Archives For June 2019

Called to comfort

Lisa Misner —  June 27, 2019

By Adron Robinson

Read: 2 Corinthians 1:3–5, ESV

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”

One of the amazing things about God is that in his providence, he never wastes anything. God uses every part of our journey in life to conform us into the image of his Son (Romans 8:28-29).

Paul tells the Corinthians that God uses our afflictions as a means for his ministry in us. The Apostle reminds us that when Christians are afflicted, God comforts us. That truth is a blessing to all who face affliction: the Father of mercies, the God of all comfort has promised to minister to us in the midst of our affliction. Truly he is a good, good Father, for he never leaves us or forsakes us.

But Paul doesn’t stop there. He tells us that God’s comfort is not for us to keep to ourselves. Like all of his blessings, God intends for us to share with others that which we have received from him. We are called to comfort others with the comfort we have received from God. (Count the number of times “comfort” appears in the three verses in our focal passage.)

Someone near you is facing an affliction that you have been through. God calls you to comfort them with the comfort you received from God. You didn’t think you would make it, but God gave you strength. You felt like giving up, but God gave you endurance. You almost quit, but God gave you a future and hope. Now, share what God has given you with someone in need. You were comforted to be comforter.

Prayer Prompt: God of all comfort and mercies, thank you for always providing what we need and for always being more than enough. Help us, Father, to reflect your love by comforting others with the comfort we have received from you. Amen.

Adron Robinson pastors Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills and is president of IBSA.

Mandrell to be voted on June 28 as next president of Southern Baptist publisher
Ben Mandrell, a native of Tampico, Ill., preached an emotional message at his Colorado church June 23–two days after his nomination to lead LifeWay Christian Resources was announced. Mandrell, 42, is a native of Tampico, Ill.

“All through Scripture, we learn that God is a calling God,” Mandrell (pictured above with his family) said in his sermon. “He dials our number and we have to answer. We have to take his calls.” When considering the decision to leave his church and relocate his family to Nashville, Mandrell said he had “a wrestling match with God like I have never experienced before.”

High court keeps cross
A memorial to World War I soldiers can stay standing in Bladensburg, Md., the U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 20. The American Humanist Association asked that the cross be removed in 2012, sparking a legal battle that has bounced around the courts since then.

>Related: Christian Post writer Curtis Schube says the Supreme Court’s reasoning behind its ruling won’t necessarily protect other religious monuments.

How one ‘heartbeat bill’ sparked a national trend
The series of abortion restrictions passed in several states this year is the result of a years-long push based on a fetal heartbeat bill authored in Ohio years ago, according to analysis by USA Today. The paper’s analysis of so-called “copycat” legislation—when a bill is copied and modified for its new context—found the Ohio bill was proposed 26 times until similar legislation passed in multiple states this year.

Refugee crisis grows as U.S. welcomes fewer people
A record number of people were displaced around the world last year, while the U.S. continued to receive far fewer refugees from “countries of concern” identified by the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom.

Americans critical of current state of political debate
People in the U.S. overwhelmingly say public discourse in the country has become more negative and less respectful over the past several years. And 78% say elected officials using heated or aggressive language to talk about certain people or groups makes violence against those groups more likely.

Sources: Baptist Press, Storyline Fellowship, Christian Post, USA Today, Christianity Today, Pew Research

Three Illinois girls

Lisa Misner —  June 24, 2019

By Nate Adams

This month it is my privilege to officiate the wedding ceremony of our youngest son, Ethan, and his fiancée, Alyssa. They will be married in Elgin, where they first met as Judson University students six years ago, and where my wife, Beth, and I also met more than forty years ago.

Our middle son, Noah, is also married to an Alyssa, and so we will gladly navigate that potential confusion at family get togethers. They met in high school, however, here in Springfield, not long after I came to serve at IBSA.

And our oldest son, Caleb, literally met his wife, Laura, at IBSA. They were in high school at the time, though it wasn’t until a few years later that they reconnected for good. Both Laura’s mom, Melissa, and I worked at IBSA. One summer we dragged our two reluctant college students to the IBSA family picnic. They started writing letters, and now they’ve been married six years.

Especially as parents who mainly know boys, Beth and I are so grateful for these three young ladies who have become our daughters. All are devoted Christ-followers who love the Lord and are active with our sons in local Baptist churches. Each one is delightful, gifted, and unique. And we are especially blessed with the genuine friendship these six young adults have with one another—and with us.

And so, I want to say thank you. Thank you first to the Lord, of course, who sovereignly brought these three couples together in his perfect timing. But thank you also to the IBSA Board and the larger Illinois Baptist family, who more than thirteen years ago called me to bring a wife, three teenage sons, and a slightly quirky dog to serve the churches of Illinois. As I occasionally remind each of our sons, we have prayed for their future wives since before they were born. As it turns out, all of them were here in Illinois.

As our youngest son marries, I’m finding grace in unlikely places.

As we discussed wedding preparations, each of our sons and their fiancées asked me to make sure that their marriage ceremonies contained clear gospel presentations. They asked me to underscore that Christ is the center of their relationships, and that by his grace he will be the lifelong foundation of their marriages. What a privilege it is to prepare a marriage ceremony with that charge.

