Postcard art.pngThe 2017 Annual Meeting of the Illinois Baptist State Association is Nov. 8-9 at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Decatur. The online pre-registration process, detailed in a letter sent to IBSA churches, is now open for those who will serve as messengers, or voters, at the meeting.

Pre-registered messengers should bring their paperwork to the meeting in Decatur, where they will be fast-tracked through the rest of the registration process.

The Decatur gathering will focus on the “pioneering spirit” required of those who settled Illinois nearly 200 years ago, and of Christians today who are seeking to push back spiritual lostness in the state.

“When pioneers were settling Illinois in 1818, only about 35,000 residents lived in the entire state, alongside the Native American population,” said IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams. “It was extremely challenging just to survive and to eke out a living. But some of those early pioneers were also pioneers of Baptist faith. During difficult and dangerous times, they considered it a priority to share the gospel and to start new Baptist churches.

“Today Illinois has over 13 million residents, and only about 80,000 Illinois Baptists in church on a given Sunday. In many ways our Great Commission challenge is greater in 2018 than in 1818. We need a fresh wind of pioneering spirit today.”

Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines will speak during the Annual Meeting, and also will be on hand for the IBSA Pastors’ Conference Nov. 7-8 at Tabernacle in Decatur. (For more on the Pastors’ Conference, see the ad on page 6.) The Pastors’ Conference and the Annual Meeting will each offer dinner prior to the Tuesday and Wednesday evening sessions; for more information and to purchase dinner tickets, go to IBSAannualmeeting.org.

The Briefing

How do we find meaning in yet another mass shooting?
Al Mohler asks that question following the tragedy in Las Vegas.
In the face of such overwhelming news, we naturally seek after facts. But the facts of who and what and where and how, still unfolding, point to the even more difficult question — why? We cannot help but ask why because, made in God’s image, we are moral creatures who cannot grasp or understand the world around us without moral categories.

Gov. signs HB40 into law; Baptists deeply disappointed
Gov. Bruce Rauner ended months of speculation last week when he signed legislation allowing state health insurance and Medicaid coverage for abortions. Reaction has been swift and strong.


So. Baptists, others release letter on ‘alt-right’ to Trump
A letter drafted by a group of Southern Baptists and others has called on President Trump to denounce clearly the racism of the “alt-right.” The letter commends the president for signing a joint congressional resolution rejecting white nationalism and supremacy, but it tells him the country “needs your voice and your convictions to defeat racist ideologies and movements in every form that they present themselves.”

Pew surveys governments on religion
More than 40% of the world’s countries have an official or preferred state religion, according to a study released by the Pew Research Center. The most common official state religion is Islam, which is named in the constitutions or basic laws of 27 countries. That’s 63% of the 43 countries that officially designate a religion. Thirteen countries list Christianity as their state religion—nine in Europe, two in the Caribbean, one in Africa, and one Pacific island nation.

Sources: AlbertMohler.com, Springfield State Journal-Register, Baptist Press (2), Christianity Today

Somebody’s prayin’

ib2newseditor —  October 2, 2017

Pray button

After my dad’s mother died, I remember him saying that he physically felt the absence of her prayers. Dad had, in some ways, a challenging personality for pastoring. He was introverted, in many ways non-assertive, a quiet thinker and reader who scripted his sermons by hand so that he could deliver them effectively.

So, if you only knew my dad personally, you may have been surprised when you first saw him step into the pulpit, or witnessed him in some other pastoral role. He was wise, articulate, bold, insightful, truly helpful. As a pastor, he was supernaturally equipped for the role to which God had called him, in a way that eclipsed his natural limitations. And I believe this was supernaturally sustained by the devoted prayers of people who supported him over the years, his mother and my mother chief among them.

Our pastors need our sincere and earnest prayer. They need us to intercede spiritually for them, every bit as much as they need us to support them in leading the ministries of our church. Not all pastors face the same challenges that my dad did, but all of them face their own unique struggles and obstacles. If it is primarily those closest to them that sustain them in prayer, just think what could happen with an entire church earnestly praying.

