Archives For Heartland

‘To see the gospel carried through Baptist churches generation after generation’

Essentials MIO

MIO Logo 500pxSharing the gospel with at least 8 million people is a daunting calling, especially as the cultural opposition churches face continues to grow. But that is our calling here in Illinois. And each year in order to fulfill that calling, Illinois Baptists gather resources to fund ministries for evangelism, discipleship, and church planting.

How’s that working?

Gathered in the chapel of Broadview Missionary Baptist Church following a meeting of pastors, four IBSA leaders discussed the mission field and the future of ministry partnership through the Illinois Baptist State Association. In the discussion were:

• Nate Adams, IBSA Executive Director
• Mark Emerson, IBSA Associate Executive Director of the Church Resources Team
• Adron Robinson, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills, and serving his first term as IBSA President
• John Yi, IBSA Church Planting Catalyst focused on second-generation ministry in the Northeast region

How does our view of Illinois affect our churches’ commitment to partnership in state missions?

Nate Adams: I think a lot of people don’t think of Illinois as a mission field, because their community is reasonably churched and they’re reasonably happy in their church environment. But Illinois has 13 million people. At least 8 million of them don’t claim to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And a lot of those who do say they are Christians have just nominal church relationships.

John Yi: And there are many people groups that don’t have a single church that serves them. In Chicago we see so much diversity—people from all over the world speaking all kinds of different languages. There are about two million immigrants in Illinois.
And there are at least a half-a-million young people who have come to Illinois to study, and a large portion of them have come from overseas. We really have a unique opportunity to reach people with the gospel—in our cities and all over the state.

Adams: Illinois is very much a mission field. In Acts 1:8 terms, where Jesus said, “You’ll be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth,” Illinois is the “Judea” part of that mission field. In this environment, Illinois Baptists are missionaries, going to places like college campuses and large cities and rural areas, bringing the gospel there as if it had not come there before. Because for a lot of people, they’ve never heard the gospel in a way that they can really understand, even here in Illinois.

Seeing the needs, some churches have noticeably raised their support for state missions. Yours is one of them, Pastor Robinson. Why?

Adron Robinson: My congregation recently increased its Mission Illinois Offering giving because we saw the work that was going forward because of last year’s offering. We were able to see the money that we invested going to reach lost people in Illinois—going to help us reach our Judea, you know. Hillcrest can’t reach the entire state, but by giving through the Mission Illinois Offering, we can help other Illinois Baptists reach other lost people in their areas. We can join in our part of fulfilling the Great Commission.

Adams: IBSA is helping churches think about the mission field that is most accessible to them. Even though it’s a wildly diverse mission field, it’s the one that’s near enough where they can go there themselves.

Illinois is a very diverse state, both ethnically and in spiritual need. And John, you serve among people who exemplify both needs.

Yi: Chicago is a landing spot for so many immigrants. And because that’s the case, we can’t stop planting churches for our first-generation folks. But as soon as they arrive, a cultural gap starts to form between the generations almost immediately. And so the challenge is two-fold—that we reach immigrants in their own language, but also reach their children with the gospel in English, which the parents are unfamiliar with, in a meaningful way that’s going to bring them to Christ.

What can our churches do together that they could never accomplish alone?

Robinson: I’m grateful for our partnership with IBSA, because it gives the local church the resources and the connections to do statewide ministry that we can never accomplish as one small local congregation. Through Disaster Relief, evangelism training, equipping of our local church body through IBSA staff, we are able to reach people all around the state.

Mark Emerson: As Pastor Robinson points out, missions is part of our work, along with evangelism and discipleship. And we help churches do this by equipping them for leadership: IBSA develops leaders.

I think back to several of the guys who were on the IBSA staff when I was a new pastor and church planter almost 30 years ago, how they took me under their wings and mentored me. Today, I’m thinking how great it would be if every Illinois Baptist pastor had that kind of connection.

