination practices,” stemming from a recent report in the Houston Chronicle regarding sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches, some by ordained pastors.

It calls for celebration, yes, but also ongoing accountability.

The survey asked each participant to reflect on his own ordination experience, and whether it included certain elements. While I had to reflect back more than 25 years, I quickly recognized in the survey’s questions many elements that my ordination process included, but some that it did not.

For example, my ordination council consisted of ordained men from multiple churches, and they asked me questions about the Bible, and about The Baptist Faith and Message, and about my views on specific doctrines. They asked questions about my experience in ministry, though most of them had observed that first-hand for years, and about my wife’s commitment to ministry.

I do not, however, recall any questions or conversation about sexual purity, past or present. I do not recall questions or conversation examining potentially personal or selfish motivations or expectations for ministry. The survey helped me think about the benefits of including those elements in an ordination process.

Perhaps most thought-provoking to me was the survey’s question asking whether members of my ordination council had ever followed up with me to see how I was doing in ministry. My dad was on my ordination council, so I did have that follow-through and accountability. Others were friends and acquaintances for years to come. But there was no formal follow-up, and I had to admit it sounded nice to get an occasional call from someone on my ordination council, checking in on me and helping rekindle and sustain my call to ministry.

Sadly, since that wonderful, affirming, inspirational time of my ordination, I have come in contact with pastors who have fallen into sexual sin, financial impropriety, deceit or greed that was destructive to their church, child abuse, and even one who underwent operations to change his sexual identity.

So as we ordained my son this past week, I was reminded that ordination is not only a time of great celebration for the church, and affirmation of God’s calling on someone’s life. It is also a time of careful examination, scrutiny, and ongoing accountability, not just for the benefit of the ordaining church, but for the long-term good and protection of all the churches in that man’s future.

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

SBC workgroup clears 6 churches, says 3 warrant further inquiry
During a Feb. 18 report in Nashville, Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear named 10 Southern Baptist churches mentioned in a recent newspaper report on sexual abuse, asking the SBC Executive Committee’s bylaws workgroup to determine whether the churches have operated with a faith and practice closely aligned to the SBC’s adopted statement of faith.

The workgroup responded Feb. 23, reporting that while three of the churches warrant further inquiry, six do not. The response was met with dismay and outrage by victims and advocates, including Rachael Denhollander, a member of Greear’s Presidential Study Group on Sexual Abuse.

“J.D. Greear and some leaders have been seeking expert/survivor help and moving forward with firm first steps to change,” Denhollander tweeted. “The EC has undermined and destroyed that effort. I hope these mistakes are due to lack of learning and that they will withdraw, seek help and remedy these errors.”

Illinois Disaster Relief volunteer childcare room brings peace after shooting
Three days after a gunman killed five people at an Aurora manufacturing plant, Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers were on the scene to minister to grieving families.

Methodists vote to uphold Biblical sexuality
The United Methodist Church on Tuesday voted at its international conference in St. Louis, Mo., to apply its standards on Biblical marriage and sexuality more consistently throughout the denomination, according to World Magazine.

Executive Committee: Presidential nomination coming ‘very soon’
Illinois Baptist pastor Adron Robinson said the SBC’s Executive Committee has identified “God’s candidate” for their presidential vacancy. Robinson, search committee vice chairman and pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills, said Feb. 19 the search committee cannot announce the candidate’s name yet because they have not officially notified the person of their intent to nominate him.

10-year-old advises SBC leaders on value of kids in ministry
Ten-year-old Zak McCullar brightened the Executive Committee’s February meeting with his presentation in favor of a Children’s Ministry Day across the Southern Baptist Convention. McCullar, who made a motion supporting the idea during last summer’s SBC annual meeting, spoke to the EC during their final session Feb. 19.

Intercessors spend a day lifting up the needs of the city

By Andrew Woodrow

Hillcrest-departing

“A bus tour is a good way to see the neighborhoods we’ll be praying for,” said Cheryl Dorsey, prayer coordinator for the Chicago Metro Baptist Association. “As we travel between churches, we will review the social and spiritual profile of the neighborhoods, praying en route for those communities.”

This was the fifth year Dorsey and fellow intercessor Phil Miglioratti have drawn together a band of people to pray for Chicagoland, but this was the first time the prayer meeting was mobile.

