Archives For Baptists

Nathan Carter

Nathan Carter

At our church we have a questionnaire that anyone who desires to be an elder has to fill out. One of the questions is, “What are the five solas of the Reformation and would you be willing to be burned alive at the stake for holding these?” We strongly believe these rallying cries of the Reformation are still just as needed today as they were 500 years ago.

Before returning to Germany and facing his eventual martyrdom at the hands of the Nazis, theologian and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer lived for a time in the United States. His assessment of the religious scene here was “Protestantism without Reformation.” This critique still largely holds true. We may not be Roman Catholic, but might some of the same problems that precipitated the Reformation in 16th century Europe be present in 21st century evangelicalism? I am afraid so.

The five solas provide a helpful grid for assessing the American church’s current spiritual climate and guide us in how to pray and work for revival.

Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone)
I think there are many churches who say on paper that they believe the Bible to be the inspired, inerrant, authoritative, sufficient Word of God. But in practice, you cannot tell. Scripture does not saturate their worship services. The sermon is cut short and full of stories and tips instead of exposition and proclamation of the whole counsel of God. The Word is not trusted to grow the church, but rather we look to and lean on techniques and tricks. Science is respected over Scripture, psychology prized over theology, experience trusted over exegesis. And many church-goers today are as biblically illiterate as they were in the Middle Ages.

Sola Fide (faith alone)
If we gave Southern Baptist church-goers a test with this true or false question—“People get into heaven by doing good”—I imagine a majority would know enough to say FALSE. But that doesn’t mean they could pass an essay question on what justification by faith entails.

We may have simply lowered the bar or tried to lighten the law, but we still are preaching a form of works-righteousness when we major on what people need to do…to end sex-trafficking, get out of debt, have healthy families…instead of what Christ has done to free us from sin, forgive us our debts, and adopt us into his family. The truth is that you actually have to be perfect to get into heaven, and thus our only hope is having Jesus’ perfect record given to us as a gift, received by faith.

Sola Gratia (grace alone)
We like grace—when it is seen as an assist for our slam dunk. The polls are heart-rending that show the number of Christians who think that the quote “God helps those who help themselves” comes from the Bible. Do we really believe our salvation is wholly of grace? If so, we could never allow our Christianity to be a badge of pride that makes us feel superior to or live in fear of the big, bad world.

Solus Christus (Christ alone)
We may say that we believe Jesus is the only way to God, but do our actions back that up? We live in a highly pluralistic society. Do we really believe that the nice Hindu family living down the street is destined for hell apart from faith in Christ? Do we believe it enough to lovingly and sacrificially share with them the gospel of what Christ has uniquely done?

Our lack of evangelism betrays our lack of belief in the exclusivity of Christ. Furthermore, so much of our faith talk is vague spirituality that does not really need the virgin birth, perfect life, substitutionary death, victorious resurrection, and imminent return of the historical God-man Jesus Christ. We spout meaningless Oprah-esque mumbo-jumbo and it is no wonder that our kids start to think Christianity is not that distinct from the other religions and philosophies of their friends.

Soli Deo Gloria (the glory of God alone)
Ministry can so easily become about our name or brand. We like to take the credit for our successes. Plus, there is a pervasive man-centeredness in our culture which has seeped into our churches. We are not in awe of God, but obsessed with our felt needs. Therefore, we fundamentally view God as there to serve us instead of the other way around. We have not been struck by the utter weightiness of the triune God, but are pathetically shallow and flit easily from this fad to that fad.

In our consumeristic context where everyone is bombarded with endless options all the time, the solas can at first seem like a straightjacket. But they truly represent our only hope. We are in desperate need of a fresh vision of God’s glory, in the face of Jesus Christ, as a result of his grace, perceived by faith, in the pages of the Bible.

Nathan Carter is pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Chicago.

Luther: action hero

ib2newseditor —  March 9, 2017
Martin Luther playmobll

This 3” tall toy from Playmobil is a big seller in Germany this year.

His story has all the markings of a summer blockbuster: thunder, lightning, daring escapes, an imprisonment (of sorts) in a German castle. But Martin Luther, born in 1483, was supposed to have been a lawyer and lived a much quieter, less adventurous life.