Adams: I think the advantage that IBSA has, that allows us to create that kind of opportunity, is proximity to the churches. Southern Baptists have an International Mission Board helping churches go around the world, and a North American Mission Board focusing on some of the great cities in North America. But the Illinois Baptist State Association is the nearby partner. They’re the guy nearby to the church who equips the church to reach its own mission field right here in Illinois.

Emerson: As a pastor, I recall how I looked at a lot of different things in our organization and thought, “Well, our church is not growing because we have a community problem. Or an organizational problem. Or a financial problem.” What I learned is that our ministry really had a leadership problem. And if the church was going grow, I was going to have to grow.

So, we are developing leaders by providing the same kind of experience that I had through the state association—creating cohorts where leaders come together and learn to lead. We have about 40 of these groups all over the state now.

In addition to cohorts, the Church Resources Team equips 6,500 leaders from almost all of our 1,000 IBSA churches and church plants in all aspects of ministry in statewide and regional training events. And we train kids and students in missions and leadership with camps each summer and evangelism events in the fall.

Robinson: Our church has hosted youth events for the northern region. Without our IBSA connections, these things would never happen—praying together and serving faithfully, partnering together—

The key word is partnership.

Adams: I hope our young people won’t lose the vision of partnering with others who believe Baptist doctrine to send missionaries into places that no one church could send by themselves. But that working together as Baptist churches we can send reliable missionaries to places that will deliver the gospel and start New Testament churches that are relevant to that community. And I hope that’s something that will happen for generation after generation.

Emerson: That our work is handed from one generation to another.

So how do you see state missions in the future?

Adams: For me personally to see the gospel carried through Baptist churches generation after generation is a continuation of what my dad started when he was a pastor and a director of missions in Illinois. I want to see that happen in the generations of my kids and their kids—a stewardship of faithfulness, that we believe the Bible, that we believe the gospel, that we believe the mission of God is the most important thing in our lives.

By Nate Adams

MIO Logo 500pxLast Saturday I received three voicemail messages from the same number. I suspected it was a mistake or a telemarketer, because the number wasn’t familiar, and I recognized the area code as being from out of state.

Indeed, the first message sounded like an elderly lady, who simply apologized for possibly dialing the wrong number. But in the second and third messages, the same lady said that she was sorry for bothering me again, but she was trying to reach the “Illinois Baptist Convention.” She asked if I could call her back and at least let her know if she had reached the right number.

Though it was a Saturday evening, and I couldn’t imagine what this lady might need, the frequency and urgency of her messages led me to call her back. It was then that I met Miss Myra, a 95-year-old grandmother from Kentucky.

After a few minutes of conversation, I learned several things about Miss Myra. She had just moved into a new assisted living facility a month earlier. She was nearly blind due to macular degeneration. And years ago, she had served for a while on the board of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. That’s how she knew to call me.

But I learned all those things after Miss Myra told me the primary reason for her call. Her grandson Ben had recently moved to Chicago, and she was concerned that he wasn’t attending church in that new, big city. His parents had raised him in a different denomination, she said, but he hadn’t seemed to stay connected with that church. And she didn’t know anyone to call there anyway. But she knew Southern Baptists, and she knew that if she called “the state convention office,” someone there would help her find a nearby church for her grandson. And she knew that church would be Bible-believing and gospel-centered.

I probably receive 3-4 calls a year like Miss Myra’s, often from someone in the South whose family member or friend has moved to Illinois, usually the Chicago area. They frequently are afraid that Southern Baptist churches “up there” are few or non-existent, and that the city is huge, and probably dangerous.

With Ben’s address, I was able to go to our online database and quickly find several churches within a few miles of where he lived. I did need to filter the options, because some of the IBSA churches nearest him were Spanish-speaking, or Russian, or Vietnamese. After all, Chicago is an international mission field. But a large-print letter went out to Miss Myra the following Monday, with contact information for six churches and pastors, and my offer to contact them personally if she or Ben would like me to do that.