Pastors need our sincere and earnest intercession.

October is Pastor Appreciation Month. If this is not already your practice, let me encourage you to take the month of October to pray for your pastor, and perhaps other pastors you know, daily. At the IBSA.org website, there will be a daily prayer guide to assist you in that discipline.

You will not be alone. Throughout October, our IBSA staff will be praying for every IBSA church pastor, by name. We are also asking for specific prayer requests by e-mail, and personally calling more than 300 pastors for whom we don’t have a current e-mail address, to ask them how we can pray.

I hope many pastors will share specific prayer needs, perhaps some that are difficult to share with church members, and will allow us to pray for them personally in this way. For those from whom we don’t receive specific requests, we will simply use the prayer guide to pray for each pastor.

Many churches give gifts and other expressions of love to their pastors during October. Prayer, especially consistent, daily prayer, is one of the greatest appreciation gifts you can give. When something “appreciates,” it increases in value. And I believe that the sincere, consistent prayers of a congregation will “increase the value” of a pastor more than anything else. And by the way, that’s true even when you may personally struggle with your pastor!

In a recent IBSA chapel, we were talking about praying for pastors. Our state worship director, Steve Hamrick, shared about his dad, also a pastor, who prayed for him daily throughout his ministry. When his dad passed away a few years ago, his father-in-law noted at the funeral how special that prayer relationship was, and committed to him to take up the privilege of praying for Steve from that day forward.

During that same chapel, Steve led us in singing the old Ricky Skaggs song, “Somebody’s Prayin’.” The first two lines of that song are simply, “Somebody’s prayin’, I can feel it. Somebody’s prayin’ for me.”

IBSA pastors, I will be one of those somebodies praying for you throughout the month of October, along with every member of our staff. I hope you “feel” it in the same way that my dad did from his mom. And I hope you will feel it from many faithful church members as well.

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

IBSA Logo Standard 800 px

A statement from Nate Adams, Executive Director of the Illinois Baptist State Association, on the signing of HB40 by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner:

I join with Illinois Baptists and many others in Illinois who stand for the unborn in expressing great disappointment with the action of Governor Bruce Rauner on Illinois House Bill 40. Taxpayers’ money should not be used to fund abortions in any circumstance.

In signing this bill, Governor Rauner has abandoned his earlier promises to pro-life representatives that he would veto the bill, thereby protecting the most defenseless in our culture and preventing state funding of abortions through Medicaid and the state employees’ health insurance plan.

Although Rauner stated his abortion rights position in his 2014 campaign, he promised recently that he would not support this flawed legislation.

Illinois Baptists continue to support the rights of the unborn with ministry actions and public resolutions opposing abortion and the Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized it. Illinois Baptists are committed to ministry that preserves life and supports young women who find themselves in problematic pregnancies through the outstanding work of the Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services. And hundreds IBSA churches and pastors teach a biblical view of life and counsel wise decisions by families that affirm life.

I’m sure Baptists in Illinois will be letting Governor Rauner know how deeply distressing his action is to people who revere God-given life.

Executive Director Nate Adams’ statement on the signing of HB40 – PDF version

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The Illinois Baptist State Association is a partnership of almost 1,000 churches, church plants, and mission congregations committed to the advancement of the gospel in Illinois and worldwide. IBSA is a ministry partner with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Contact: Lisa Misner Sergent
Director of Communications
(217) 391-3119
LisaSergent@IBSA.org

 

What Baptists have forgotten (or never knew) about our heritage

Dockery text

The Lord blessed me with the wonderful privilege of growing up in a Christian home—a faithful, Baptist home. Sundays for our family included Sunday school, church services, and afternoon choir practice, as well as Bible Drills, Discipleship Training, and Sunday evening after-church fellowship. It was generally a very busy day. Wednesdays included church suppers, prayer meetings, mission organizations, committee meetings, and another choir practice.

