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Who cares?

Lisa Misner —  June 19, 2018 — Leave a comment

By Nate Adams 

Nate Adams IBSA exterior

Nate Adams

Though I grew up the son of a pastor and denominational worker, I was in my mid-30’s before I first attended a national Southern Baptist Convention. When the convention came to Indianapolis one year, a friend invited my dad and me to drive over and experience it with him. Though I was a Sunday School teacher and deacon in my church, I have to admit that my first thoughts at his invitation were, “Who cares? Who would want to take the time and spend the money attending what sounds like a large church business meeting?”

In fact, even after attending that first meeting, I came home thinking, “Well, that was kind of interesting, especially the big LifeWay bookstore and the exhibit area. But I don’t think it’s relevant enough to me or my church to go again.”

And so I didn’t, until the North American Mission Board invited me to join the staff there. That was 1997, in Dallas, and when I returned there this year it was for my 22nd consecutive SBC.

I think it’s probably healthy for me to remember that, as an Illinois Baptist layman, I didn’t find the annual SBC meeting particularly relevant, or at least worth the time and expense, until I joined the staff of the NAMB and now IBSA. But that’s when the phrase “who cares” stopped being a question for me, and started being the answer to a different question.

That different question became, simply, “Who decides?” Who decides who our missionaries are, and how our cooperative missions money is spent? Who decides how our national entities are led, and how we will speak to our culture? Who gets to decide Southern Baptist doctrinal positions, and how tomorrow’s pastors are trained?

What I’ve learned over the years is that the person who gets to weigh in on all those important questions and decisions is the person who cares. It’s the person who cares enough to attend the meetings, and to understand and participate in the process. The person who shrugs and asks, “Who cares?” doesn’t. The person who cares does.

Of course, not every person who cares gets his or her way in the process. There were several times during this year’s meeting in Dallas when I couldn’t believe what was being said by a messenger from the floor, or when I even disagreed with what was being said from the platform. At least one of the votes disappointed me.

But now that all is said and done, I look back on the annual meeting of messengers to the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention, and realize that, once again, spirited discussion among Spirit-led believers has resulted in both specific decisions and general direction that are trustworthy, and good stewardship of our shared beliefs and resources, and accountable to the churches.

Somehow the miracle of voluntary, grassroots cooperation by diverse, autonomous churches working together through respectful, democratic processes – led us once again to a place of blessing. And that blessing is the opportunity to do far more together than any individual church can do alone.

To be candid, I occasionally go back to the question form of “Who cares?” and wonder how relevant some of what happens at the national SBC level really is to the life of the average Illinois Baptist church. I’m sure some people ask that same question of their state convention or even local associational meetings. But things are decided at all those meetings that impact the mission of God through all our churches and missionaries.

While I can, I want to be in on those decisions, as one of the people who cares.

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

The Briefing

SBC WRAP-UP: Greear, Pence, #MeToo draw SBC’s focus
At an annual meeting that saw what chief parliamentarian Barry McCarty called an “extra heavy volume of business” on its opening day, the Southern Baptist Convention elected J.D. Greear as convention president and heard an address by Vice President Mike Pence.

Local county condemns abortion, declares ‘unborn sanctuary’
The Effingham (Illinois) County Board passed a resolution declaring the county a “sanctuary for the life of unborn human beings.” It’s an issue causing an uproar among residents. The board passed the resolution Monday. It means the county is taking the stance condemning abortion, except if both mother and child are at risk.

4 in 10 LGBT Americans identify as Christian
Approximately four out of ten LGBT Americans identify as religiously unaffiliated, roughly equaling the percentage that identify as Christian, according to a new survey. A poll conducted May 24 to June 1 by BuzzFeed News and Whitman Insight Strategies of 880 LGBT Americans found that 39 percent of respondents did not have a religious affiliation.

Under pressure from VP, aid is sent to Christian, Yazidi communities in Iraq
The premier U.S. aid agency is poised to send millions of dollars directly to Christian and Yazidi communities in Iraq under a rarely used, streamlined funding arrangement after coming under pressure from Vice President Mike Pence.