The calls and e-mails and letters I receive like that one from Miss Myra remind me why IBSA continuously plants churches, especially in population centers like Chicago. I didn’t need to find a Chinese, or Romanian, or Korean church this time. But I could have.

Miss Myra’s call also reminds me why we ask churches to collect a Mission Illinois Offering each year, and why we ask Illinois Baptist church members to give generously. That annual offering helps us plant new churches in places like Chicago, or in one of the 22 Illinois counties that still have one, or zero, Baptist churches.

At one point in our conversation, Miss Myra said to me, “You know, I’m 95 and almost blind. I can’t do much. But I can do this.” I will remember her words when I give my Mission Illinois Offering through my church this year. I hope you will too.

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

By Andrew Woodrow

Classic Outreach

In a town proud of its Route 66 heritage, thousands gather every year to celebrate what John Steinbeck called “the Mother Road.” For more than 20 years, Edwardsville’s annual Route 66 festival at City Park has offered visitors fun, food, and classic cars. What was missing, realized church planter Rayden Hollis, was a gospel opportunity.

Hollis is the planter and lead pastor of Red Hill church in Edwardsville. The church isn’t quite three years old, and they don’t have their own building yet. But Hollis is passionate in leading his church by a missions strategy based on Jeremiah 29:7.

“Just as the Israelites, exiles in their community, were commanded to seek out the welfare of the city they were living in,” Hollis said, “it’s our philosophy that we too, as exiles, need to seek out the welfare of the city we live in and pray for it.”

That philosophy is at the core of Red Hill’s presence at their city’s summer festival—and it’s a noticeable presence. At this year’s event June 8-9, park visitors stirred the humid air with hand-held fans emblazoned with Red Hill Church. Diners at picnic tables ate under misting fans donated by the church. Dog walkers at the festival discussed their pets with dog walkers from Red Hill. Church members brought a bean bag set and played alongside park visitors.

Church Hits the ‘Mother Road’ from IL Baptist State Association on Vimeo.

And showcased just outside the church’s two tents at the festival: a 1955 Chevy Bel Air. The gleaming red and white car—made even more vibrant by the sun’s glare—attracted visitors to the Red Hill display.

To Hollis, Red Hill isn’t just about gathering for their Saturday evening worship, it’s about the church going out into the community and making the city better.

“I’ve been a part of churches where if the Lord removed that church from the community, the community wouldn’t even notice,” Hollis said. “We don’t want to be that church.

“We want to be so deeply integrated into the life of our community that if we were pulled out, it would have a devastating effect upon the regular rhythms that people engage in inside of our cities. So, we’re trying to find ways that we can step in and make an immediate impact and difference in the life of our city, just by observing what’s naturally happening in it.”

Nothing in return

Early on, Red Hill began to observe the rhythms and patterns of Edwardsville, seeking out ways to serve at city events with a focus to “breathe even more life into it,” Hollis said. “We want to be given an opportunity to show the city how much our church cares for it.”

Once Hollis learned of the success of Edwardsville’s Route 66 Festival, he knew he needed to get involved.

But at first, it wasn’t easy. Katie Grable, assistant director for the Edwardsville parks department, was uncertain about allowing a church to actively participate in the festival. “Initially I was a bit skeptical,” she told the Illinois Baptist. “Not because I was against a church partnership, but rather, I was nervous that their angle would be vocally evangelistic.”

Still, in 2015, Red Hill was granted permission to set up a photo booth tent in the far back corner of the festival. They provided props and space for festival-goers to pose for photos. “We wanted to do something that added to the festival’s success,” said Sarah Hollis, Rayden’s wife. “And through that, begin those gospel conversations with the park visitors.”