During the week there were opportunities for outreach visitation, WMU, and other activities. Summer calendars were built around Vacation Bible School, church camps, and other church-related events. My family planned weeks and seasons around church activities. Our heroes were Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong, and Bill Wallace of China. But apart from a world history course as a high school student, I do not recall ever hearing stories about the Reformation, Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, or other early 16th-century Protestant leaders in any church-related activity.

My guess is that my experience parallels that of many other readers of the Illinois Baptist. Why then should Baptists pay attention to the many events and programs taking place this year to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, for we are not Lutherans, nor Anglicans, nor Presbyterians. Yet, whether we realize it or not, many of our core convictions as Baptists have been influenced or shaped by those 16th-century thinkers.

What was the Reformation?
The Reformation was a wide-ranging movement of theological and spiritual renewal in 16th-century Europe. Many people across Germany and Switzerland over a period of several decades contributed to this movement, but the most visible event, according to tradition, took place on October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther (1483-1546), a monk and university professor, nailed 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany.

Luther was concerned with papal abuses and the selling of indulgences (essentially a ticket out of purgatory for loved ones) in the Roman Catholic Church, along with what he considered to be faulty understandings of justification by faith, biblical authority, and other important doctrinal matters.

Philip Melancthon, one of Luther’s colleagues who knew him as well as anyone, called Luther “the Elijah of Protestantism” and compared his influence to that of the Apostle Paul in the first century. Martin Luther roused the church from her slumber, reopened the fountain of God’s Holy Word for many people, and was responsible for directing a generation to know Jesus Christ as their Lord.

When one thinks of the Reformation period, one reflects upon the titanic force of Luther, the good sense and preaching ministry of Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) in Zurich, Switzerland, and the biblical exposition and theological articulations of John Calvin (1509-64) in Geneva. Among these three important leaders of the Reformation, there is general agreement that the one with the greatest influence was Martin Luther.

Closing the gap from Luther to Southern Baptists
Many people reading this article have grown up in a home or church with experiences rather similar to those I described earlier. Somehow we had a sense that our parents, grandparents, and pastors had received an understanding of the Christian faith as if it had come directly to them from the 1st-century apostles. We were quite naively unaware of what went on in between then and now. By and large, Baptists do not know very well our heritage, our history, or our theological identity.

The reality is that while we are “a people of the Book,” shaped, formed, and informed by Holy Scripture, we also have the privilege of standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before us who stood on the shoulders of others.

Francis Wayland, a most significant Baptist leader in the 19th century, wrote these words in “The Principles and Practices of Baptist Churches” (1861): “I do not believe that any denomination of Christians exists, which, for so long a period as Baptists, has maintained so invariably the truth of their early confession…The theological tenets of the Baptists, both in England and America, may be briefly stated as follows: they are emphatically the doctrines of the Reformation, and they have been held with singular unanimity and consistency.”

With Christians through the centuries, Baptists stand with the Reformers in confessing that there is one and only one living and true God, who is an intelligent, spiritual, and personal being, the creator, redeemer, preserver, and ruler of the universe. God is infinite in holiness and all other perfections.

Furthermore, our confession as Baptists maintains that God is triune and that there are within the godhead three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We can say that God is one in his nature and three in his persons.

More specifically, we confess that there is only one God, but in the unity of the godhead, there are three eternal and equal persons, the same in substance, yet distinct in function.

Baptists are “people of the Book.” With Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and other 16th-century Reformers, Baptists believe it is impossible to define or even describe Christian orthodoxy apart from a commitment to a full-orbed doctrine of Scripture. Baptist theology and spirituality rest on Scripture as the central legitimizing source of Christian faith and doctrine, the clearest window through which the face of Christ may be seen.

The Reformers were also in agreement regarding the truthfulness and authority of Scripture, a belief with very real consequences. Such an understanding of Holy Scripture led to a rejection of the medieval belief and practice concerning papal authority and church tradition.

