Archives For September 2019

High-profile religious freedom cases set for high court’s 2019-20 session
The U.S. Supreme Court is poised to consider several cases dealing with the First Amendment right of freedom of religion, including a trio of cases that ask whether sexual orientation and gender identity are included in non-discrimination protections in federal workplace law.

“This is shaking up to be an exciting term for religious liberty,” said Mark Rienzi, president of the religious freedom legal nonprofit Becket, as reported by The Christian Post.

“I think this term will see the court have some opportunities to tighten up and improve its doctrine and in the process, perhaps, stem the tide of religious liberty cases it’s been getting in recent years by giving some clear answers and some clear resolutions to some lingering controversies.”

IBSA joins religious freedom lawsuits
The Illinois Baptist State Association will join two lawsuits involving religious liberty issues for the purpose of protecting Southern Baptist churches in the state. One case involves zoning regulations that prohibit churches and church plants from being located in certain areas of a city; the other contests requirements that churches and religious institutions cover the cost of abortions for their employees.

World Vision shifts sponsorship program to empower kids
A ministry dedicated to helping impoverished children around the world will now let the kids choose their own sponsors, instead of the other way around. “We are simply expressing what we believe in a new and fresh way,” Edgar Sandoval, president of World Vision US, told Christianity Today. “We are working to empower them to be agents of change.”

United Methodists to consider separation plans
Following a narrow vote in February to keep its traditional positions on marriage and qualifications for clergy, the United Methodist Church appears poised for a breakup next year. Religion News Service reports the country’s second largest Protestant denomination (after Southern Baptists) will consider how to allow dissenting churches to leave the denomination, while keeping their ties to support organizations like publishing houses.

Disaster Relief continues in the Bahamas
Southern Baptist agencies are working with local churches and Baptist leaders to help residents of the Bahamas rebuild after Hurricane Dorian. “At the end of the day, when all the disaster relief groups from the U.S. go back, the Bahama Baptists are still there,” said Jeff Palmer, CEO of Baptist Global Response. “We want God to be the champion in this, and we want our local Baptist partners to be, as well.”

Sources: Christian Post, Illinois Baptist, Christianity Today, Religion News Service, Baptist Press

Annual Meeting MM 650

The 2019 IBSA Annual Meeting will focus on renewal of church ministry. The three-day event begins with the Pastor’s Conference on November 5-6 followed by the Annual Meeting on November 6-7. Both conferences will take place at Cornerstone Community Church in Marion.

Cornerstone pastor Michael Nave will be the featured speaker in a special worship service on Wednesday night, and the Cornerstone worship team will bring the music all three days. IBSA President Adron Robinson will bring his final message as he concludes two years in the post. Robinson is pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills, a suburb of Chicago.

A full list of speakers for the Pastor’s Conference and the Annual Meeting schedule will both be published in a special edition of the Illinois Baptist Sept. 30. Included on the roster are revitalization leader Mark Clifton of the North American Mission Board, Gateway Seminary President Jeff Iorg, and Illinois pastors Michael Kramer, Tim Lewis, and Bryan Price. Pastors can also choose from seven breakout sessions in two time slots. A panel discussion will address avoiding ministry burnout.

IBSA member churches will need to vote for messengers to attend the Annual Meeting. Registration information was mailed to churches in August.

Among the items of business to be considered is approval of affiliation of the following churches, whose applications, theology, and practices have been reviewed by the IBSA Credentials Committee.

• Calvary Baptist Church, Granite City
• First Baptist Church, Collinsville
• Grace Baptist Church, Peoria
• Grace Fellowship, Davis Junction
• Greater New Hope Baptist Church, East St. Louis
• Harvest Bible Chapel, Rockford
• Jesus is the Life, Park Forest
• Journey Church, Normal
• Progressive Baptist Church, Chicago
• Revolution Church, Manhattan
• Second Baptist Church, Mt. Vernon
• The Net Community Church, Staunton

Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer

Lisa Misner —  September 19, 2019

By Cheryl Dorsey

Cheryl DorseyIn a recent prayer meeting with pastors and prayer leaders from Chicago and its suburbs, we were directed to read Matthew 7:7 to launch our prayer time. “Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” Before the prayer leader had finished speaking, the Holy Spirit dropped the chorus of this old Francis Crosby hymn in my heart.