As a young teen, Luther was sent to school to study the law. His life changed dramatically in 1505 as he was traveling through a thunderstorm and a bolt of lightning struck too close for comfort. In desperation, Luther promised to become a monk.

He was ordained as a priest in 1507, but after 10 years of monastic life and increasing disillusionment with church practices, he sent a letter to leaders protesting the sale of indulgences, or pardons for sin. He included in the letter 95 Theses on faith, grace, sin, redemption, and religious authority. Those concepts, which sparked the Protestant Reformation, will celebrate their 500th anniversary this October 31, the date of Luther’s letter to church leaders.

Of the Scripture passages believed to have inspired Luther’s transformation, it is Romans 1:17 that theologian R.C. Sproul said “turned the lights on for Luther” because it details a righteousness given by God to those who would receive it by faith, rather than to those who could earn it.

In 1523, his life took another unexpected turn when a group of nuns asked for his help to escape their convent. He did so, sneaking them out in fish barrels. One of the sisters, Katherine Von Bora, eventually became Luther’s wife and the mother of his six children. (Von Bora must have been an unlikely partner for Luther; he once said that upon hearing of his choice, his close friends said, “For heaven’s sake, not this one.”)

Luther’s battles with established religion continued throughout his life, leading to his excommunication from the Catholic church after he refused to recant the Reformation’s ideals. Labeled a heretic and an outlaw, he was put in protective custody at Wartburg Castle. There, he translated the New Testament into German.

In the end, Luther left a legacy even larger than the life he led.

– Meredith Flynn, with info from Christianity Today, Ligonier Ministries, and Britannica.com

Throwing out a lifeline

ib2newseditor —  January 26, 2017

Resource centers and clinics aid those facing difficult choices

70116infant-being-held

Snapshots from Tennessee and Illinois    
When a woman walks into the medical clinic operated by Agape House in northwest Tennessee, she won’t find evangelism tracts or Bibles in the waiting room. While she waits nervously to have an ultrasound to confirm her pregnancy, she won’t be judged regardless of her circumstances. And if she tells the clinic staff that she’s considering having an abortion, she will be given all the information she needs about her child, but won’t be pressured into a decision.

“If someone tries to talk a woman out of a decision to abort” before her heart is ready to accept it, “then someone else can easily talk her back into it after she leaves,” said Linda DeBoard, CEO of Agape House and a member of First Baptist Church in Martin, Tenn.

“When ladies come to our clinic, our mission is to empower them with the truth about life so that they can make the best choice for themselves. We know that’s a choice for life, but she has to come to that realization after she has been given all the truth.”

Agape House is one of thousands of pro-life organizations throughout the country on the front lines of elevating the sanctity of human life. Pregnancy resource centers and medical clinics such as the one operated by Agape House offer various services to support women and men faced with pregnancy decisions.

Some centers minister to those who need assistance throughout a pregnancy in the form of training classes, counseling, or material goods such as diapers. Others, like Agape House’s clinic, focus on reaching women who are at risk for abortion, offering medical services and informing them of their pregnancy options. Illinois Right to Life reports there are around 100 pregnancy resource centers in Illinois.

Angels’ Cove Maternity Center, an arm of Illinois Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services, offers expectant and new mothers a place to live, as well as life and parenting skills, individual and group therapy, and adoption services for those who choose that option.

Doug Devore, who retired this month after almost 44 years at BCHFS, said it’s a joy to see a mother hold her child after making the decision to choose life. “Whether she is 12 or 40, she may not be prepared for that child,” he said. “We have the responsibility to help get her prepared and to help her be the very best mother that she can be. That could be teaching her parenting skills, it might mean helping her get a job, helping her find housing. Whatever it’s gonna take for her to provide the best environment for that child.”

Care at every stage
Our culture has lied to women about abortion, telling them that it is a “quick fix” and that their lives will return to normal afterward, DeBoard said. Agape House is committed to providing truthful information about all pregnancy options—including parenting, adoption, and what abortion is and how the procedures work—and offering a safe space where women can process the information, she said.

DeBoard said that by offering their services this way, they have the opportunity to reach women who would never go to a church for help.

“A woman in our area who is wanting to have an abortion, and has already made the decision to have an abortion, is not going to church to tell you that she wants an abortion. She’s not,” DeBoard said. “She’s running from the church.”