The Reformers recognized that these matters could no longer be acknowledged as an authority equal with Scripture or as a standard independent of the Bible. Martin Luther summarized well these things when he said, “Everyone indeed, knows that at times the Fathers have erred, as men will; therefore, I am ready to trust them only when they give me evidence for their opinions from Scripture, which has never erred.”

Salvation by grace through faith
The Reformers believed that medieval thinkers had led the church astray by teaching that human effort and good works, as well as moral or ritual action, would earn favor in the eyes of God, enabling sinners to achieve salvation. A serious ongoing study of the teachings of the Apostle Paul, however, led Luther to the conviction that sinners are granted forgiveness as well as full and free pardon only through faith in Jesus Christ.

Sinners are justified by grace through faith, not by their own achievements. The Reformers were in full agreement that justification is a forensic declaration of pardon, which Christ has won through his victory over sin, death, the law, and the devil.

Standing on the shoulders of the Reformers, Baptists believe that justification is accomplished at the cross of Christ (Rom. 5:10), guaranteed by his resurrection (Rom. 4:24-25), and applied to believers when we confess our faith in Christ (Rom. 5:1).

Experientially, we still sin, but God views us as totally righteous, clothed in the robes of our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 4:1-8). Because of Christ’s sacrifice, God no longer counts our sins against us (2 Cor. 5:19-21). Thus, justification is even more than pardon, as wonderful as that is; it is the granting of positive favor in God’s sight based on the redemptive work of Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:21-26).

It was John Calvin who emphasized the perseverance of the saints, which Baptists sometimes refer to as the doctrine of eternal security. Our salvation is secured in Christ, and nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (John 10:28-30; Rom. 8:31-39), yet our response to this truth brings our assurance.

About priests and believers
The Reformers were in full agreement in their affirmations of scriptural authority and the essence of the doctrine of salvation. Likewise, they rejected the superiority of the priesthood, of vocational ministry, stressing instead the priesthood of all believers. Not only did this mean that all believers in Christ had access to God (Heb. 10:19-25), but it underscored the Christian dignity of ordinary human callings, including artists, laborers, homemakers, and plowmen. By implication, this elevated the importance of family life, opening the door for clerical marriage.

The Reformers rejected the mediation of Mary and the intercession of all the saints, insisting that Christ alone was our high priest to bear our sin and sympathize with our weaknesses. They rejected the medieval teaching regarding the seven sacraments, insisting that the New Testament only taught two sacraments or ordinances: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The Reformers unanimously rejected the sacrificial nature of the Lord’s Supper, refuting the church’s teaching regarding transubstantiation. Baptists have emphasized a view of the Lord’s Supper that reflects much of the perspective of Ulrich Zwingli.

The Reformers also departed from the medieval teaching which affirmed that the church was dependent on communion with the papacy. Instead they insisted that the church was called into being by God’s Spirit and was established on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone (Eph. 2:20).

Baptists have shaped their beliefs regarding the triune God, Jesus Christ, Holy Scripture, salvation by grace through faith, the church, the ordinances, Christian service, and the family in recognition of their gratitude for and indebtedness to the courage and conviction of the 16th-century Reformers. Yet, Baptists have chosen not to be content merely with the basic teachings of the Reformers. They have also modified these teachings and moved beyond them in key areas that we often call “Baptist distinctives.”

Baptists shaped their own distinctives
While Baptists are heirs of the 16th-century Reformation (with influence also from the “radical reformers” like Menno Simons, Conrad Grebel, Felix Manz, and Balthasar Hubmaier), they have moved beyond the Reformers in at least five key areas.

  • Baptists affirm believer’s baptism by immersion, instead of the Reformers’ view of infant baptism.
  • Baptists have contended for a voluntary understanding of the church and congregationalism based on a regenerate church membership, instead of an inherited understanding of church membership connected with infant baptism.
  • Baptists repudiate church-state ties, stressing religious liberty along with the local organization of church life, instead of state control or even denominational control.
  • Baptists believe that the two ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are to be practiced as matters of obedience and fellowship, rather than as a means of grace.
  • Baptists, more so than any of the 16th-century Reformers, have consistently stressed the priority of the Great Commission and global missions.