The group of 20 who braved sub-zero temperatures on January 26 visited four church locations scattered across the metro area. Throughout the trip, pastors shared concerns for their churches and communities while Dorsey and Miglioratti lead prayer using a Chicago neighborhood prayer guide by John Fuder.

Stop #1
Hillcrest Baptist Church
Country Club Hills

“We are praying for you and with you as you go out and pray for your brothers and sisters across the Chicagoland area,” Pastor Adron Robinson told the prayer team as they met at Hillcrest to start the day-long journey. “Pray for us as a church,” he said, to fulfill the Great  Commission. “And pray for Country Clubs Hills. There are about 16,000 people in our suburb and many who do not know the Lord,” he added.

As they boarded the bus, Dorsey encouraged the team to sit next to a prayer partner and to be “sensitive to allow whatever site you see along the way to prompt a prayer”—whether it’s a school building, house, store, or a family in a passing car.

Stop #2
Advent Church
South Loop

Gathered in the eleventh floor community room of a South Loop condo building, the prayer team learned about the up-and-coming community Dennis Conner serves as well as the barriers he faces planting a church in a high-rise. Conner called it a “very different mission field,” where “money and gatekeepers render door-to-door evangelism ineffective.”

The goal of Advent Church is to reach the working professionals in the city. “Pray for fruits for our labor,” he said, “because this is a place that until someone has credibility, gives you their credibility, you don’t have it.”

Stop #3
Chicagoland Community Church
North Side

Nestled in a tight squeeze of low-rise townhouses and multi-unit complexes is Chicagoland Community Church. Here, Pastor Jon Pennington of the Lakeview Community church asked prayer for the church’s success in sharing the gospel.

“We’re passionate to teach people in this neighborhood how to be Jesus-followers,” he said, “But what we really want to see happen in these next two years is 200 first-time visitors at our worship services who are curious about the gospel or our mission—and that at least 20 of them will become new members of the church.”

Stop #4
Iglesia Bautista Erie
West Side

Heading into West Town, snow began falling as the bus reached its last stop, where Marvin Del Rios serves as pastor. “Pray for our community,” he said. “The last several years our community has been going through a process of gentrification. Young professionals are moving back into the city while the working poor to middle class are moving out, changing our outreach strategy.

“The spiritual soil is tough at the moment,” Del Rios said. He hopes as these young professionals have families, “that might be the door to use for us to share the gospel – through their children.”

“Chicago is still a very divided city rooted in a history of prejudice,” Miglioratti said. “And the church of Chicago needs prayer because the church is also divided. So, as we pray for a greater unity in the church, that prayer will produce greater outreach which will lead to many more people becoming part of the family of God.”

Eight hours later, Dorsey described the excitement through prayer she encountered  “as though the Holy Spirit was tailoring our prayer to suit the needs in (each) location,” she said. “It opened our eyes that we pray without prejudice and bias. And being equal partakers of the inheritance of Christ Jesus is not going to happen if people don’t pray into the Kingdom. And that is what we are doing.”

By Eric Reed

Illinois Exodus

Hard times hit the publishing industry in the early 2000’s. The president of Christianity Today International, for whom I worked at the time, called the confluence of 9/11, falling ad sales, and the rise of the internet “whitewater.” Apparently he enjoyed rafting, but he knew the river crashing against the rocks as placid waters turned swift was a dangerous situation, even for adventurous souls. He talked often about “whitewater” for several years. He told us to hold on tight.

We did.

It wasn’t easy. In the end, the organization was leaner, but publishers who survived met the crisis with creativity and invention. And the gospel mission was advanced.

I thought of that while reading an article on “the Illinois Exodus.” In it, a Chicagoland pastor used the same term to describe these tremulous times in our state. “I suspect we’re headed into some whitewater,” said Mike Woodruff. “The waves are going to knock us around a bit. But our foundations are strong.”

Woodruff was quoted by Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra at The Gospel Coalition. She asked about the future of Illinois in light of declining population and growing debt. More specifically, she questioned the impact of the resulting exodus on churches.

Some 45,000 people left Illinois in 2018, a trend mirrored in equally high-tax states California and New Jersey. In Illinois, the mounting debt is due in large part to retirement promises—and the financial obligation to cover them—which now equals about $50,800 per household.