Realizing the potential to reach up to 10,000 people in one weekend, Rayden Hollis was eager to do more the next year. He asked Grable how Red Hill could best contribute to the festival, and the city’s success, from Red Hill’s own budget. His requests puzzled Grable, leading her to eventually ask Hollis what was in it for his church.

“Nobody just gives freely without wanting something in return,” Grable said. “And they were just willing to offer so much I eventually asked what Rayden wanted, and we would see what we could do to help.”

To Hollis, Grable’s question came as a surprise. “At first I didn’t know what she was talking about,” he said. “But then something really awesome happened.” Hollis was able to explain to Grable that what Red Hill was doing was meant to be a reflection of God’s love. Hollis further explained there wasn’t anything he needed but rather that the opposite was true. “I told her I had something that she desperately needed,” Hollis said. “And I got to share the gospel with her.

“Now the unfortunate news is that she didn’t receive Christ, but because of what we’re doing as a church, I got the opportunity to share with someone why we’re doing what we’re doing.”

Grable wasn’t yet ready to receive Christ, but she understood Red Hill’s genuine intent in giving. And a partnership blossomed between the Parks and Recreation department and Red Hill.

“It was through that experience that I finally realized this was just an honest willingness in wanting to help,” Grable said. “They’ve been our most frequent partner since then and are the only organization that is coming out to basically anything that we do in the city.”

Valued partners

Since their first involvement with the Route 66 Festival in 2015, Red Hill has come a long way at the event. Their photo booth tent is no longer in the far back corner of the park. It has instead been moved to the front.

“We even have a second tent where we pass out handheld fans,” said church member Casey Elmore. “And we do almost all the volunteering for the kids’ activities.”

Elmore emphasized Red Hill’s devotion to the city as a “heartbeat to serve and build relationships within our community. And through that, crack open those opportunities to share the gospel.”

The church is also fostering its relationship with the Parks and Recreation department, who has called on Red Hill to help open their newest park, and even made Hollis an administrator on their Facebook page.

The pastor thanks Illinois Baptists for giving through the Cooperative Program to help make his church’s outreach possible. 

“Events like this would never happen unless Southern Baptists of Illinois continued to give to the Cooperative Program, to the Mission Illinois Offering, and other Illinois Baptist offerings. So, to every pastor, thank you for inspiring and encouraging your church to give. And to every Illinoisan who’s given over the course of their lifetime, thank you.

“Your generous gift helps make this moment possible for us to be a gospel witness and to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this city.”

Curb appeal

Lisa Misner —  July 23, 2018

By Nate Adams

Picnic tables 2

If you haven’t visited the IBSA Building in Springfield recently, I hope you’ll find a reason to come this summer.

Perhaps you’ll join the thousands of tourists, families, and student groups who are drawn to the annual state fair, or to the perennial Abraham Lincoln sites. Or perhaps you’ll just drop by as you travel elsewhere, to say hello to your IBSA family at the corner of Stevenson and Dirksen.

If you do, I hope you’ll notice several improvements to our building’s “curb appeal.”
For one thing, the old Denny’s restaurant next door, that even I remember from my boyhood, has been demolished, and a new automated car wash is being erected in its place.

We’ve also made several improvements to our own building. The scraggly groundcover that we’ve been trying to tame since it was planted around the building in 1970 has been dug up and replaced with fresh new grass. New trees and flowers have been planted in fresh beds of mulch.

A new sidewalk leads from the front door around to a renovated patio area, which now offers picnic tables and benches. The parking lot has been freshly sealed and repainted. Inside, new customized carpet runners lead you from the doors to the elevators, and our reception area welcomes you with some new furniture.

Why the face lift? Well, it’s been about seven years since our last building renovation, and some of these things were intended and dreamed about then. Some of them are the answers to problems, such as the water main rupture outside our building last year. But most of the updates are simply intended to make our building more inviting, whether to IBSA pastors and church members, or to the building tenants who help pay our utilities, or even to the occasional vagrant who needs a cold drink or a bathroom.

