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Two watches

Lisa Misner —  January 3, 2019

WatchesBy Nate Adams

This past year, my sons convinced my wife that I needed a new watch. Frankly, that idea hadn’t occurred to me, because I already have a nice watch, one that has worked well for over 20 years. It’s also meaningful to me because it was a parting gift from friends at one of my previous employers.

In fact, to be honest, I really like my old watch. It’s wound by pendulum action, so it doesn’t need a battery. It has an easy-to-read face, allowing me to glance at it quickly during meetings, or sermons, which most people seem to appreciate. And it has the date right on it. What else would you want from a watch?

What else indeed! My new Apple watch does so much more than tell me the time and date. It reports how many calories I’ve burned that day, how many minutes I’ve exercised, even how many times I’ve stood up. It precisely describes the current weather conditions, and forecasts them for the future, wherever I am. It knows the time the sun will rise and set each day, and all about the latest news events. It displays my favorite photos, and with the press of a button it makes available dozens of other apps connected to my phone or computer.

When I set exercise goals or appointments or reminders, my watch vibrates or beeps and tells me what to do. Sometimes while I am sitting in a meeting it tells me I’ve been sitting too long and should stand up. So I do. When people ask me why, I now just say, “Because I work for my watch.”

These gifts are teaching me to appreciate the past and the present.

My new watch has also presented me with a challenge, however. After replacing my pendulum watch with my fancy new watch for a few days, I discovered that my old watch had stopped, and I couldn’t get it started again. The jeweler who repaired it told me that he couldn’t promise it would keep running, if I kept letting it wind down.

Some people would probably solve that problem by putting the old watch in a drawer and letting it become a relic, a memento of times past. But I’m not ready for my old watch to stop serving me, or reminding me of the people who gave it to me. So now, not every day, but every couple of days or in the evenings, I wear two watches, one on my left wrist and one on my right. It’s become kind of a conversation starter.

Since beginning that routine, I have started to ponder how much my dual watch situation represents an important reality in today’s churches. In practically every church, there is an older generation of leaders who have served well, and who can continue to serve well. And often, though not always, there is also a new generation of leaders with the same core beliefs and dedication to the church, but with new tastes in music, new needs and preferences, new skills in technology, and new ideas about reaching their generation with the gospel.

Wise pastors and mature church leaders learn to value both generations, and all they have to offer today’s churches. They don’t scorn new ideas and methods simply because the old ones still work just fine. But neither do they discard the old ways simply because some new style or preference comes along.

Sadly, that’s not always the case. It seems more churches are unwilling to learn the new than are discarding or devaluing the old. But a healthy church with a bright future will learn to value and utilize both generations, side by side, as I have my two watches.

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

Briefing

China’s church persecution grows
Chinese Communist authorities reportedly raided a children’s Bible class Dec. 15, shutting down one of China’s leading underground church and confiscating 4,000 books. The latest raid became the third prominent Protestant unregistered church to be closed by officials this season. Those arrested are being beaten, tortured and denied food and restroom accommodations according to Southeast Asia’s regional manager for International Christian Concern.

Related:
Many leaders of Early Rain Covenant Church counted the cost and pledged faithfulness in advance of arrests at homes, workplaces and on the streets that have continued since Dec. 9. The church’s pastor and elder wrote letters to their congregation saying, “We will not bend, even if it means jail, even if it means death. We will continue to preserve our faith.”

Pakistan ousts aid groups, World Vision
Pakistan, a predominantly Muslim country known for persecuting religious minorities, has expelled 18 aid organizations from its country, including World Vision and other Christian groups. The expulsions will affect more than 11 million aid recipients in the country suffering in healthcare and education, entailing an estimated loss of more than $130 million in annual aid, the Associated Press reported.

Egypt approves 168 churches
Egyptian Christians now have an additional 168 legal church buildings. Prior to a new law passed in August 2016, churches faced an arduous task to secure recognition by the government. On November 30, a cabinet committee approved the requests of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholic churches to formally register facilities that have functioned as centers of worship. “I am pleased,” said Andrea Zaki, president of the Protestant Churches of Egypt. “The process has been slow in the beginning, but I think going forward it will be better.”

MO town keeps Christmas cross despite atheists’ warning
A town in Christian County, Missouri, has reversed its decision to take down an illuminated cross from its Holiday display at Finley River Park. Many residents voiced their outrage when, under pressure from an atheist legal group, the city of Ozark announced Dec. 11 that it would no longer include the blue-lit cross in its Christmas light display. The town, however, reversed its decision and assured residents the cross will continue to be part of the holiday display as the city looks into the atheist group’s legal claims.