There were a number of challenging topics that I considered writing about this month. The Southern Baptist Convention will convene in Birmingham and face several difficult issues, including recent accusations of sex abuse in churches and even by missionaries. Leaders will seek the best paths forward for effectively helping prevent the travesty of sex abuse in churches.

Also, at the end of their May session, the Illinois legislature approved the “Reproductive Health Act” that legalizes abortion through nine months of pregnancy, requires all insurance to cover abortions, and allows nurse practitioners to perform abortions. This appalling legislation is a major setback to the pro-life movement in Illinois. The action stands in stark contrast to recent legislation in states including Missouri, Georgia, and Alabama that have sought to limit or end abortion.

So it’s a tough month for Southern Baptists in Illinois. But right in the middle of that, I get to celebrate this wedding, this testimony to the gospel message and to Christ and his church. I get to welcome this wonderful young lady into our family, and watch our son be welcomed into hers. And I get to remember that God called me here to this often tough Midwest mission field, and that his grace and provision are still evident, in at least three Illinois girls.

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

By Steve Hamrick

Steve HamrickMany times in ministry, I have been called on to do something not because I wanted to, but because I knew I should or it was in my job description. Often these “acts of obedience” make me uncomfortable, but I’ve noticed when I am obedient in these hard things, I receive a blessing and satisfaction that is many times greater than the fear. Many times, I see God at work on the frontlines. I had such an experience recently in Hillsboro, Ill.

Rob Cleeton is pastor of Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church in Medora and a volunteer chaplain at Graham Prison in Hillsboro. One day, he told me about the prison praise team, which is made up of more than 20 prisoners who serve various ways. They set up gear and chairs, sing and play, lead worship, and run sound and video.

Rob told me that I might be able to help them. The invitation to join Rob at the prison intrigued me, but I was fearful too. With Rob’s permission, I asked several of my minister of music friends if they would be interested. Five of them, including one who is a guard at the prison, agreed to join me.

After getting security clearance, my team planned a clinic for the prison praise team. On the day of the training, we met at the prison. We were searched, left our cell phones behind, went through three or four barriers and guard stations, and found ourselves in the center of the prison. Even though I knew they were going to let us out when we were done, I had an eerie feeling about being locked in.

When we first met the prisoners they looked exactly like I had expected. Some had gang- or crime-related tattoos; others looked like they could lift 300 pounds. I knew that many of them were there for serious offences. But when they started playing and singing, I could tell that they were better musicians than I am. Many of them made a living playing in bands and clubs before their prison days. I was pretty unsure what we might be able to do to “help” them.

Pastor Rob told me that most of the guys in the prison ministry had a better relationship with Christ than most Christians on the outside. He also encouraged us not to worry, that the men would be grateful for our time with them. He was correct.

As I got to know the men and their stories, something started to change in the way I looked at them.

As I got to know the men and their stories, something started to change in the way I looked at them. No longer did they look like prisoners. They started to look like friends. One man looked like my father. Another one looked like me. God told me clearly that the only difference between them and me was that they broke our civil laws. But we both have broken God’s law. In God’s eyes, we are exactly the same kind of sinners, deserving of death and hell.

But we also share exactly the same good news. Jesus died to save us both from our sins, the prisoner and the pastor.

That evening, our ministers of music joined the praise band and to lead 121 prisoners in worship. In a room with only 80 chairs. The chaplain decided that because we didn’t have enough chairs, he would remove all of them. As the prisoners entered, led by the band, they started singing and praising the Lord. Through both familiar and unfamiliar songs, they sang with all their heart. When it came time for the message, they stayed engaged. They interacted with me while I spoke, affirming with “Amen,” “Blow it up, preach!” and “Come on!”

When the service was over, I found one of my new friends in the audience and asked him why no one had complained about standing up for an hour-and-a half. His answer has fundamentally changed the way I look at worship.

“When we come together to worship,” he said, “we are not concerned by prison bars, uniforms, rules, guards, bad food, or barbed wire; we are worshiping free before the King of Kings.”

Time was suspended while they were transported before the throne in worship. It was personal worship, yet it was fueled by the corporate singing and praise of believers. The presence of the Lord did not have to be called down, because he was already there. We stepped into his presence. Worship in our Illinois Baptist churches could be like that if we confessed our sins, left our un-prayed over opinions at the door, and set our hearts and minds on Jesus.

There in the prison, we were all blessed standing in the presence of God. The prison band was blessed as they prompted the prisoners in worship. Our ministers of music were blessed by the worship and the new relationships they made. I was blessed most of all as God showed me a new picture of what worship should really be like every time we come into his presence. Thanks, Pastor Rob, for inviting us to participate in such a blessed event.

Steve Hamrick is IBSA’s director of worship and church technology.

High court sends case back to Court of Appeals
Aaron and Melissa Klein lost their Oregon bakery and were required to pay $135,000 for refusing to create a cake for a same-sex wedding in 2013. Now the U.S. Supreme Court has sent their case back to the Oregon Court of Appeals for reconsideration in light of the Court’s decision in favor of fellow baker Jack Phillips last year.