Sound off

“What worries me is that I think most Illinois churches are unprepared for what will happen—i.e., in an effort to meet pension obligations, legislators will raise taxes and reduce social programming, which will likely shift the safety net to churches…”
– Mike Woodruff, Chicagoland pastor

“…For several generations, pastors have not seen these issues as something they need to know anything about, so now they’re unable to do much because they don’t know anything….We need to play catch-up and fast.”
– Greg Forster, Trinity International University, Deerfield

How will that affect our ministries? The first answer is obvious: population decline. Especially in troubled neighborhoods and dwindling rural communities, the loss of people hurts. As young people leave to find jobs and older people leave when they retire, the church loses reliable attenders, servants, and givers, and to some extent its future.

But beyond population loss, what happens when the politicians try to adjust the budget to cover the bills? The pastors Zylstra interviewed pointed to a different problem: efforts to cover the gaps could result in loss of services in failing communities, and increases the probability that local churches will be called upon to make up the difference for people in need.

Such a likelihood causes me to ask, Are we prepared? Evangelicals today say we are interested in social issues and in being the hands of Jesus for our community. That commitment will be tested in time and money. “There will be opportunity for pastors to lead well and offer hope,” Woodruff said. “Don’t build barriers and retreat inside and just take care of your own.”

Who imagined a call to local and state missions would be driven by the state’s financial and demographic crunch, but if that’s what it takes to spur the church to a new era of action, so be it.

Briefing

IL churches celebrate increase in baptisms
Illinois Baptist churches celebrated 3,676 baptisms in 2018, an increase of 6.8% over the previous year. The increase is one highlight of the Annual Church Profile (ACP) reports completed by 97% of IBSA churches, a new record high. “We were encouraged to see baptisms increase … after four years of gradual decline,” IBSA’s Executive Director, Nate Adams, said. “I sense a renewed passion for evangelism among many churches.” 

Churches identify ministry needs in survey
Preparing people to share the gospel, making disciples, and developing leaders remain top concerns in the latest survey of IBSA churches. Evangelism and the desire to reach young people ranked high for a large majority of Illinois churches, with respondents saying their church could use more assistance in those areas. The 2018 Church Needs Survey was conducted online in October and November.

James MacDonald fired from Harvest
Harvest Bible Chapel fired its founder and senior pastor James MacDonald for “engaging in conduct … contrary and harmful to the best interests of the church.” Harvest elders announced they were forced to take “immediate action” to end MacDonald’s 30-year tenure. “This decision was made with heavy hearts and much time spent in earnest prayer, followed by input from various trusted outside advisors,” the elders at Harvest said.

Greenway nominated to lead Southwestern Seminary
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary alumnus Adam W. Greenway has been selected as nominee to fill the presidential vacancy at Southwestern Seminary. Greenway’s nomination will be brought for a vote on Feb. 26–27. Greenway currently serves as dean of the Billy Graham School and as William Walker Brookes Associate Professor of Evangelism and Apologetics at Southern Seminary. If elected, Greenway will become Southwestern Seminary’s ninth president. 

CA must pay pro-life pregnancy centers
A U.S. District Court judge for the Central District of California issued an order saying that California must pay three pro-life pregnancy centers and a conservative law firm $399,000 in legal fees and other costs. This comes after a state law meant to force pregnancy centers to promote abortion was struck down and declared unconstitutional, with a the court granting a permanent injunction against the law.

Sources: Illinois Baptist (2), Christianity Today, Baptist Press, Christian Post

Baptism 1

Church of the Beloved in Chicago
celebrated baptisms in Lake Michigan last August.

‘One GRAND’ emphasis returns this spring, plus a new one-on-one evangelism strategy

By Meredith Flynn

When Pastor Kenyatta Smith’s church moved into their new building, an important piece was missing. The former Catholic church had no baptistry.

Another Chance Church, which Smith planted in 2012, got around it by bringing in an inflatable pool when someone was ready to be baptized. Last year, that was often. The church baptized 52 people.

The Chicago church’s increase in baptisms (up from 22 in 2017) mirrors statewide growth. In 2018, IBSA churches reported 3,676 baptisms, an increase of almost 7% over the previous year. The One GRAND Sunday emphasis last April resulted in 671 baptisms in churches intentionally focused on training people to share their faith, and inviting people to respond to the gospel.