Meet the World Cup stars who love Jesus
World Cup fever will be consuming the planet for the next month. As you learn the stories of the hundreds of athletes from nearly three dozen countries, hear them talk about their faith in their own words.

Sources: Baptist Press, WCIA news, Christian Post, Washington Post, Christianity Today

Motion to replace VP with time of prayer fails on the floor

Controversy arose Monday when the Southern Baptist Convention’s Order of Business Committee announced Vice President Mike Pence had been added to the Wednesday morning schedule. Debate online and in the convention hall centered on the appropriateness of having a political figure speak at time when the country and the denomination itself is experiencing so much disunity.

Garrett Kell, a messenger from Del Ray Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., brought a motion to replace the Vice President’s address with a time of prayer. The motion called Pence’s addition to the schedule a source of disunity with minority brothers and sisters that suggests alignment with a particular political party and puts SBC workers around world at risk. Kell asked messengers to consider Romans 14:19.

Committee on Order of Business Chair Grant Ethridge responded to the motion. “The Southern Baptist Convention aligns itself with no political party. Our loyalty is to King Jesus, Lord of Lords,” Ethridge said to applause in the convention hall. He explained that the White House reached out to the convention and that Pence’s appearance was keeping with history. “Many political figures have reached out to us in the past.”

Ethridge, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton Roads, Va., referred to a list of Scripture passages to support his position. “1 Timothy 2:1, 3; Romans 13:1, Titus 3:1. 1 Peter 2:17 to me really sums it up. In Acts 25:11, Paul even says, ‘I appeal to Caesar.’”

He went on to say he felt messengers should respect the position of the office and that had he been chair when the previous administration was in office, he would have welcomed them to speak if they had requested it.

Concluding, Ethridge said, “We encourage the messengers to extend a biblical, Christ-like welcome to the Vice President of the United States.’

Messengers overwhelming voted against the motion to replace Pence’s address, and approved the Order of Business for the Annual Meeting.

Multiple motions to change the SBC bylaws to disallow requests by or invitations to political figures were presented during the first schedule Introduction of New Motions time Tuesday morning. There will be a second opportunity for messengers to bring new motions to the floor at 3:45 p.m. The Committee on Order of Business will review the motions and determine which meet the convention’s guidelines to be eligible for a vote.

Evans: We’re experiencing the passive wrath of God

Dallas | “We’re living in a day where we’d rather offend God and fear the culture than offend the culture and fear God,” James Merritt proclaimed to those gathered at the 2018 SBC Pastors’ Conference in Dallas.

The conference, which precedes the Southern Baptist Convention, kicked off Sunday evening June 10, with three speakers: Merritt, pastor of Cross Pointe Church, Sugarloaf, GA; Juan Sanchez, pastor of High Point Baptist Church, Austin, TX; and Tony Evans, pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, Dallas, TX.

Merritt, spoke from Romans 1:16, urging pastors not to be ashamed of the simple: 1) message of the gospel; 2) might of the gospel because it is the power of God; or 3) saving ministry of the power of the gospel.

Sanchez cautioned pastors, “We are not made to live in isolation…yet pastors are some of the most isolated people. Brothers, we need deeply rooted gospel relationships if we are to fulfill our calling.”

He encouraged them to remember, “Our confidence is in the Lord Jesus Christ who lived and died and rose again. The Lord chooses to use us and to him be the glory forever and ever amen.”

No matter what discouragement pastors might face, Sanchez reminded, “Our confidence is not in our building. It’s not in our city. Our confidence is in Jesus Christ.”

It was local pastor Tony Evans that roused the audience. Evans based his messaged on 2 Chronicles 15:3-6. “It’s a summary of why the world we live in today is the way it is,” he said. “It gives us a picture of chaos.”

He contrasted the chaos of the world then with that of our world today. “Family chaos, international chaos, urban chaos. It says there was social chaos comprehensively.”

“God determines in a society what he is going to do by the presence or absence of his people, Evans declared. “What you and I are experiencing today is the passive wrath of God.”

