The Briefing

China to rewrite Bible, force churches to sing Communist anthems
The Chinese government is supervising a 5-year plan to make Christianity more compatible with socialism. These plans include a “rewrite” of the Bible, singing Communist songs before worship in churches, and including pictures of Communist leaders inside church buildings. China’s crackdown on religion has seen many house churches demolished and represents the highest degree of persecution for independent faith groups the country has seen in decades, The Christian Post reports.

Bible translators complete 1,000th translation
Wycliffe Bible Translators completed its 1,000th full translation of the Bible in South Sudan. The major milestone was achieved in August, though accounts for only 10% of the world’s languages. Some of the remaining 90% have incomplete translated Bibles at various stages, but an ambitious project hopes to have Bible translation efforts underway in every language of the world by 2025.

IMB transitions from Platt to Meador
International Mission Board trustees heard a final address from outgoing president David Platt and approved Clyde Meador as interim president during their Sept. 26-27 meeting near Richmond, Va. Trustees also appointed 66 new fully funded personnel to take the gospel to unreached people and places.

Black men reverse gender split on religion
A study by the Pew Research Center released Sept. 26 found that while black men are less religious than black women, they are more religious than white women and white men. Hispanic women are equally as likely as African-American men to be what Pew considers “highly religious,” followed by white women, then Hispanic men. White men trail in last place with less than half being “highly religious.”

New Jersey schools usurp parents on guidelines for transgender students
New Jersey’s Department of Education has instructed schools to use the preferred names and pronouns of transgender students without the need for parental consent. In keeping with a state policy signed into law last year, schools must also give students access to bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers that match their gender identity, not their sex. 

Sources: Christian Post (3), Baptist Press, Religion News

 

What really counts

Lisa Misner —  October 1, 2018

Pioneering-200-logo-layers-260x300By Nate Adams

Big birthdays have a way of getting our attention, as they should. Sometimes they even alarm us. Can my parents, or grandparents, really be 80? Am I really 50? Is my church really a hundred? Time really does seem to fly, whether you’re having fun or not.

And so maybe it snuck up on you that our home state turns 200 this year. One verse from the Illinois state song reminds us, “Eighteen-eighteen saw your founding, Illinois, Illinois.” Don’t worry, though, there’s still time to buy a gift. While the official seal of Illinois bears the date August 26, 1818, that was when the first state constitution was ratified. It wasn’t until December 3 that the U.S. government formally made Illinois the 21st state of the union.

And while the Illinois bicentennial may be receiving less fanfare than the national one back in 1976, this big birthday should still be getting our attention. There were only about 35,000 people in Illinois in 1818, but today there are at least 8.2 million who do not claim to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. These two hundred years have brought a lot of people into our state mission field, and our Great Commission challenge as churches here is now bigger than ever.

That’s why we are embracing the Illinois bicentennial in our theme for this year’s IBSA Annual Meeting, “Pioneering Spirit – 200 and Counting.” As we now count two hundred years of statehood, we are also asking “what should we be counting?” and “what should really count?” today, if we are to have the same pioneering spirit as our Baptist forebears.

Beginning with last year’s annual meeting, IBSA has been challenging Illinois Baptist churches and leaders to join together and “count to 200” in four strategic, missional ways:

First, we have identified 200 places or people groups in Illinois where a new church is desperately needed. We are inviting churches to adopt one or more of those 200 by praying for them, or partnering with resources or volunteers, or actually sponsoring the plant as the mother church.

Second, we are praying for at least 200 churches that will seek to become more frequently baptizing churches, by setting annual baptism goals and equipping their members to intentionally have gospel conversations and participate in evangelistic events and mission trips. We are praying for churches that will set their sights on baptizing at least once a month, or more than their previous 3-year average.

Third, we are praying for at least 200 churches that will commit a specific percentage of their annual budgets to Cooperative Program missions, and then seek to increase that percentage annually toward 10% or more.

