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Who will help the elderly live abundantly and finish faithfully?

Editor’s note: On January 22, many Southern Baptist churches will mark “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday,” a day for considering the sacred nature of God-given life.

Springfield | For Ruth McGlennon, one of the most challenging parts about her new life in a nursing home was getting used to the sound of her roommate crying. Although the woman wasn’t physically able to speak, McGlennon was able to guess right away the source of her sorrow.

“Her family never came to see her,” said McGlennon, a former kindergarten teacher and the eldest of 10 siblings. “She had sons, and I used to be very mad at them. She could have been the worst mother in the world, but she was still their mother, and they should have been there to see her.”

The story McGlennon shared is sadly common, said Joyce Mancke, leader of SonShine Ministries, which she and her husband started 12 years ago when they lived in Joliet. The ministry, which sends teams to visit local nursing homes, now has local expressions in communities across Illinois. The Manckes are members of Eastview Baptist Church in Springfield.

“Many times, we have the elderly who never get any attention at all, or family visits. Sometimes we are all they have,” said Mancke. “Too many times, they’re just put away. Viewed as a burden.”

In Illinois, 1.8 million people are over the age of 60, according to the U.S. Census Bureau projections for 2015. That means one in seven people in this state are seniors. And about 100,000 people live in nursing homes, according to the Department of Health. Mancke said the hardest thing for many of them is the loneliness, “feeling that nobody cares.”

But the church can help, said Andrew Walker, director of policy studies for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. It’s vital for the church to be “at the vanguard of witnessing to the sacredness of life at all stages—from womb to tomb,” Walker said.

“The Scriptures speak clearly of the wisdom that comes with age, and younger generations should actively seek out wisdom.”

“We need to see seniors as important contributors within the life of the church. The Scriptures speak clearly of the wisdom that comes with age, and younger generations should actively seek out wisdom.”

Place of honor
Scott Foshie, pastor at Steeleville Baptist Church, said many seniors—whether they are in nursing homes, assisted living or homebound situations—feel as though “life’s passing them by.”

“It’s tragic, but sometimes people are so career-oriented—and people can be caught up in their own plans—that there’s that temptation to kind of neglect [seniors] and maybe kind of pretend that they’re not there,” he said.

Foshie said that kind of attitude undervalues the gift they bring to the body of believers. “None of us ever retire from ministry,” said Foshie, who mentioned many seniors in his church are phenomenal prayer warriors. “They should have a place of honor in our church. We should cherish their wisdom and honor their faithfulness. I think God blesses churches when we take the time to do that and give them that special place.”

One way Christians can honor older people actually hits very close to home, Walker said. “One of the most important things the church can do to witness to its pro-life convictions at all stages is to invite elderly parents, where it is medically possible, into the home to live with adult children.

“I am concerned that the default assumption in America and within the church is to offload care of parents to outside institutions.”

While Walker said nothing is inherently wrong with nursing homes or other similar institutions, he disagrees with the attitude society has about the elderly.

“They are not society’s burden,” said Walker, who plans to take in his parents someday. “They aren’t my burden. They are my parents and I owe them this honor.”

“They aren’t my burden. They are my parents and I owe them this honor.”

Joyce Mancke’s team of 8-10 people from Springfield churches, including Eastview Baptist, visits local nursing homes weekly. “I personally think you should have a [seniors’] ministry team for the church,” she said, adding that the size of the team isn’t important; it’s a person’s heart for the elderly that counts.

“If you’ve got two or three with the heart, God will multiply that,” she said. “It’s like the bread and the fishes. When you see the heartbeat and when you see the Lord directing their life, people want that. You’ve got to be willing to commit, and it’s a big commitment, but you’ve got to be willing to say, ‘Yes, Lord. I’ll go.’ And that’s contagious.”

Although it’s tempting to place all the responsibility of starting a seniors’ ministry onto the pastor, Foshie said the key is actually to mobilize members of the church.

“If I tried to do it all, it would actually limit what God wants to do,” the pastor said. “I think God is a God of relationships, and I think the relationships we enjoy between our generations in the church is a reflection of God’s unconditional love for us.

“If we do not do this, if we do not get involved in ministry on a cross-generational level, then we are really missing out on God’s plan for us.”

Elise Dismer is a freelance writer living in Springfield.