He described what God did then and what he said God’s doing now. “God troubled them with every kind of distress… He’ll use the distress to bring our undivided attention back around to him again to pray for revival.

But there is a solution if churches choose to address it. “If God is your problem, only God is your solution to the chaos.”

The SBC Pastors’ Conference continues Tuesday, June 11 and can be viewed online at http://live.sbc.net/.

By Nate Adams

Editor’s note: The bill remains in committee in the House at the close of the spring session.

How churches can respond to LGBT curriculum vote

ADF-IBSANot long ago, someone used a word that wasn’t familiar to me. I immediately began breaking the word apart in my mind, realizing that I recognized pieces of it. Those pieces, along with the context in which the word was being used, allowed me to develop a pretty good idea of what the word meant. Later I found I was right.

Almost every time that kind of thing happens to me, I am thankful for Miss Daisy McCabe, my seventh-grade orthography teacher. Orthography may not be a familiar subject to many today, but it’s kind of like spelling on steroids. By studying the different parts of words and their origins, you can piece together what they mean, where they came from, and how to use them properly. A student of orthography is often good at spelling, grammar, hyphenation, punctuation, and any number of word skills.

I wasn’t crazy about orthography in seventh grade. But it has served me well throughout my life. Those of us who paid attention as Miss McCabe drilled words and participles and usages into our young minds came away better writers, and thinkers, and problem-solvers.

For some reason, I thought of orthography when I learned of legislation that recently passed the Illinois State Senate, and that now is under consideration by the Illinois House. Senate Bill 3249, which passed in the Senate 34-18 on May 2, would require a portion of public school history courses to include study of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) figures, and that history books be “non-discriminatory” overall.

If the bill becomes law, Illinois would be just the second state, after California, to require public schools to teach LGBT history. Regional Superintendents would be tasked with enforcement, and if passed, the law would take effect in Illinois July 1, 2019.

I think my mind turned back to my orthography days because of the stark contrast between that useful subject and its lifelong, educational value, and this latest attempt by liberal legislators to impose not education but blatantly political and, for many, objectional moral values in public schools. Instead of giving all students, regardless of their background or personal choices, the skills they need for life, this type of legislation seeks to indoctrinate a belief system, and to normalize and condone behavior that the Bible clearly calls sin.

As Illinois Family Institute lobbyist Ralph Rivera said in a memo to legislators, “Schools should teach that we should be respectful of each student and each person. This is what we all agree on. However, schools should not be used to advocate for lifestyles that are against the religious values of the students and parents.”

This disturbing trend in our culture is one more reason that churches should be vigilant and well prepared in guarding their own religious freedoms. It’s one reason that IBSA has entered a partnership with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), and why IBSA is offering to pay half the $250 first-year fee for any cooperating IBSA church that enrolls in ADF’s Church Alliance program.

Churches that join the Church Alliance program receive a religious liberty audit, including legal review of their church bylaws and policies. They receive direct access to attorneys who can 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. You can learn more about ADF’s Church Alliance program, and receive the half-price IBSA church partnership discount, through the IBSA.org website.

In addition to advocating for our churches’ religious freedoms, church members today must also be vigilant in communicating Biblical views and values to our state legislators. It’s a shame that we have to defend even public education this way. It makes me miss orthography.

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

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Aim of task force is renewed passion, effectiveness

With hopes of catalyzing “a fresh wave of evangelistic passion,” the Southern Baptist Convention’s evangelism task force has finalized its recommendations to the convention and will release them a week before the SBC annual meeting in Dallas.

“The ETF has prayed and worked hard,” said Doug Munton, pastor of First Baptist Church, O’Fallon, and a member of the group appointed last year by SBC President Steve Gaines. “We have tried to seek the Lord and to consider ways to encourage the SBC in evangelism,” Munton told the Illinois Baptist.

The task force is scheduled to report Wednesday morning, June 13, at the SBC annual meeting.

“We will bring to the convention a list of affirmations and denials that we hope will sharpen our evangelistic focus, as well as some recommendations which we hope will encourage our convention toward greater effectiveness,” Munton said. “We certainly recognize that the SBC needs to seek the Lord as never before and to have a greater zeal for the Great Commission.”