Survey: Americans want more Christ in Christmas
Most Americans want more religious meaning to the Christmas season. A new study from LifeWay Research found 65% of Americans say, “Christmas should be more about Jesus.” However, those looking for more Christ in Christmas this year are significantly fewer than 2014 when LifeWay Research found 79 percent of Americans at that time said Christmas should be more about Jesus.

Sources: Christian Post (2), BP News (3), Christianity Today

Briefing

2018’s top Bible verse
According to the world’s most downloaded Bible app, YouVersion, the most popular Bible verse of 2018 is found in the Old Testament. Isaiah 41:10’s “Do not fear…” verse was shared, bookmarked, and highlighted more than any other passage by hundreds of millions of YouVersion users. 

Congress approves aid for religious minorities
Persecuted religious minorities victimized by Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria are now set to get some relief from the U.S. government. Congress unanimously passed a law designed to provide aid to Christians, Yazidis, Shia Muslims, and other religious minorities that underwent displacement and genocide at the hands of ISIS.

Evangelical church sees highest giving since 2014
Evangelical churches saw an increase in giving of almost 6% in 2017, the highest increase since 2014, according to a new report by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. ECFA President Dan Busby said in a statement that he was “so pleased to see this increased support for Christ-centered churches and ministries.”

Ill. town cancels trip to Ark after complaints
An Illinois town canceled a trip to KY’s Creation Museum and Ark Encounter after an atheist group filed a complaint. Charleston’s parks and recreation department cancelled the trip for its community after the atheist group argued that the trip violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

School district faces pressure over nativity display
A Michigan civil rights group is threatening to sue the Newaygo Public School District if they do not remove a Wise Men display from an elementary school building, citing it to be a violation of the US Constitution. Most citizens of the small Michigan town, however, support keeping the display, which has been part of Newaygo’s Christmas tradition since the 1940s.

Sources: Christianity Today, World, Christian Post (2), CBN News

Puerto Rico Convention’s annual meeting highlights new churches
Southern Baptists in Puerto Rico celebrated nine new churches gained in the year since Hurricane Maria at their annual meeting in November. The meeting of the Convención de Iglesias Bautistas del Sur de Puerto Rico (Convention of Southern Baptist Churches in Puerto Rico) was the first since 2016. Last year, Hurricane Maria and its aftermath cut church attendance in Puerto Rico by one-third, Baptist Press reported.

With the new churches, there are now about 80 Southern Baptist congregations in Puerto Rico. Illinois Baptists will work with church planters in the U.S. territory through two mission trips planned for 2019.

SBC President issues Lottie Moon challenge
Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear pledged to perform a stunt if the 2018 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions reaches $170 million. So far, suggestions on social media include wearing a mullet at the 2019 SBC annual meeting, or arm wrestling newly elected International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood.

At Liberty University, First Lady addresses opioid crisis
First Lady Melania Trump spoke at Liberty University in Virginia Nov. 28 about the country’s opioid crisis. “I know college is a time to build your independence, experience things on your own terms and make decisions on your own behalf,” Trump told students at the Baptist university. “I am here to remind you that some of those decisions, though they may seem minor at the time, could negatively impact you for the rest of your lives.”

Chau assisted by American evangelicals, officials say
New details have emerged in the death of John Allen Chau, the missionary who died last month while trying to share the gospel with people on North Sentinel island in the Bay of Bengal. The Christian Post reports Indian police now say they believe two American evangelicals helped Chau reach the island, where he is believed to have been shot to death by arrows Nov. 17.

Majority of Protestant churchgoers don’t drink, but the number who do is rising
LifeWay Research found 41% of Protestant churchgoers drink alcohol, up from 39% in 2007. And while the vast majority say the Bible teaches against drunkenness, more than half also say Scripture indicates all beverages, including alcohol, can be consumed without sin.

Sources: Baptist Press, Christian Post, LifeWay Research

Briefing

Study: Americans rank family (over faith) as top priority
A Pew Research Center survey released Nov. 20 discovered twice as many Americans say family is the most meaningful aspect of their lives (40%) compared to the second most popular choice: faith (20%). Among Christians, more than half say their faith provides a “great deal” of meaning, and 29 percent identified it as the most important source of meaning. Only two religious traditions ranked religion as their top source of meaning: evangelical Protestants and historically black Protestants.

Third of Brits uncertain about theology questions
According to a Ligonier Ministries’ survey, a third of people in the United Kingdom say they don’t know whether the Resurrection actually occurred, whether God counts a person righteous based on faith alone, or whether trust in Jesus alone leads to salvation. In Ligonier Ministries’ first-ever theology survey conducted in the UK, “I don’t know” was the top response to numerous questions about Jesus, sin, the Bible, and other rudimentary theological concepts.