We recognize that Baptists are a people committed to the primacy of Scripture, who are heirs of the best of the Reformation. The gospel-focused, scripturally grounded core to which we all must hold has been greatly influenced, both directly and indirectly, by the teachings of the Reformers. It is important for us during this year of commemorating and celebrating the Reformation to clarify our confessional commitments and reappropriate, retrieve, and reclaim the very best of both the Reformation heritage and our Baptist heritage.

We pray that the reminders to which we have pointed in this brief article will enhance our understanding of the gospel and deepen our commitment to Scripture and to our Baptist confessional heritage, bringing renewal to our churches and our shared service as we seek to pass on this heritage in a faithful manner to the next generation, and as we seek to take the good news of Jesus Christ to a lost and needy world.

– David S. Dockery is president of Trinity International University and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in metro Chicago. 

The Briefing

Rauner ponders abortion bill
Gov. Bruce Rauner said Monday (Sept. 25) he will decide “in the near future” the fate of a controversial and politically complex measure that would expand taxpayer-subsidized abortions for women covered by Medicaid and state employee insurance. The governor’s decision has major political consequences as he seeks re-election, illustrated by his vow in April to veto the bill and comments last week that he was undecided.

IBDR commits to Texas aid
Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief (IBDR) continues its marathon response in Texas doing flood recovery work in homes drying out after Hurricane Harvey, providing shower and laundry facilities, and preparing hot meals for relief workers and displaced Texans. And a team of childcare volunteers traveled more than a thousand miles to wipe tears away when the response began in early September.

ACLU fights faith-based child placement agencies
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is challenging a Michigan law that allows faith-based foster care and adoption agencies to operate according to their Biblical convictions. The lawsuit, filed against the state Sept. 20 in federal court, could jeopardize similar laws across the nation and force faith-based agencies to close.

Remembering Christian apologist Nabeel Qureshi
At his memorial service, Nabeel Qureshi was remembered for his unusual passion for Christ and the significant evangelistic impact he made before he died Sept. 16 at 34. The young speaker and author was eulogized by his mentor, Ravi Zacharias, who compared him to the apostle Paul as well as to other noteworthy Christians who died young.

Witches cast spells on Trump
Amanda Yates Garcia, the “Oracle of Los Angeles,” participates in a monthly sorcery session to cast a “binding” spell on President Trump that she says is not intended to hurt the president, but instead to prevent him from hurting others. “Binding spells are symbolic actions used to harness the powers of the imagination and achieve an intangible result,” she said.

Sources: Chicago Tribune, Illinois Baptist, World Magazine, Christianity Today, Fox News

Illinois commits to Texas aid

ib2newseditor —  September 25, 2017

Massive Florida storm stretches Baptist response

FBC Galatia flood recovery volunteers do mud-out work on a house in Vidor, Texas, near Beaumont.

FBC Galatia flood recovery volunteers do mud-out work on a house in Vidor, Texas, near Beaumont. They’re working with eight other teams from several states on a list of 200 area homes that continues to grow. Facebook photo courtesy Butch & Debbie Porter

Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief (IBDR) continues its marathon response in Texas doing flood recovery work in homes drying out after Hurricane Harvey, providing shower and laundry facilities, and preparing hot meals for relief workers and displaced Texans. And a team of childcare volunteers traveled more than a thousand miles to wipe tears away when the response began in early September.

No sooner had the work in Texas ramped up for IBDR when Hurricane Irma swept through Florida. Many wondered if teams would be deployed to the east. Dwayne Doyle, IBDR state director, notified volunteers, “We have made the decision to focus our ongoing work in Texas as a partner with the Southern Baptist Texas Convention Disaster Relief. Many of the Southeastern state Disaster Relief units are leaving Texas to go work with Hurricane Irma victims in Florida.