The task force held its third and final meeting May 14-15 at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. In addition to adopting its recommendations unanimously, the 19-member group elected Southern Baptist Theological Seminary administrator Adam Greenway as vice chairman. Southwestern Seminary President Emeritas Paige Patterson is chairman.

Greenway, dean of Southern’s Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry, said the meeting “was characterized by constructive conversations about our report and recommendations.”

“The evangelization of the world remains our top priority as a convention of churches, and the prayer of all of us serving on this task force is that God will use our efforts to help bring us together by renewing our passion for and increasing our effectiveness in bringing people to Christ,” Greenway told Baptist Press.

“We know that we need a fresh wave of evangelistic passion, but we also need the presence and power of God,” Munton told BP. “We won’t get it all right, being imperfect members of an imperfect convention in an imperfect world. We do pray we bring encouragement to the SBC to refocus our attention and energy on reaching the lost with the Gospel.”

Steve Gaines, who is finishing his second one-year term as SBC president, thanked Southern Baptists for their prayers on behalf of the task force and requested continued prayer “for the SBC as we renew our commitment to take the gospel to all people everywhere.”

High attendance anticipated
Dallas attendance is in line to be the highest at a Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting since 2010, according to an event coordinator.

Advance hotel reservations, which ended May 14, were about 25% ahead of reservations this time last year, said William Townes, SBC Executive Committee vice president for convention finance. Between 8,000 and 9,000 messengers could attend the meeting June 12-13 at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, he projected, based on current hotel reservations and advance messenger registrations.

Messenger attendance at an SBC annual meeting has not been that high since the 2010 annual meeting in Orlando. Topped with 5,000 to 6,000 invited guests, exhibitors and other attendees, total Dallas attendance could surpass 14,000.

SBC President Steve Gaines urged messengers and guests to leave their neckties at home, recommending a casual dress code to beat the heat in Dallas.

– From Baptist Press, w ith additional reportingby the Illinois Baptist

By Eric Reed

Red BishopWe might feel sorry for the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Three of our leading SBC entities are without presidents, and the incoming convention president will find himself leading in the aftermath of a firestorm. At least we hope it’s the aftermath.

One resigned because of personal moral failure (Frank Page of the Executive Committee). One was removed for inappropriate comments about women and alleged inaction to protect abuse victims (Paige Patterson of Southwestern Seminary). Only one was not under a cloud (David Platt of the International Mission Board). Yet, his departure leaves a great gap in representation by the younger and reformed generation. A lot of people had pinned their hopes on Platt.

Here’s what the next SBC president faces: The EC, IMB, and SWBTS all need new heads. Their presidential search committees operate independently of each other and, officially, free from outside direction and pressures. Yet, with three major vacancies at the top, the SBC seems particularly vulnerable right now, and the next president will be expected to offer whatever assistance he can to stabilize the ships in the fleet. The new heads of those entities will just be getting their feet under themselves during the next SBC president’s first term. Helping them all is a tall order for the next guy.

What kind of leadership is needed in a season of change and uncertainty? How can he lead after this firestorm?

The next SBC president must be public. Past presidents Fred Luter and Ronnie Floyd were very public, both in mainstream media and Baptist press. Steve Gaines was less public, appearing rarely in the national media, especially in his first term. The new guy must be available to the press, write for publication often, and make effective use of social media.

The next guy must be winsome. In this era of failure and the resulting distrust, it will be up to the next SBC president to bolster public opinion of Baptists with thoughtful apologetics and likeable presentation. It won’t hurt to have a good personality.

The next guy must understand the times. Like the leaders in Issachar (1 Chronicles 12:32), he must be wise and culturally aware. He must take action befitting the age, bringing biblical response to today’s needs. Southern Baptists have been characterized as “tone-deaf” on the subjects of women and abuse. The next guy shouldn’t aim for political correctness, but he must rightly assess the needs of the people in the pews and the watching world.

Indeed, that’s a tall order.

Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.