And finally, we are praying for at least 200 churches that will commit to intentional leadership development processes—not only for the pastor and current leaders, but also for tomorrow’s pastors, church planters, and missionaries.

You can learn more about these commitments, and register your church’s pledge to them, by visiting pioneeringspirit.org, or by calling John Carruthers at (217) 391-3110. There are currently 166 churches that have registered a commitment, and we are hoping to celebrate 200, in more ways than one, when we gather at First Baptist Maryville for the IBSA Annual Meeting.

Of course, some churches are fulfilling one or more of these challenges already. But for the overwhelming majority of IBSA churches, these challenges will be a major stretch. In fact, as our Annual Meeting theme suggests, moving beyond our status quo into these types of commitments will take a true “pioneering spirit.” It’s the kind of spirit that brought Baptist pioneers to Illinois more than 200 years ago.

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

By Mike Keppler

Mike KepplerI was pretty unruly the last weeks leading up to my retirement. In dealing with the loose ends and trying to find an acceptable closure to over 26 years of ministry, I was stressed and disagreeable at times. I was getting into trouble by saying some harsh things to family and friends and finding myself needing to ask for forgiveness. How often do we need to ask, “Please forgive me”?

Over the years, I have had to “walk back” several comments that were hurtful. Sometimes I tried unsuccessfully to make excuses about what I had meant, but when something mean comes out of the mouth, something mean must be in the heart. No amount of excuse-making will work toward healing in these situations. Rather, it’s time to admit wrongdoing and ask for forgiveness. You would think that as time goes on, a maturing Christian should be growing past some of these careless words and actions, but it seems that the devil never gives up working to trip us up!

While patience may be one of the more important of virtues required in a long-term ministry, asking for and offering forgiveness is a close second and surely related. By the grace of God, I have been able to re-constitute my relationship with some fellow church members over the years. Misunderstandings, differences of opinion, and handling (or mishandling) expectations often disrupt our relationships, but patient forgiveness helps us to reform and experience even stronger bonds with those individuals who may have become adversarial toward us at times.

I had an “old salt” come out the auditorium doors one Sunday morning early in my ministry. I had been his pastor for a good three years by this time. As I reached out to shake his hand, he bluntly declared, “Preacher, I was against calling you when you came, but I’m for you now!” I thought later how that would qualify him as a “late adopter!”

You might think it’s ‘I love you,’ but it’s not.

I wasn’t really aware of the man’s resistance to my leadership, but evidently, he was not fully on-board with it either. I was able to forgive that blunt remark, even forget about it and move on with him in the following years of service together. Sometimes it is not so easy with others. I have been “dressed down” in auditorium confrontations, “roughed up” during church business meetings, and yes, there was also that unpleasant incident of “physical aggression” in my office long ago that left me asking myself what I had done to deserve such an angry reaction. These encounters take a lot of time, prayer, support from family and friends—and forgiveness—if there is to be healing.

When I read about Paul’s encounters, I think I had it easy. He suffered numerous angry reactions and many hardships throughout his ministry. He said to the Corinthian believers, “As servants of God, we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger…” (2 Corinthians 6:4-5). Paul never wanted to be a stumbling block or to have his service and witness for Christ discredited by inappropriate responses. Neither should we!

Paul warns the Ephesians, “Watch the way you talk!” (4:29,32). Speaking in a “kind and forgiving” way should define us. Our speech should not be from a rancid, angry disposition, but rather, one that always expresses thoughtful consideration and patient preference of others.

One way we do this is to show kindness. We must learn to let go of things and forgive. In the Model Prayer, Jesus gives us the motivation: “And forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us” (Matt. 6:11). We respond with forgiveness because we have been the recipients of God’s great forgiveness of our sins.

Have you discovered that an unforgiving spirit does more harm to us and our relationship with the Lord than it does to hurt others? My experience is that if we aren’t kind and don’t exercise forgiveness, we will be miserable in our spirit. God has taken me to the “woodshed” to discipline me more than a few times for grieving the Holy Spirit. I think it all comes down to this: It grieves God and breaks his heart when we have conflict in our relationships and use speech that does not build others up. The Holy Spirit is aggrieved by our harsh and unforgiving ways. When the Spirit isn’t happy, we’re not happy as a result.

Mike Keppler recently retired after 26 years as pastor of Springfield Southern Baptist Church.

One GRAND Sunday

Last Easter, a statewide baptism emphasis resulted in more than 650 baptisms across Illinois. IBSA churches are invited to participate in a second “One GRAND Sunday” this fall.

The numerical goal of One GRAND Sunday is 1,000 baptisms on a single day. But the emphasis also keeps the call to share the gospel at the forefront for church leaders and members. “The great thing is that it sparked a fresh passion for evangelism across the state,” said Pat Pajak, IBSA’s associate executive director for evangelism.

Pajak helps connect churches with resources for evangelism training. For more information about available resources or One GRAND Sunday, contact him at (217) 391-3129 or PatPajak@IBSA.org, or go to IBSA.org/evangelism.

Lincoln and HomeThe Illinois territory became a state in 1818. Now 200 years old, the bicentennial of statehood serves to inspire IBSA’s 2018 Annual Meeting. With the theme “200 & Counting,” the meeting will focus on the Pioneering Spirit commitments made by IBSA churches since the emphasis was unveiled at the 2017 meeting.

The yearly gathering, scheduled for November 7-8, will be hosted by First Baptist Church of Maryville. Tom Hufty, pastor of the host church, will bring the annual sermon, and IBSA President Adron Robinson, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in the Chicago suburb of Country Club Hills, will bring the president’s address.

Pioneering-200-logo-layers-260x300Worship will be led by Sixteen Cities, a professional musical group comprised mostly of Southern Baptist worship pastors and leaders. And a special appearance by Abraham Lincoln is expected, in the person of Fritz Klein, well known in the Springfield area for his remarkable interpretation of the sixteenth president.

With the meeting’s “200” focus, IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams pointed out that the state’s bicentennial will be celebrated, but the real emphasis is the IBSA churches that accepted the challenges in church planting, evangelism, missions giving, and leadership development over the past year. The courageous spirit of Illinois’ pioneers is alive on the spiritual frontier today.

Dinner is available for IBSA Annual Meeting attenders on Wednesday evening. Tickets are $12; to reserve a meal, go to IBSAannualmeeting.org.

IBSA Pastors’ Conference
The IBSA Pastors’ Conference Nov. 6-7 will feature messages from four preachers on “Blazing New Trails.” The theme is from Rev. 2:1-5, which urges the early church at Ephesus to persevere in their commitment to Christ.

Urban church planting specialist Darryl Gaddy and St. Louis pastor Noah Oldham will join IBSA pastors Matt Crain and Ted Max as Pastors’ Conference speakers. The conference will also feature breakout sessions on racial unity, engaging cultures, and church planting, among other topics.

The Pastors’ Conference begins at 1 p.m. Tuesday at FBC Maryville and concludes at noon Wednesday, prior to the start of the IBSA Annual Meeting. Dinner is available onsite Tuesday for $10. To reserve a ticket, go to IBSAannualmeeting.org.

And a special preview of all the festivities, with times and locations, will be included in the October 8 issue of the Illinois Baptist.

Learning to lead

Lisa Misner —  September 20, 2018

Armed with resources, time, and friendship, IBSA zone consultants equip leaders across Illinois

Jason Vinson.jpg

With help from IBSA ministry specialists, Pastor Jason Vinson (pictured above with his children) and Charis Baptist Fellowship overcame challenges and are working to meet needs in their community of Collinsville.

By Meredith Flynn

MIO Logo 500pxIn a season meant for gratitude, Jason Vinson didn’t feel much. It was Thanksgiving when years of discouragement over his church led the pastor to the point he now calls rock bottom.

“Lord, this is not what I signed up for,” he prayed back then. “Please get somebody else. Can I have a way out? Would you please do something different, because this is killing me.”

For several years, Vinson and his church had faced internal challenges as they struggled to find effective ways to minister in their community. It was a lonely time, he said, a period when he questioned what God was doing, or whether he was working at all.

Finally, in 2016, the church decided they needed a new start. They moved forward under a new name—Charis Baptist Fellowship—with Vinson still serving as pastor. He looked for partners to help his church, and found one in Larry Rhodes, an IBSA zone consultant in the Metro East region.

“We set a date to have lunch together, and heard the story of their church—the challenges they’ve been through, and how they met those challenges through prayer and fasting and consultation within their body,” Rhodes said.

“I was so excited to hear about how God was bringing healing and new life to that fellowship.”

As a consultant in one of ten zones in Illinois, Rhodes connects resources and training with pastors, who in turn help their churches engage their communities with the gospel. In Vinson’s case, he first needed someone to listen.

Larry Rhodes

Larry Rhodes

The Mission Illinois Offering supports the ministry of zone consultants like Rhodes, who serves as a sounding board and resource for pastors and churches in Metro East St. Louis. Rhodes and his fellow consultants seek to serve on the front lines alongside churches that are seeking community transformation, through the power of the gospel.

 

“Just the fact that Larry really believed in us was incredible,” Vinson said. “He really believed that God had a good work here, that God wanted me to continue in the work here.”

The summer after their restart, Charis hosted two Bible clubs for children, using a kit provided by Rhodes through IBSA. They hosted the clubs in a local park and in a nearby trailer community with the help of visiting mission teams—partnerships Rhodes helped forge.

Charis has fostered the relationships built through the clubs in a new Sunday morning Bible study for children, and a bi-weekly family discipleship time where dads teach their children from God’s Word. Two years after God started something new in Belleville, he’s still on the move, Vinson said.

“There’s an excitement, a joy, and an expectation that God is at work in this place.”

Together in the trenches

Rhodes makes it a point to meet with each pastor in his zone, which includes the Gateway and Metro East Baptist Associations. (Local associations are networks of Baptist churches that often cooperate for ministry efforts like mission trips.) At those meetings, he wants to hear the pastor’s story, and help connect him with resources that can help the church in its big-picture mission.

Bermayne Jackson

Bermayne Jackson

For Calvary East St. Louis, that mission is to engage young people who have moved away from the church. “Our church started primarily with the concept of getting youth involved, getting them to know Christ, and keeping them involved and active in the process,” said Pastor Bermayne Jackson.

 

Rhodes came alongside the young church with resources to fulfill their mission, including a Vacation Bible School (VBS) resource kit and an evangelism training resource called “3 Circles.” Calvary used both kits last summer, hosting VBS for kids and teaching “3 Circles” to their parents.

The value of their first VBS was to show the church they could do it, their pastor said, that even a small church can be very effective. “We can make an impact,” Jackson said. “We can change lives. And it doesn’t take a hundred, 200, or 300 people to do it.

“We’re a church that has 46 members on the books. Average attendance is 30 a Sunday. But we feel confident in the fact that we can go out and make changes in our community.”

Jackson is a bivocational pastor, spending his days working as a sales manager and his evenings and weekends at church. He’s surrounded by a great leadership team at Calvary, but acknowledges pastoring can be lonely. Friendship and encouragement from experienced leaders is a key factor in being able to stick with the mission.

“Personally, (I) get an increase in energy by knowing that you have a support system there,” Jackson said of relationships he’s built with Rhodes, others from IBSA, and leaders from his local network of churches, Metro East Association. “Sometimes (Larry) is talking, and he doesn’t know how much encouragement he’s giving to me.”

Rhodes knows how difficult it is for pastors to find time to meet with him, especially when so many are working at other jobs during the week, and balancing work, family, and church responsibilities. On top of all that, they want to see their communities transformed by the gospel.

“That’s why we’re here, to serve them, and resource them, and encourage them in ways that we can, to push back the lostness in our state, which is vast,” Rhodes said.

“It’s critically important that IBSA realizes the people ‘out in the trenches,’ as I like to say, are crucial to evangelism and to discipleship in the state of Illinois. We’re fighting an uphill battle all the way, but we’re still fighting, and we should.”

Here to help

Andre Dobson

André Dobson

André Dobson has pastored churches for 44 years. Still, he said, he needs people like Larry Rhodes to come alongside him and help him be better.

 

“He went out of his way to stop by the church to introduce himself and inform us about things happening with IBSA,” Dobson said. Rhodes also offered friendship. “It was really out of that relationship, knowing that here was someone that I could trust…that I asked him to begin to get involved in helping us as a church be able to minister in the way that we needed to.”

The long-time pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Alton is mindful of the DNA he’s building for the next generation of leaders at his church. He wants to establish strong, effective, meaningful practices in areas like worship, discipleship, and evangelism.

Armed with resources, zone consultants stand ready to help churches do more effective ministry in their communities. They also serve leaders like Dobson, who are deeply invested in seeing their congregations embrace the gospel and the call to share it. Because of their visibility and partnership with churches, zone consultants often serve as the faces of IBSA, Rhodes said.

“I don’t think this face ought to represent anything,” he said self-deprecatingly, “so I call it ‘boots on the ground.’ I think it’s a tremendous way to let our churches know that we’re here. That we’re here to help them. And we’re here because of them.”

Call to prayer

Please pray for IBSA’s zone consultants and the churches they serve. Pray for stronger churches across Illinois that can build up disciples and share Christ with lost people. Pray for the Mission Illinois Offering, that many more churches will support the annual collection for state missions, which helps fund the work of Larry Rhodes and IBSA’s other missionaries and ministry staff.

The Briefing

Disaster Relief ramps up as Florence floodwater rises
As Hurricane Florence crashed ashore in North Carolina, rising floodwaters have cut off the supply chains of some Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts. Still, Southern Baptists have begun relief ministries and the Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief itself has 1,700 volunteers on standby who are specially trained to provide relief during times like these. As of Sept. 17, the storm dumped more than 30 inches of rain in some regions, resulting it at least 23 deaths and is moving northeast into Virginia.

Platt to step down from IMB; Meador named interim
IMB president, Dr. David Platt’s resignation is to be effective at the Sept. 27, 2018, trustee meeting. As such, the Executive Committee of the board of trustees of the International Mission Board voted in a special meeting Sept. 13 to approve Dr. Clyde Meador as interim president starting Sept. 27, subject to full board approval. Platt has served as president of the IMB since Aug. 27, 2014.

China: Bibles burning, churches closing
China’s government is ratcheting up a crackdown on Christian congregations in Beijing. In several provinces crosses have been destroyed, Bibles burned, churches shut down and followers ordered to sign papers renouncing their faith. The campaign corresponds with a drive to “Sinicize” religion by demanding loyalty to the officially atheist Communist Party and eliminating any challenge to its power over people’s lives. 

NYC to issue 3rd gender on birth certificates
New York City is the most recent city to allow a third gender option on birth certificates for persons who do not identify as male or female. The third gender marker on birth certificates will become effective Jan. 1, 2019 and will be classified as gender X. The new policy will no longer require persons who identify as such to provide a note from a doctor or a health care provider’s affidavit in order to make such a change. 

CO schools end sex ed program exposing porn
A Colorado school district has agreed to discontinue using products in their sex education program from a company parents say exposed their children to porn images. For two years, the Thomas More Society has assisted concerned parents in an effort to stop the Cherry Creek School District from using these products which were used by children in 55,000 elementary schools, middle schools and high schools across the United States.

Sources: Baptist Press, Illinois Baptist, News Channel 20, Religion News, Christian Post (2)