1st floor lobby

If curb appeal is important at the IBSA Building, then it’s even more important for each local church. And summer is a great time to take stock and ask what kinds of repairs, improvements, or updates could make our houses of worship more inviting.

We tend to be blinded by familiarity and overlook the needs of our church buildings, just as we do in our own homes sometimes. But I guarantee that first-time visitors notice the wear and tear, the needed repairs, and the musty smells that we too readily take for granted.

I recently visited a small country church in central Illinois on its 150th anniversary. Unlike many churches that age, the original building had never been moved, or burned, or rebuilt. We worshiped in the same auditorium as the church’s founders.

But that didn’t mean the property had been neglected. A new foyer had been built on the outside, along with a ramp for accessibility. A new basement had been dug under the original structure. An attractive parsonage had been added next to the church building. And the grounds were beautifully landscaped, and freshly mowed and trimmed.

Everything about that country church said to me “come on in,” and “what’s inside is worthwhile.” That’s what curb appeal should be all about in all our churches. And that’s why it’s worth our time this summer.

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

Crucial moment

Lisa Misner —  July 16, 2018

Key issues at stake in Kavanaugh nomination

Supreme Court Building.

The announcement of Brett Kavanaugh as President Donald Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court cheered many Christians and conservatives July 9, including a coalition of evangelical leaders who released a statement in support of the 53-year-old federal appeals court judge.

“Judge Kavanaugh is an outstanding choice for the Supreme Court,” tweeted Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore. “He has a strong record, and the Senate should confirm him without delay.”

Moore was one of 40 leaders who signed the statement calling for Kavanaugh’s quick confirmation. The nomination was met with criticism from many on the left, including several Democratic Senators who signaled they’ll fight his confirmation. Appointing Kavanaugh will require a simple majority in the U.S. Senate; Republicans currently hold a 51-49 majority.

The nomination came two weeks after Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement. Kavanaugh, who served as an aide to President George W. Bush, is viewed as more conservative than Kennedy, who often served as a swing vote on the Court. He authored the opinion in the Obergefell vs. Hodges in 2015, which legalized same-sex marriage in the U.S.

Kennedy also agreed with the Court’s opinion in a 1992 ruling, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which reaffirmed Roe v. Wade. The landmark 1973 decision to lift state restrictions on abortion figured prominently into discussion about Kavanaugh’s nomination. While the judge testified in 2006 that he would follow Roe “faithfully and fully” as the “binding precedent of the court,” he declined to give his personal opinion of the ruling.

During his presidential campaign, Trump pledged to nominate conservative justices who could overturn Roe, a promise his supporters still see as a possibility—one made even more likely by a second conservative appointment to the Supreme Court.
“I think eventually a conservative court will either overturn Roe v. Wade or at least greatly diminish its importance and its power,” Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress told Fox News before the nomination announcement.

Kavanaugh’s D.C. court decided last year that an undocumented minor could have an abortion, an opinion from which he dissented by stating that she shouldn’t be able to receive an abortion “on demand.” The stance was seen by some pro-life advocates as not strong enough.

Also pressing for evangelicals is Kavanaugh’s record on religious liberty, particularly in light of several high-profile cases heard by the Court during their most recent session. Christianity Today called Kavanaugh “another religious liberty defender,” referencing Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, whose pre-appointment resume included supporting Hobby Lobby’s right to be exempt from providing contraceptives in employee insurance plans.

While on the D.C. Appeals Court in 2015, Kavanaugh, a Roman Catholic, dissented from the court’s opinion not to rehear a challenge to the mandate, this one from the non-profit Priests for Life. He also issued an opinion in 2010 supporting the constitutionality of prayer at the presidential inauguration, and the words “so help me God” in the presidential oath.

During the session that ended June 27, justices ruled on Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado, in which they found in favor of a baker penalized by a state commission for refusing to create a cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony. They also instructed the Washington Supreme Court to reconsider the case of a florist similarly penalized, in light of the Masterpiece ruling.