Draw me nearer, nearer
blessed Lord,
To the cross where
Thou hast died;
Draw me nearer, nearer,
nearer blessed Lord,
To Thy precious,
bleeding side.

As those in the room sang with me, that chorus became the opening lines of my prayer, and as I prayed, the Lord revealed that the action of prayer fulfills dual purposes. Spending time in his presence is not only a blessing for those for whom we pray; it also builds and strengthens our relationship with the Lord. Praying draws us nearer to the Lord; he speaks to us through our contemplation of his Word, and through the sweetness of communion with him.

Several passages of Scripture in both the Old and New Testaments speak of “drawing near to God.” Psalms 73:7 says, “But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all your works.” James 4:7a says, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.”

I have found that as I pray for others, the Lord does a work in me—comforting, correcting, enlightening, and perfecting. While we pray, asking God to help someone with “a speck in their eye,” he kindly points out “the beam” in our own, and the wise pray-er will stop, repent, receive forgiveness, and continue in the original focus of their prayer time. Prayer is full of “teachable moments.” As we stretch out on God’s word, he increases our faith and builds up our trust in him.

Specifically, God has taught me to remember and practice these things as I pray:

1. When I “draw near” to him, God places me in alignment with his plans for my life and the lives of others. Through his holy word, the perfect prayer guide, he helps me look at the situation from his perspective. He gives me the “mind of Christ” on the matter. Things that I felt were impossible are simple from his perspective. Prayers from a finite being are surrendered to the Infinite One, the Ancient of Days, the Great I AM.

2. I am not responsible for the answers to prayer. That’s the LORD’s job. My job is to pray, to lift up the needs and issues of others and this world to a Sovereign God. I am not responsible for answering the prayer, and that takes a lot of pressure off my shoulders.

We know from Jeremiah that God has a purpose and a plan, and he responds to our prayers in accordance with his purpose, his plan, and his will. We should not confuse our effort and energy with the outcome of our prayers. The only exception is, as Andrew Murray called it, “the sin of prayerlessness,” where we don’t bother to pray at all, and therefore see no result.

3. Trust and obey. A toddler’s first steps are a little ungainly until practice gives him confidence in his ability to walk across the room. Similarly, as we consistently practice the discipline of prayer, our experiences increase our understanding of and faith in God. Pray-ers learn to trust and obey him more.

There are times when we will offer up a short and sincere prayer and leave it at his feet. Other times, the Lord will have you spend some time praying about an issue. And there may be a time when you are led to turn down your plate and fast a meal or two, spending that time in prayer instead. All of these prayer efforts should be “God-breathed,” meaning the Holy Spirit prompts you in the appropriate avenue to take. It’s not formulaic; the Lord will guide you to the perfect path for the situation.

When I draw near to God in prayer, he aligns me with his plans and reminds me of his sovereignty over all things. As he guides my prayer life, I learn to trust and obey him more. As I draw near to him, he draws near to me.

Cheryl Dorsey is prayer coordinator for Chicago Metro Baptist Association. Her husband, Rick, is pastor of Beacon Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago Heights.

By Meredith Flynn

Quilters_small

“Each one of us has got some adopted grandchildren.” In a Sunday school classroom at Marshall Missionary Baptist Church, Alberta Siverly explains why she and her sisters meet here every week. Along with their friend Karen Wallace, the sisters are assembled to work on quilts for an annual auction held by Illinois’ Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services (BCHFS).

Today’s work isn’t focused on quilts for this year’s auction—the 20 bed-sized blankets the small group creates every year are finished, ready for pick-up and transport to BCHFS’s Carmi campus. Alberta says they like to work ahead. The sewing they do these Wednesday mornings at the church and on their own time at home is for next year’s quilts, and for the baby blankets and prayer shawls they create when they hear of a need.

Their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, adopted or not, are the subject of much conversation around the table as the sisters and Wallace share stories and back-to-school photos. Dona Sanders, the youngest sister, has a granddaughter who was adopted through the Children’s Home as an infant. She’s now a junior in high school.

The Marshall quilts have raised tens of thousands of dollars for BCHFS since 2005, when the group created their first one for the auction held during the agency’s annual fall festival. Now in its twentieth year, the festival is BCHFS’s single-largest fundraiser, said Executive Director Denny Hydrick.
This year’s fall festival is Sept. 21 in Carmi.