At Smith’s church, the key to more baptisms was staying the course, the pastor said. “It wasn’t a planned thing; it was more [that] we just kept working and sharing the gospel, and it just kind of happened.”

Baptisms generate excitement and are a “big boost for evangelism,” Smith said. Another Chance does a lot of evangelism training to ensure that sharing the gospel is in the church’s DNA.

Across the Southern Baptist Convention, churches are being called to make a similar commitment to evangelism, with an emphasis on keeping things simple. In January, SBC President J.D. Greear introduced “Who’s Your One?” a convention-wide effort to pray for people who don’t know Christ, and intentionally look for ways to share the gospel with them.

The challenge comes at a time when membership and baptism numbers in SBC churches continue to decline. LifeWay Research acknowledges the decline in baptisms nationwide is due in part to non-reporting churches. But even when the numbers are adjusted, churches are baptizing fewer people per member than they did in 1950, for example.

When Greear shared “Who’s Your One?” with Baptist association leaders Jan. 31, he referenced obstacles churches face in a post-Christian culture. “These are some challenging days for the Southern Baptist Convention,” said Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham. “They’re challenging days for the church in general in the United States, but is God perhaps setting us up for one of the greatest evangelism explosions that we’ve ever seen?”

As Southern Baptists across the country and in Illinois look for effective ways to communicate spiritual truth with their neighbors, “gospel conversations” are key. A conversational approach to the gospel—sharing Jesus in the context of relationship—is the basis of many recent evangelism initiatives and training guides. And once Christians catch on, said IBSA’s Pat Pajak, and see how receptive others are to hear, the believer is encouraged to look for more opportunities to speak truth.

“But it all starts with just one conversati0n with one person,” said Pajak, associate executive director for evangelism. “We’re asking, ‘Who’s your one?’”

Baptism 2

Pastor Michael Nave (right) baptizes Nathan Morgan at Cornerstone Church in Marion. The church celebrates baptism every third Sunday, and invites “spontaneous baptisms” when the worship service is focused primarily on salvation.

More than numbers
At Cornerstone Community Church in Marion, evangelism training is built into the church membership process. The final step in a four-pronged process is “Go.” In other words, said Pastor Michael Nave, how do you as a Christian bring other people with you?
Talking about the gospel “ought to be as natural as talking about the weather,” Nave said. Christians shouldn’t have to switch into evangelism mode; rather, the gospel should permeate the conversations and relationships we already have.

Even when evangelism is a natural outgrowth of a Christian’s spiritual development, church leaders still credit intentionality as a major factor in overall effectiveness. In 2018, Cornerstone celebrated 57 baptisms, up from 22 the previous year. The church saw the increase after implementing some intentional strategies around baptism, Nave said.

“First, we set a baptism weekend, the third weekend of each month,” he said. “We will gladly baptize someone on other weekends, but this gives us an opportunity to keep it in front of our people.” Explaining the importance of baptism is also a part of Cornerstone’s membership process. And, the church stays open to how God might work.

“From time to time, when the sermon is specifically about salvation and baptism, we offer ‘spontaneous baptism,’” Nave said. They don’t practice it frequently, he said, and are sure to give a full explanation of what baptism means. “We have simply found that some people need the opportunity to do it now!”

He recounted Peter’s Pentecost sermon in Acts 2, which stirred people to immediately respond by asking, “What shall we do?” Peter’s answer: repent and be baptized. The two acts went hand-in-hand, Nave said. “That water didn’t save them, but their public profession of faith came very quickly and naturally.”

Last year’s One GRAND Sunday initiative highlighted the links between hearing the gospel, responding, and following up that decision with baptism. As people shared their stories—on video or from the baptistry or afterward over e-mail—many talked about the journey they had taken to get to the point of baptism that day.

For some, the road was long. Others took a shorter route, like the father in Amboy who came to church for his daughter’s baptism, heard the gospel, responded, and was baptized that very day.

Counting baptisms is one way to measure health and growth, but Pajak said after last year’s One GRAND Sunday that the day was about more than numbers. As IBSA churches prepare for another One GRAND emphasis this spring, his position on last year’s statewide success is an important guiding principle.

“The great thing is that it sparked a fresh passion for evangelism across the state.”

– With additional reporting from Baptist Press