A 2015 study from LifeWay Research supports that assertion. In a survey of women who have had abortions, 59% of respondents said they received or expected to receive a judgmental or condemning attitude from a local church as they considered their decision to abort, while 29% said they received or expected to receive a loving or caring response. And 54% of women would not recommend to someone close to them that they discuss their decision regarding an unplanned pregnancy with someone at a local church, while only 25% would recommend it.

Agape staff and volunteers may ask clients whether they have a faith that might influence their pregnancy decision. This often leads to opportunities to share the gospel or to encourage women in their relationship with Jesus. They also offer a Bible study program for women who have previously had abortions.

DeBoard reminds pastors that their pews may be filled with women who have abortions in their past. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization with ties to Planned Parenthood, approximately 30% of women will have had an abortion by age 45. “What abortion is and does needs to be told and spoken and preached,” DeBoard said, but with sensitivity to the women who are hurting from their own abortion experiences.

“There’s no sin too great that God won’t forgive us and set us free and use our mistakes for his glory.”

Excerpted in part from an article in SBC LIFE, newsjournal of the Southern Baptist Convention. Used by permission.

For more information about services offered through Illinois Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services, go to BCHFS.com.

The_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The Illinois Baptist State Association’s Annual Meeting and Pastors’ Conference is in Springfield this week, beginning today at 1 p.m. Check our blog for coverage throughout the week, or at Facebook.com/IllinoisBaptist and Twitter.com/IllinoisBaptist.


“Parents, love your LGBT or same-sex attracted children and point them to a life of costly discipleship following Jesus,” Christopher Yuan told attendees at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s National Conference last week. The Moody Bible Institute professor’s journey out of a lifestyle of addiction, which included same-sex relationships, was shaped by the love of his Christian parents, The Christian Post reported.


After same-sex marriage became legal in their state Oct. 10, six magistrates in North Carolina stepped down rather than be required to preside over same-sex marriages, the Christian Examiner reported. “For me to do what the state said I had to do, under penalty of law, I would have to go against my convictions, and I was not willing to do that,” said Magistrate Gayle Myrick. “I want to honor what the Word says.”


Theologian R.C. Sproul said “the pervasive influence of humanism” is evident in a new survey produced by LifeWay Research and commissioned by Sproul’s Ligonier Ministries. The online survey of 3,000 Americans asked 43 questions about faith, covering topics from sin and salvation to the Bible and the afterlife.


It was announced last week that the network of 13 Mars Hill churches founded by recently resigned pastor Mark Driscoll will dissolve by the beginning of 2015. According to a Christianity Today report, the churches have three options: become independent, merge with an existing church, or disband.


Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore is one of the speakers set to address a Vatican colloquium on marriage and family later this month. The religious groups that will be represented certainly have their differences, Moore blogged, and the meeting won’t change that reality. “That said, I am willing to go anywhere, when asked, to bear witness to what we as evangelical Protestants believe about marriage and the gospel, especially in times in which marriage is culturally imperiled.”

 

Tuesday_BriefingLeaders debate disconnect between millenials and the church

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

“Some millenials, like many from generations before us, want the church to become a mirror – a reflection of our particular preferences, desires, and dreams,” Trevin Wax blogged earlier this summer.

“But other millenials want a Christianity that shapes and changes our preferences, desires, and dreams.”

Those words from Wax, managing editor of LifeWay’s “The Gospel Project,” succinctly explain the debate sparked in July by a blog post by Rachel Held Evans. At issue: the millennial generation (generally defined as those born around and after 1980), the church, and the perceived distance between the two.

Evans, a 32-year-old author right on the edge of the millenial divide, shared on CNN’s “Belief” blog that too often, church leaders think they can bridge the gap with better, cooler style choices in music, technology, and the entire worship experience. But, “we’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there,” Evans wrote.

She gives to church leaders who want to appeal to young Christians: “…I explain how young adults perceive evangelical Christianity to be too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

“I point to research that shows young evangelicals often feel they have to choose between their intellectual integrity and their faith, between science and Christianity, between compassion and holiness.”

Evans’ column lit up social media and garnered thousands of comments on CNN’s site, where it’s still getting feedback more than a month after it posted. Other Christian leaders responded too, agreeing with some of Evans’ points but also offering their own take on the problem: 59% of young people disengage from the church for an extended period of time or for good, according to Barna.