The Marshall quilters and other partners across the state enable the ministry of BCHFS, Hydrick said. The agency, which celebrated its centennial anniversary last year, receives no state or federal funding and is supported by donor individuals and churches.

“Each church probably has its own story,” Hydrick said, “but from my perspective, partnerships are so intertwined with the ministry, you just can’t exist without them.”

All in the family
Organizers estimate this year’s auction will have between 60 and 80 quilts, with at least a quarter of those created by Loving Hands, the ministry that started 25 years ago out of Marshall’s “old lady class,” as Siverly calls it.

“Wait a minute, don’t put that in there,” Wallace says. “Just put ‘mature class.’”

“This is the last class you go to before you get promoted,” says Shirley Shumaker, another sister. Promoted, as in heaven. As they work, the quilters speak often of Carolyn Siverly, Alberta’s sister-in-law who passed away in May. And Martha Garner, their oldest sister, who will turn 90 in October. After a recent fall, she’s currently in a nursing facility.

Draped over a chair next to their work table is the last quilt Carolyn worked on. “I had to finish it for her,” Alberta says. The sisters say Carolyn was born with a talent for colors and fabrics. “She could throw in an odd block that you wouldn’t think would even belong in that quilt, but it looked right,” Wallace said. She’s the group’s newest recruit, but she lived down the street from the sisters when they were young.

As Wallace sews and the sisters look over patterns and swatches, they teach a crash course in quilting. The quilt patterned with interlocking circles is “Double Wedding.” Another with little girls in profile is “Holly Hobby,” also known as “Sunbonnet Sue.”

Sunshine on the front porch.

Blocks, batting, backing.

“We love to talk quilts,” Siverly says. “My husband, before he passed away, he said, ‘Alberta, you’re going to turn into a quilt.’”

The sisters and Wallace hold several different conversations across the table, often finishing each other’s sentences. “Eat, sleep, and drink quilts,” one says. Across the room: “And then repeat.”

Loving Hands started when a woman at the Marshall church wanted to be more involved in missions. She had a garage built at her home so the group could meet there; they rotated from one member’s home to another before eventually moving their weekly meeting to the church. They gather Wednesday mornings to get ideas and to plan future projects, but the majority of the sewing they do at home.

Pastor Paul Cooper steps into the classroom to greet the quilters, recalling a lunch he shared with the group early in his tenure as pastor. He had driven them to Carmi to drop off their auction quilts and suggested a Mexican restaurant on the way back. Not accustomed to the cuisine, every one of the quilters ordered the same entrée—a chicken chimichanga.

“We got him young,” Siverly says affectionately of their pastor. “We trained him the way we wanted him to go, with God’s help.”

“He’s doing really well too,” adds another quilter.

The Loving Hands ladies talk about the need to recruit new blood for the group. A fellow church member built them a large quilt stand positioned just outside the sanctuary. They swap out the featured quilt every few weeks—the one currently on display has a woodland theme, with animals hidden throughout.

As they stand in the foyer examining the quilt, the Loving Hands greet the few people here on Wednesday morning with hugs and conversation. Some are actual family, others just feel like they are.

“Everybody down here’s related to everybody else.”

Cultural crossroads
Two hours south of Marshall, Susan Shilling works on a quilt with a group of brand-new sewers. Shilling, who has helped lead the quilt auction for BCHFS for 10 years or more, is teaching the ins and outs of quilting to junior highers at her church, First Baptist in Grayville.

“They’re real beginners,” Shilling said. “Two of the girls had never touched a sewing machine.” She plans to do the actual quilting for their creation, but she’s been careful to let them sew together the pieces of the quilt top. “If they have a boo-boo, they have to pick it out themselves and fix it. I want to be able to say the girls made the quilt.”

Shilling marvels at what the Marshall group accomplishes each year. “I just can’t imagine how they get all those quilts made.” When she drove to Marshall to pick up this year’s quilts, she saw the file cabinet in the Sunday school classroom, already full of projects for next year’s auction.

The quilts sold this year will benefit the four main ministries of BCHFS: residential care at the Children’s Home in Carmi; care for new and expecting mothers at Angels’ Cove Maternity Center in Mt. Vernon; adoption services; and counseling offered at Pathways centers around the state.