Russell Moore referenced those rulings and others in his statement supporting Kavanaugh. “As we saw this past term…the Supreme Court plays a vitally important role in protecting the dignity of every life and religious freedom for all Americans.
“Judge Kavanaugh is an outstanding choice for a Supreme Court justice. He will interpret the Constitution, not attempt to create laws from the bench.”

– Meredith Flynn, with reporting by Baptist Press
and Christianity Today

By Meredith Flynn

Evangelism

DOOR TO DOOR – Kyle Walker (left), vice president for student services at Southwestern Seminary, and his wife Lauren (kneeling), share the gospel in Fort Worth during the Crossover evangelistic outreach prior to the SBC annual meeting.

Taking the gospel to the world is a critical task—one that will require Baptists to work together, reported a task force appointed by outgoing SBC President Steve Gaines. The group, named by Gaines at last year’s annual meeting, presented their report in Dallas, where it was adopted by messengers.

Before the vote, the task force concurrently submitted to messengers a list of 12 evangelism affirmations and denials, based on and supported by Scripture. The report also includes several recommendations for individuals, churches, pastors, SBC entities, and the denomination as a whole—all meant to renew evangelism.

“We wanted to take the opportunity to provide a clear set of principles in terms of things we believe Southern Baptists can heartily affirm as it comes to speaking about evangelism,” said task force chairman Adam Greenway, “and with clarity saying things we do not believe evangelism entails.

“One of the most important things we can give to our convention of churches, and to a watching world, is a clear statement about…where Southern Baptists stand on the issues related to evangelism.”

The task force, which met throughout the year to develop the report, was created to study how Baptists can be more effective in evangelism, amid continually declining baptism numbers across the SBC. Doug Munton, pastor of First Baptist Church in O’Fallon and a member of the task force, said the group noted the element of personal responsibility inherent in evangelism. “We need to be intentional and purposeful,”

Munton told the Illinois Baptist. “I was glad to hear our convention talking about evangelism. The evangelism task force work will be, I pray, a helpful step.”

The report, available in full at BPNews.net, alludes to differences in theology in the SBC, but also calls Baptists to unify around the Great Commission given to all Christians.

“We affirm that the Scriptures teach that gospel conversations should seek to include both clear presentations of the ‘good news’ of salvation and genuine invitations for all people to receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord,” the group wrote in one of the affirmations. Following it, the group denied “that gospel conversations are merely general talk about spiritual things and that an evangelistic invitation may only be extended by a singular methodological approach.”

The task force recommended the SBC Executive Committee put a “Baptism Day” on the denominational calendar. Illinois is among the states who have celebrated a statewide baptism emphasis—more than 400 people were baptized this spring on One GRAND Sunday.

Pat Pajak, IBSA’s associate executive director of evangelism, said the report was a great reminder of Baptists’ mission to share the gospel and disciple people who come to faith in Christ.

“Anything we do that reignites a passion for evangelism is a good thing,” he said. “It’s so easy to get distracted by doing good things, busy work, administrative duties, and daily church work that we neglect the Great Commission. And, in eternity, the most important thing will not be if the newsletter was attractive, the calendar was up-to-date, the deacon meetings were on time, the piano was in tune, or the building was clean.

“What will count for all eternity is did we, as believers, share the good news of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection with others?”