Illinois Baptist pastor urges prayer for churches in the state
Abortion-expanding legislation, high-profile pastoral failures, and a pending statewide “exodus” are a few of the concerns cited by Chicago pastor Nathan Carter. “Yet Christians must not despair or retreat,” Carter writes in his call to prayer on ERLC.com.

Baptists lament past failures on abuse, commit to care well in the future
Meeting in Birmingham for their annual meeting last week, Southern Baptists approved an amendment to the SBC Constitution that specifies sexual abuse as grounds for discontinuing cooperation with a church. They also voted to establish a standing committee to investigate claims of misconduct against churches related to abuse and other issues.

Bishops vote to create abuse hotline
U.S. Catholic Bishops approved at their annual meeting the creation of a hotline to receive allegations of sexual abuse or abuse cover-up. The hotline will be operational in a year, according to U.S. News & World Report, and will cost about $50,000 a year to run.

LifeWay presidential search team to report June 28
Trustees of LifeWay Christian Resources will gather for a special meeting June 28 to consider a report from the search team looking for the Southern Baptist entity’s new president. Former President Thom Rainer announced his retirement last August and served through February of this year.

Sources: Christian Post, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Illinois Baptist, U.S. News & World Report, Baptist Press

Nathan CarterRecent abortion-expanding legislation, high-profile pastoral failures, and a pending statewide “exodus” are a few of the concerns cited by Chicago pastor Nathan Carter. “Yet Christians must not despair or retreat,” Carter writes in his call to prayer on ERLC.com.

“Ours is not the first age to have rulers who ‘frame injustice by statute’ (Ps. 94:20). And the gospel still has the power to transform people who are foolishly set on autonomy at all costs into selfless lovers of the less fortunate other,” wrote Carter, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Chicago. “For the gospel tells of One who did not take life to protect his own, but laid his life down to give life to those who killed him.

“Pray for churches in Illinois to be renewed by this gospel and live out of it in the midst of its mission field.”

In the golden age of piracy, a pirate captain had power, authority, and a wide-brimmed hat that set him apart as commander of his ship. His crew agreed to follow their captain wherever the seas took them.

While the captain had legitimate power to move the ship onward, the ship’s quartermaster had a different kind of influence. Often placed second in command, the quartermaster’s primary job was to take care of both the needs and the discipline of the crew. He interacted with his fellow pirates on a daily basis and had the responsibility of keeping up morale and making sure the crew was effective in their daily duties.

His influence, though not official, also allowed him to have authority over the crew. And if the captain became despotic, the quartermaster could use his influence to assume power and lead a mutiny.

Pirates don’t pastor churches, but pastors and church leaders do wield different types of influence. Each can be used wisely for the edification of the church and the glory of God.

1. Legitimate influence. This is formal authority, like the captain, the President of the United States, a police officer, and yes, a pastor. A person with legitimate influence occupies an official position and because of that, has authority. Biblical examples of this kind of influence include King Saul and King David, both anointed king by God’s prophet Samuel.

2. Referent influence. Like the quartermaster who understands and cares about the needs of the crew, referent influence is based on affection, trust, integrity, and dependability. While the culture’s referent influence comes from Hollywood actors and star athletes, referent influence in ministry often comes from missionaries, ministry leaders, and again, the pastor. He may start with legitimate influence, but to be most effective long-term, a pastor must develop referent influence.

3. Reward influence. This type of influence is based on the ability to offer rewards or incentives to motivate. A general example of this is an employer/manager or a military superior. In ministry, a pastor can utilize reward influence.

Paul’s commendations at the end of his letter to the Romans showcase the value of reward influence. He extends warm greetings to several fellow believers by name, and then addresses the whole church. “The report of your obedience has reached everyone. Therefore I rejoice over you…” (Romans 16:19).

4. Coercive influence. Averse to reward influence, coercive influence is based on the ability to punish, discipline, or penalize. This kind of influence also comes from an employer or superior. The same authority that can promote you can also fire you.

Pastors also have this kind of influence, though it should only be used on rare occasions.

5. Expert influence. This influence is based on knowledge, special skills, or insight that others do not have. Examples of expert influence include doctors, lawyers, teachers, and scientists. Pastors and other full-time ministers and experienced Bible teachers can become experts in their ministries. They follow trends, know what works and what doesn’t, and have experience dealing with a variety of issues and challenges.

6. Informational influence. Though not an expert, someone with informational influence possesses the ability to attain and distribute information, and usually to effect change. This influence stems from personal connections. Political leaders and people in sales are prime examples. Similarly, pastors, elders, and denominational workers can use their connections as a way to influence people around them, for the glory of God.

God is the ultimate source of pastoral influence, and we as leaders are completely dependent upon him. However, we are called by God and affirmed by our congregations, and we should be moving our people toward God’s agenda.

In other words, we want people to do what God wants them to do. Most of us influence and lead with our own intuitive style, but understanding different kinds of influence—seen both now and in a biblical context—can help us be more intentional based on the challenges and needs of our specific ministries.

– Bryan Price pastors Love Fellowship Baptist Church in Romeoville.