Survey highlights Lifeway customer service
LifeWay Christian Resources is ranked as one of the top companies in the nation for customer service by Newsweek magazine. LifeWay also landed at No. 1 for brick and mortar bookstores on Newsweek’s list of America’s Best Customer Service 2019. Statista surveyed more than 20,000 U.S. customers who have either made purchases, used services or gathered information about products or services in the past three years.

‘World’s most isolated’ tribe kills US missionary
A 26-year-old American missionary was killed Nov. 17 on a remote island off the coast of India, where he attempted to share the gospel with the most isolated tribe in the world. The All Nations missionary traveled to North Sentinel Island to evangelize its small indigenous population, who remain almost entirely untouched by modern civilization. Indian police have not yet been able to retrieve the young missionary’s body.

China sentences US pastor to prison
Chinese authorities have convicted and sentenced Christian pastor and US permanent resident John Sanqiang Cao to seven years in prison as part of China’s aggressive crackdown on Christian pastors. Cao was reportedly transporting Bibles and other materials from China into Myanmar when security agents arrested him.

Sources: Christianity Today (3), CBN News, Christian Headlines

Resolution calls for eradication of racism
At their annual meeting this month, the churches of the Missouri Baptist Convention approved a resolution denouncing the 1857 Supreme Court ruling that Dred Scott, a slave living in a free state, was not an American citizen and therefore couldn’t file suit in a court of law. (Scott was appealing to the court for his freedom.)

The resolution at the Missouri Baptist Convention meeting called on the state’s legislature to denounce the ruling and urged “our churches to continue to reach out to all persons regardless of ethnicity showing mercy to all for whom Christ died, and look forward to the day that we will gather as a diverse assembly in heaven.”

Related: At the Annual Meeting of the Illinois Baptist State Association, IBSA President Adron Robinson called for an end to divisions in the church. Watch his message here.

Chitwood unanimously elected to lead IMB
New International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood said Southern Baptists’ global missions force can grow in number again, but it will require “greater generosity and a greater willingness to sacrifice.”

ERLC, other religious agencies oppose tax law
Opponents to a provision in federal tax laws say it “will hopelessly entangle the [Internal Revenue Service] with houses of worship.” Plus, churches will face a 21% tax on employee benefits like parking and transportation.

Offerings up in 2018, pastors say
A new LifeWay Research survey found 42% of Protestant pastors say their church’s offerings are up over the previous year, and 45% say the current economy is positively impacting their church.

‘An opportunity to be human’: Seminary training transforms life in prison
Religion News Service reports on Christian education programs inside prisons, and how they’re training students to be “field ministers” to fellow inmates.

Sources: The Pathway, Baptist Press (2), LifeWay Research, Religion News Service

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Baptist church saved amidst CA fire
When the deadliest wildfire in California state history struck the town of Magalia, pastor Doug Crowder of Magalia Pines Baptist Church opened his church to those unable to evacuate the town to take shelter with church members and himself. Despite the engulfing flames, the people came out unscathed the next day. While everything around the church had been incinerated, the church’s property was untouched.

Final rules guard conscience from abortion mandate
The seven-year battle by objectors to the abortion/contraception mandate has come to a regulatory close with a victory for freedom of conscience. The Trump administration issued two final rules Nov. 7 that supply conscience protections to Americans with a religious or moral objection to the 2011 mandate instituted under President Obama.

IMB taps Paul Chitwood as presidential candidate
The International Mission Board trustees’ presidential search committee announced Nov. 6 that the committee will recommend Paul Chitwood, 48, to be elected as the 173-year-old entity’s 13th president. The vote to elect Chitwood is scheduled for the Nov. 15 plenary session during their IMB board meeting in Richmond.

IBSA churches meet mission field with ‘Pioneering Spirit’
Illinois set the foundation for IBSA’s Annual Meeting Nov. 7-8 at First Baptist Church in Maryville. The state’s bicentennial highlighted the 112th annual gathering of Southern Baptists in Illinois. The meeting also focused on four “Pioneering Spirit” challenges churches have embraced over the past year so that the gospel is advanced in a state where more than 8 million people do not know Christ.

Man files lawsuit to change age
A Dutch entrepreneur has filed a lawsuit to legally change his age to 49 – that’s 20 years younger than his chronological age. Emile Ratelband wants to change his birth date, stating that if one can change genders, he is justified to change his age. of A local court in the Netherlands will rule on the case in December.

Sources: Baptist Press (3), Illinois Baptist, CBN