In addition to those initiatives, Hydrick says BCHFS is also pursuing a new avenue of ministry: a crisis pregnancy clinic. The new opportunity is in response to Illinois’ new abortion laws, which repealed several longstanding restrictions on the practice. The clinic would provide pregnancy testing and ultrasounds, as well as counseling for women as they make decisions.

“In our one hundred years of history, the ministry has always adapted to meet more contemporary needs,” Hydrick says. It’s been 100 years since the first sibling group of four came to live at the Carmi campus. A century of ministry has been made possible by the benevolence of donors and giving churches, he says.

In Marshall, the Loving Hands quilters are considering a future trip to Illinois Amish country to look at material and get ideas for upcoming projects. Youngest sister Dona will likely drive, because she has a van. They’ll continue to meet on Wednesdays, working on quilts for people in need, now and in the future.

“Eat, sleep, and drink quilts.”

“And then repeat.”

Meredith Flynn is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist.

Pastor’s death by suicide renews calls for help for hurting leaders
California pastor Jarrid Wilson died by suicide Sept. 9 after preaching that day at the funeral of a woman who had taken her own life. Wilson was an advocate for mental health and had encouraged the Church to care for people who are struggling. The news of his death started numerous conversations about the depression and isolation often connected to church leadership.

“Sometimes people may think that as pastors or spiritual leaders we are somehow above the pain and struggles of everyday people,” wrote Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship where Wilson served as associate pastor. “We are the ones who are supposed to have all the answers. But we do not.”

Related: Depression often goes unshared in isolating vocation

Liberty students protest after Falwell aides speak out
A recent Politico story on Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. resulted in a protest attended by around 200 students Sept. 13. Around 60 of those were there to demand an investigation of the president, Religion News Service reported. Falwell’s leadership and management of the Virginia university founded by his father were called into question by the Politico article, which relied on information from several current and former staffers.

Duke rejects ministry over policy on sexuality
Young Life was denied official status as a student organization on campus at Duke University after the student senate unanimously rejected the ministry for its policy on LGBTQ volunteers and staff. “We do not in any way wish to exclude persons who engage in sexual misconduct or who practice a homosexual lifestyle from being recipients of ministry of God’s grace and mercy as expressed in Jesus Christ,” Young Life’s policy states. “We do, however, believe that such persons are not to serve as staff or volunteers in the mission and work of Young Life.”

California lawmakers call on pastors to change treatment of LGBTQ people
The California Legislature passed a non-binding resolution Sept. 4 blaming religious groups and others for “disproportionately high rates of suicide, attempted suicide, depression, rejection, and isolation amongst LGBTQ and questioning individuals.” The resolution calls religious leaders to “counsel on LGBTQ matters from a place of love, compassion, and knowledge of the psychological and other harms of conversion therapy.”

Wednesday night is still a church night for most
An overwhelming majority of Protestant pastors say their churches host some type of activity on Wednesday evening, with adult small group Bible study and gatherings for youth and kids atop the list. “Church leaders frequently discuss the difficulty of getting people to participate in church activities multiple days each week,” said Scott McConnell of LifeWay Research. “Yet the vast majority of churches are still open and active on Wednesday nights.”

Sources: Christianity Today, USA Today, Illinois Baptist, Religion News Service, Christian Post, LifeWay Research

Tithing

Today churches will collect the Mission Illinois Offering. From Cairo to Chicago, East St. Louis to Westville, the mission work of IBSA is made possible by gifts from partner churches. Discipling kids at camp, training next-gen church leaders, reaching people who don’t know Jesus — it’s all because you give.

Pray that Illinois Baptists who support our shared mission work may give generously today.

Thank you for supporting and praying for state missions in Illinois. Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering at MissionIllinois.org.

Day 7 Leaders and Vision

Nate Adams and the IBSA leadership team guide ministry to revitalize churches, plant new churches, and advance the gospel in Illinois. With a renewed focus on revitalization, IBSA is helping churches grow strong, even as bringing a gospel witness in the current culture becomes more challenging. Watch the video, “Illinois Focus.”

Pray for IBSA leaders and 10 zone consultants who minister to Baptists in every corner of Illinois.

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering.