Archives For Baptist

Where_Was_God_posterTHE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Film documents storm recovery
One year after a tornado killed 24 people in Moore, Oklahoma, survivors are sharing their stories in a new documentary film. “Where was God? Stories of Hope After the Storm” was produced and promoted in partnership with several churches and faith-based groups, including the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

“We want to remind people that God is always near, no matter what,” said pastor and executive producer Steven Earp. “There is not a single thing that we could ever go through that our heavenly Father does not understand, and there is not a single dark place that He has not already walked.” Read more at BPNews.net.

Sudanese woman won’t recant, faces death sentence
A Sudanese doctor was sentenced to death after she refused to reject her Christian faith. Meriam Yahia Ibrahim, 27, was convicted of apostasy April 30 and given 15 days to recant. “I am a Christian, and I have never been a Muslim,” she told the judge, according to Morning Star News. Ibrahim, who is due to give birth soon, is married to Daniel Wani, a South Sudanese Christian who also is a U.S. citizen.

Her sentence, set to be carried out two year’s after her child’s birth, is representative of “increasing Islamization” of Sudan sparked by the secession of South Sudan in 2011, Christianity Today reported. Read more at ChristianityToday.com.

Americans inflate church attendance
It’s easier to be honest online, at least about church attendance. A new study by the Public Religion Research Institute found Americans inflate their levels of religious participation, especially when answering questions about it over the phone. For example, 36% of Americans who took PRRI’s telephone survey said they attend services weekly or more, compared to 31% who answered an identical question on a self-administered online survey.

Among white evangelical Protestants, 9% answering over the phone said they seldom or never attend services, while 17% reported the same on the online survey. PRRI reports young adults, Catholics and white mainline Protestants are most likely to over-report their church attendance. Read more at publicreligion.org.

‘Gay Christian’ publisher out of National Religious Broadcasters
WaterBrook Multnomah resigned this month from the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) network over a controversial book published by an affiliated imprint, Convergent Books. “God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships” by Matthew Vines theorizes that Scripture doesn’t condemn monogamous same-sex relationships.

Though WaterBrook Multnomah and Convergent are separate entities with the same leader, employees of both companies are reported to have worked on the book. According to a Christianity Today report, NRB President Jerry Johnson wrote in a letter to his board, “This issue comes down to NRB members producing unbiblical material, regardless of the label under which they do it.”

Baptist history gets hip-hop treatment
“Now this is a story all about how the Baptists became what they are now…” Rapping seminary study Ashley Unzicker took the outline from one of her classes and set it to the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” theme song, creating a 5-minute ode to Baptist history that starts with religious persecution in England, and concludes with the election of Fred Luter as the SBC’s first African American president. Now, that’s fresh. Watch the video on YouTube.

Nate_Adams_blog_callout_3HEARTLAND | Nate Adams

I’ve recently found myself in several different settings where I have been asked to help clarify what Baptists believe, and how those beliefs may be distinct or different from those of other groups. Sometimes the question comes from Christians of another faith background. Sometimes it’s from a non-Christian who wants to understand if his or her perception is accurate. Occasionally, those from a different Baptist denomination simply want to understand why all Baptists aren’t alike.

I have to admit, dialoguing with that latter group sometimes has made me wonder if we Baptists aren’t too quick to stand apart from one another, or to divide into different groups over relatively minor issues. But in most cases, looking for the reasons that we stand apart as Baptists makes me glad that we do.

Late last year, my more frequent conversations along these lines led me to set aside 18 weeks of our weekly chapel at the IBSA building, and to devote one week to each of the articles in The Baptist Faith & Message. We only have 30-45 minutes for chapel, which includes worship and prayer. So we did not do an in-depth study. But each week, I asked the staff to look at a different article from The Baptist Faith & Message, and to ask with me, “What is distinct here? How are Southern Baptists different from other groups, even other conservative, Christian groups?”

Our staff agreed it was a helpful and enlightening exercise. Often we found ourselves saying, “Well, many Christians believe that, or certainly most conservative or evangelical Christians would say something similar to that.” But every week, on almost every doctrinal topic, we also found ourselves identifying distinct beliefs or practices that make our Baptist faith and message meaningfully unique.

After the chapel series was over, I sat down with my notes and jotted my own personal summary of the Baptist beliefs that, to me, seem to differentiate Baptists from others. This list will help me summarize our Baptist identity when I am asked to do so. And, with great love and respect for my many Christian and evangelical friends from other denominations, these are the reasons I will always look for a Baptist church when I move to a new town, or when I choose to declare a doctrinal identity.

My list didn’t simply include a high view of Scripture, or faith in Jesus as the only way to salvation, or a literal resurrection and second coming, because many Christians share those beliefs. But it did include things like believer’s baptism, by immersion and symbolic. It included local church autonomy and congregational governance, combined with passionate, organized cooperation in missions. And it included belief in eternal security, biblical marriage, and personal responsibility for evangelism.

This rich discussion of “What does it mean to be Baptist, and does it really matter?” has also contributed to the creation of a new feature, beginning in this issue of the Illinois Baptist. You will find it on pages 9 and 10. This new “Baptist 101” section will help clarify and reinforce what it means today to be Baptist, not just doctrinally, but also in cooperative missions endeavors and practical church matters. In fact, I hope it will help all of us who read the Illinois Baptist become more articulate proponents of Baptist, evangelical, Christian faith.

Of course the autonomous nature of Baptist churches and people makes it impossible, even undesirable, to try and paint everyone with the same broad stroke. Baptists are a diverse group! But while we are not uniform, we are strangely, almost miraculously, unified. Our best understanding of the Bible has led us to stand, with humility and respect for others I trust, on core Baptist beliefs and practices. If we believe these are important enough to protect and
preserve for our children and grandchildren, then we must continue to understand them and articulate them for others. Across the centuries, and I believe now and into the future, Baptist faith matters.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The country’s major political parties will gather for their national conventions in the next two weeks. Republicans, meeting in Tampa Aug. 27-30, take with them into their convention a major unanswered question – who will be Mitt Romney’s running mate? And Democrats, scheduled for Charlotte Sept. 3-6, are poised to make a historic shift on same-sex marriage.

The Democratic Party followed President Barack Obama’s example on same-sex marriage late last month, announcing they’ll add language to their official platform endorsing the legalization of gay marriage.

The announcement, the first of its kind by either major party, came nearly three months after Obama expressed his personal support for same-sex marriage. A recent Pew Research survey found 65 percent of Democrats support same-sex marriage, marking an increase of 15 percent since 2008.

On the other side of the political aisle, Republicans await the announcement of presumptive nominee Mitt Romney’s running mate. Voters – evangelicals in particular – are waiting to see whether public perception of his Mormon faith will affect his choice.

Will Romney choose a vice presidential candidate with stronger evangelical Christian ties than his own? A Barna survey found it may not matter: Of likely voters, only 14 percent said a candidate’s religious faith is one of the most important factors in deciding to vote for him or her. Faith was fifth on the list after position on issues, personal character, the candidate’s political party, and political experience.

To read more about Barna’s findings, including how 12 key issues rank in importance amongst voters, go to barna.org.

Other news:

Platt, Stetzer, Giglio, others on platform at NAMB’s SEND conference
More than 2,000 people attended the North American Mission Board’s SEND North America conference, designed to galvanize leaders toward church planting in urban areas. Speakers including David Platt, J.D. Greear, Ed Stetzer, Johnny Hunt and Louie Gilglio were all on hand to encourage pastors and leaders toward investment in church planting and church revitalization. Chicago and St. Louis are two of the focus cities that will benefit from added ministry partnerships over the next several years. Read more about the conference at namb.net.

(Still) appreciating Chick-Fil-A
Although Chick-Fil-A declined to release exact sales numbers, Wednesday, August 1, was a “record-setting day” for the restaurant chain, according to a news release from the company. More than 600,000 signed up on Facebook for National Support Chick-Fil-A Day. Counter protests from proponents of same-sex marriage – the issue that precipitated Chick-Fil-A Day – are underway, but haven’t yet gathered as much steam, at least on Facebook, as the original event. Read one seminary professor’s defense of why he chose to “eat more chicken” August 1.

Kentucky conference explores Calvinism debate
There is a deep division in the Southern Baptist Convention over Calvinism, said SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page, during a conference hosted by the Kentucky Baptist Convention. “Calvinism: Concerned, Confused, or Curious,” brought together four SBC leaders of varying theology perspectives to discuss what many think is the most important – and potentially divisive – debate in the convention. Read more at bpnews.net.

Olympics: U.S. volleyball captain relies on personal faith
The U.S. men’s volleyball team experienced tragedy four years ago in Beijing, when Coach High McCutcheon’s father-in-law was killed while in China to cheer on the team. Reid Priddy was a member of that squad, who rallied to an emotional gold medal. Now, as team captain, he’s hoping to lead his team back to the top of the podium. Priddy spoke to Baptist Press about his personal faith and how God has used volleyball to mold his character. Read the profile here.

(Editor’s note: New Orleans in Rear View. Now that we’re back home, our Illinois Baptist news team reflects on the question: What is the lasting value of the 2012 SBC?)

 Posted by Meredith Flynn

David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., delivers a Pastors' Conference message in New Orleans on true repentance and salvation.

David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., delivers a Pastors’ Conference message in New Orleans on true repentance and salvation.

Before the convention, many (especially us press types) were buzzing about how a growing debate over Reformed theology might come up from the floor. The answer: It didn’t really pan out like we thought it might, at least in terms of a heated debate.

Instead, Pastors’ Conference speakers and panelists at some of the surrounding meetings encouraged Southern Baptists to work together, even if it means crossing theological lines. And some, most notably Alabama pastor David Platt, spoke passionately about the bigger fish we have to fry.

During his message Monday afternoon, Platt referenced a YouTube video from a message he preached at an inter-denominational conference earlier this summer. On the widely-watched video, Platt said the sinner’s prayer is a “superstitious” prayer that never appears in Scripture, and called into question some traditional evangelism methods.

In his message at the Pastors’ Conference, Platt admitted that as a young pastor, he would be wise to watch his words. But then he stayed true to what he said briefly in the video, pleading with Southern Baptists to preach the true Gospel, full of the messages of repentance, belief, discipleship, and global mission.

Two days later, after some debate on the convention floor, messengers approved a resolution upholding the “sinner’s prayer” as a biblical means to salvation.

How we lead people toward a saving knowledge of Christ, and where we find the conviction of our own salvation, is the most important conversation we can have, in my view. I’m grateful for the discussion, and look forward to watching and listening as God moves us closer to His heart for people.