– With additional reporting by Baptist Press

B21 panel

Trillia Newbell, left, director of community outreach for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Matt Chandler, pastor of Village Church near Dallas, were part of the B21 panel discussion,. BP photo

The church’s handling of abuse and the #MeToo moment were major topics prior to the SBC’s Annual Meeting and at two panel discussions adjacent to the convention itself. Within the official meeting, actions were limited to passage of two resolutions on the role of women in ministry and an apology to abuse victims, some explanation in reports from seminary presidents, and a motion from the floor asking if a woman could be elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

All this comes on the 100th anniversary of women first being elected as voting messengers to the annual convention, and more important, following weeks of controvery surrounding the handling of abuse cases on two SBC seminary campuses, and remarks about women by former Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson. Also former President of Southeastern Seminary where some of the allegations arose, Patterson was first removed from the SWBTS presidency by the full board of trustees, which promoted him to president emeritus with salary and benefits. A week later, as more allegtions emerged, the seminary trustees executive committee fired Patterson from that role and withdrew the offer of housing on the Southwestern campus.

Against this backdrop, messengers arrived in Dallas to find the topics of women and abuse allegtions handled mostly in ancillary panel discussions.

“You need to be trained in this like you’ve never been trained in this,” Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas cautioned ministry leaders at a luncheon sponsored by B21. “Most of these men who’ve done this are narcissists and are going to come off as great guys,” he warned. He warned that pastors should make what is meant by submission clear in their sermons. “Every time you talk about submission you need to add the caveat about spiritual, physical, sexual, emotional abuse, because these guys are using this.”

In the B21 panel discussion and another by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the debate assumed a theological position of complementarianism, meaning men and women serve complementary roles in marriage and leadership.

Southern Seminary President Al Mohler said, “If you want to be a patriarchal abuser, complementarianism is an idiology you can grasp onto… Let’s just own this.” Mohler condemned “the distortion of complementarianism to justify predatory and abusive behavior (as) heresy and sin.” He also stressed that complementarianism doesn’t mean every woman is supposed to be submissive to every man.

metoo-panel

A panel discussed preventing and dealing with sexual abuse in the church June 11 at the Cooperative Program stage in Dallas. BP photo

At the same session, James Merritt, pastor of Cross Pointe Church in metro Atlanta said, “I don’t know of anything that Scripture prohibits within our denomination that a woman can’t do,” he said. “A woman can be president of the Southern Baptist Convention…. I don’t know of any position a woman cannot hold biblically. Outside the position of elder, I don’t know of any position of authority a woman cannot hold in the church.”

Merritt noted, “I think sometimes we complementarians go into a Pharisee mode of going beyond what the Scriptures teach, and I think it’s a good wake-up moment for us today.”

Southeastern Seminary President Danny Akin told B21 attendees his school did something historic by electing a woman to chair the trustees. “Becky Gardner is one of the most godly, competent women that I’ve ever met. There’s no sense in which you can make a biblical argument about it. She’s not serving as an elder, a pastor, or an overseer. She’s serving as an administrator.” Gardner is the wife of Joe Gardner, an IBSA zone consultant and director of missions at Metro Peoria Association.

But there’s much the local church can do.

Russell Moore, president of the ERLC, said to be careful when using spiritual language such as grace and mercy. “In almost every abuser in a church context I’ve ever seen…[he] wants to identify himself as King David and says we need to forgive this, and move on, ‘I need to continue on the same place where I was before.’”

Moore said the church needs to be bold and say, “That is not what grace is as defined by the gospel of Jesus Christ. You cannot use the grace of God in order to harm and to destroy Jesus’ flock.”

Several of the panelists noted that some churches fear public reports of abuse can ruin their witness in the community. “This is not a public relations issue to be managed,” stated Moore.

“Jesus does not need you to rescue his reputation by covering up sin.”

Kimberlee Norris, sexual abuse attorney with Ministry Safe, said background checks are not enough. She recommended adding to the background checks “training, screening, and appropriate policies that address grooming behaviors.”

Some of the most poignant advice come from ERLC Outreach Director Trilla Newbell, herself a survivor of sexual abuse. She appeared as a panelist at both events. Newbell advised pastors and churches to think ahead about how to handle such incidents. “It is incredibly important that we have (reporting) procedures already developed so that women in your midst, and men, know that they are already safe,” said Newbell, “so that they know you have already been thinking of this. So that they know that they will be loved.”