It’s an important conversation to have, said Chase Abner, IBSA’s collegiate evangelism strategist. “Like it or not, Millenials will soon be at the helm of our churches, schools and governments. Let us labor that they might hear and respond in faith to Christ.”

It’s the in’s and out’s and how to’s of that labor that had leaders talking about Evans’ blog post. Trevin Wax noted that although Evans says Millenials long for Jesus in the church, the ideal church she describes may not look like Him.

“When I read the Gospels, I’m confronted by a Jesus who explodes our categories of righteousness and sin, repentance and forgiveness, and power and purity,” he blogged. “I see a King who makes utterly exclusive claims, and doesn’t seem to care who is offended.”

Wax writes later, “Rachel says Millenials want to be ‘challenged to holiness,’ but the challenge she appears to be advocating is one on our own terms and according to our own preferences.”

Several leaders who commented on Evans’ post turned the focus away from the church and took a harder look at Millenials themselves. Are today’s young Christians giving the “me generation” a run for their money when it comes to self-centeredness?

“I’m sorry Millenials, but I’m going to have to throw us under the bus here: we do not have everything figured out,” wrote author Brett McCracken on The Washington Post’s On Faith” blog. “And if we expect older generations and well-established institutions to morph to fit our every fickle desire, we do so at our peril.”

In response to Evans’ suggestion that church leaders sit down with young Christians and talk about what they’re looking for in a church, McCracken proposed the opposite. “Millenials, why don’t we take our pastors, parents and older Christian brothers and sisters out to coffee and listen to them?”

Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, echoed that idea in a column on Baptist Press, but took it a step further by calling on church leaders and parents to help young people experience the church as a member of the body, rather than just part of various age-graded programs.

“When they are disconnected from the congregation, it should not surprise us that young adults, who have never known the church as a whole, are disinclined to embrace it when their age-graded group has run its course.”

Allen wrote he wants his children to get to know people at all stages of life in the church – from young couples to senior citizens. That focus on relationships is increasingly important to young Christians, Abner said. In a day when technology can make anyone an expert on anything – even Christianity – young people want to know whether the information we have is making a difference in the world.

“They can’t see that just from shaking your hand before or after a service. They can’t see that just because you teach the Bible well,” Abner said. “But they can see it in the way you love your spouse and children. They can see it in the way you follow Jesus at work. They can see it in the way you refuse to compartmentalize your devotion to the Gospel.”

Read more about young people and the church in the next issue of the Illinois Baptist, online this Friday at http://ibonline.IBSA.org.

Kazakh Baptists fined for meeting
Authorities in Kazakhstan fined 18 Baptists this summer for participating in religious activity not authorized by the state, Baptist Press reports. The country’s Administration Code bans participation, leadership or financing of any unregistered religious community. Forum 18, a religious freedom organization based in Norway, reported three Baptists fined an two months’ average salary for leading the meetings, and 15 others were fine one month’s average salary for attending worship.

Kazakhstan’s Council of Baptists don’t seek state registration, maintaining that the country’s constitution and international human rights commitments forbid requiring government approval for worship. Read more at BPNews.net.

Doves offer something for everyone
The nominees for the 44th annual Dove Awards showcase Christian music’s diversity, from rock to hip-hop, Southern Gospel to praise & worship. “The Doves represent the best of the best – in all genres of Gospel music, celebrating talent, ministry and outstanding performances,” said Jackie Patillo, executive director of the Gospel Music Association. The Dove Awards will be presented Oct. 15 and broadcast Oct. 21 on the UP network. Worship leaders Matt Redman and Chris Tomlin each received nine nominations, and will vie for song of the year with “10,000 Reasons” and “Whom Shall I Fear,” respectively. Read the full list of nominees at DoveAwards.com.

NAMB offers online resources to encourage church leaders
With Pastor Appreciation Month coming in October, the North American Mission Board is providing churches with resources to encourage and support their leaders. NAMB is encouraging churches to pick one Sunday to lift up their pastors during a worship service. The web page NAMB.net/honoring_pastors offers posters and bulletin inserts with 50 practical, specific ways lay leaders can encourage their pastors and their families year-round. Read the full story at BPNews.net.