“We will continue to focus our efforts in Texas because this is where we have identified a specific and strategic need that IBDR can meet.”

Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, noted state Disaster Relief organizations have done “an absolutely incredible job” since the landfall of Harvey in Texas on Aug. 25, followed by Irma in Florida on Sept. 10.

“It’s going to be a long-term response in both places and we need help in the months to come….We have a desperate need for more volunteers in Florida and in Texas,” he said.
Mini Disaster Relief training events were hot tickets in Illinois in September. Nine were held across the state, where at least 150 people received flood recovery training.

Jan Kragness

Jan Kragness at the Dallas Convention Center. Facebook photo courtesy Kragness.

Help for hurting families
IBDR Chaplain Jan Kragness served on the 10-person childcare team that deployed to the Dallas Convention Center to work with some 2,500 Houston-area evacuees housed there. She shared glimpses of her experience on Facebook. On Sept. 2 Kragness shared, “It was a hard day. Many people were rescued by boat day before yesterday. They were brought in at 1:30 a.m. The children and parents were sad and tired. My arms were tired.”

Kragness told the story of one family with three young children. The younger brother “was so unhappy, he could not stand the separation anxiety of being away from Mommy. His 5-year-old sister came into his group area, and held him for comfort. He was almost as big as she was.”

Kragness took the younger brother and sister to their mother. “She loved on the children and tried explaining that she had to get the sister registered for school and there was a long line. But she would be back for them. The mommy looked exhausted.”

That was when the woman told Kragness what had happened. “She explained to me that their home had been broken into and the children assaulted and that was part of the separation anxiety. We had prayer with the mother…So when I took the children back to the childcare area, they were more comfortable but would not integrate with the others and could not let go of me.”

About an hour later, the older brother came to check on his siblings. He told Kragness, “Miss Jan, we’ve got trouble at our house. Big trouble.” She told him, “Well, if you would like to talk about it, I would be glad to listen.”

He shared, “Our house was broken into by a bad man. He knocked down my brother, and hurt my sister. Mommy is scared and Daddy is mad. Our house is scary and we have trouble.”

Kragness said, “I am so glad you shared with me. And I am so glad you are safe now. There really are lots of people who are watching over you, but the greatest of all is Jesus. Shall we pray and ask Jesus to care for you and your family and keep you safe?”

“Yes, please pray to Jesus for me,” he said.

She assured him Jesus was listening to him anytime and everywhere. He prayed, “Jesus, please keep my little brother and my sister safe and help Mommy and Daddy to not be so worried.”

Kragness wrote, “He looked so relieved. He hugged me and ran off to play football. My heart ached to follow him and hold him close. But I knew Jesus had that job handled.”

The response continues
More IBDR teams are on their way to Texas. Volunteers trained in mass feeding, shower/laundry, and flood recovery are needed. If you can go with one of these teams, contact the team leader:

September 26 – October 8
Unit # IL RC 005 – Greater Wabash Baptist Association
Team Leader: Donald Ile
Phone: (618) 599-4234
E-Maildonruthsawdust@gmail.com

October 2-8
Unit #IL25
 – Sullivan Baptist Church
Team Leader: Don Lusk
Phone: (217) 232-8880
E-Mail: pastordon@sullivansbc.org

October 7-15
Unit #27 – Harrisburg First Baptist Church.
Team Leader: Joe Jackson
Cell: (618) 841-5015
E-Mailjoeluj@frontier.com

Teams that have already served in the Beaumont area include:

– A 26-person mobile kitchen team based out of Living Faith Baptist in Sherman which prepared nearly 41,000 meals, along with Incident Command leadership and shower/laundry trailers from both Franklin and Macoupin Associations. It was mobilized with volunteers from across the state.
– A flood recovery team with members from central and Metro East Illinois.
– A team from FBC Galatia with members trained in flood recovery, mass feeding, and shower/laundry trailers.

To learn more about the callouts, training, and how to donate, visit IBSA.org/DR.

– Lisa Misner Sergent, with additional reporting by Baptist Press