6 ideas for nursing home outreach

1. Sing hymns. Joyce Mancke of SonShine Ministries enlisted the aid of her husband’s quartet when she first started visiting nursing homes. She said that music, especially hymns, seemed to touch the seniors there in a powerful way.

Pastor Scott Foshie of Steeleville Baptist Church agrees that music is “absolutely effective” in seniors’ ministry and draws in a crowd at a nursing home quite quickly, even if it’s just two people singing.

2. Make phone calls and regular visits. Connecting and spending time with seniors is important, especially in cases where a senior can no longer drive. Foshie took his youth group to the nursing home every month or so to mingle and play games with seniors there. “They love it when teenagers come, and young people,” he said. “They love the energy and to interact with them, and I think the teenagers grew to love it. They would tell me if it had been a bit too long since we’d gone to see them.”

3. Study the Bible. Digging into the Word will not only encourage believers, it also acts as an outreach to those who may not know the Lord, Mancke said. She shared that while holding a Bible study with one man, his roommate, who overheard the studies, came to know the Lord.

4. Celebrate birthdays. Whether it’s with birthday cards, flowers, and balloons, Foshie said the gesture of celebrating a person’s life can go a long way in showing that you care.

Likewise, Mancke makes a point to ask if anyone has had a birthday on her visits to nursing homes so that the whole choir—and consequently the whole room—can sing “Happy Birthday” to him or her.

5. Give hugs. Mancke hugs everyone at the nursing homes she visits. She said it’s a good way to combat the feeling of loneliness that many people experience there. “The challenge is just knowing that people care about them,” she said. “You’ve got to make them feel like they’re part of the family.”

6. Make donations. Nursing homes often have a need for clothing like socks, underwear, T-shirts, and sweaters, Mancke said, as well as practical items like lotions, shampoos, combs, hair curlers, blankets, and stationery. Since each nursing home has its own policy on donations, it’s best to call the one near you to find out the most in-demand items or any restrictions that are in place.

In whatever way you reach out to seniors, Mancke said, the impact of the outreach is often surprising. “We go to be a blessing to these people,” she said, “but the funny thing is, we’re the ones who always come back on a mountaintop.”

watch pocketIn the church I grew up in, “missionary” was a sacred and scary title, bestowed only upon the spiritual elite, the Navy Seals of the Christian world. We considered them heroes, sat in awe through their slideshows, and gladly donated our money to their ministries.

It was years later that I first realized that every Christian was a missionary, that all Christians were called to leverage their lives and talents for the kingdom. God’s calling into mission is not a separate call we receive years after our salvation; it is inherent in the very call to salvation. Every believer is given a spiritual gift and a role to play in the spread of the Great Commission. “Follow me,” Jesus said, “And I will make you fishers of men.” That’s for everyone, not just those who feel a special tingly feeling they interpret as the call of God, or those who see some message from heaven spelled out in the clouds. Too many Christians sit around waiting on a “voice” to tell them what God has already spelled out in a verse.

Another way to put it: The question is no longer if we are called to leverage our lives for the Great Commission; it’s only where and how.

When “normal” Christians embrace this idea of calling, the gospel spreads like a prairie grassfire. Luke, the writer of Acts, goes out of his way to show us that the gospel travels faster around the world in the mouths of regular Christians than it does through full-time, vocational Christian workers. Luke notes, for example, that the first time the gospel left Jerusalem, it was not in the mouths of the apostles. Regular people “went everywhere preaching the word,” while the apostles stayed in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1–4). The first time the gospel actually went out into the world, not a single apostle was involved.

  • The first “international mission trip” was taken later in that same chapter by Philip, another layman. The Spirit carried him to a desert road where he met an Ethiopian government official, and Philip led him to Christ.
  • The church at Antioch, which served as the hub for missionary activity for the last half of the book of Acts, was not planted by an apostle, but simply “some brothers,” whose names Luke did not even bother to record—presumably because no one would have known whom he was talking about.
  • Apollos, a layman, first carried the gospel into Ephesus, and unnamed brothers first established the church at Rome. These Christians didn’t travel to Rome on a formal mission trip, but were carried there through the normal relocations that come with business and life. As they went, they made disciples in every place (Acts 8:5–8; 18:24–19:1; 28:15).
  • As the historian Steven Neill notes, “Nothing is more notable than the anonymity of these early missionaries.…Luke does not turn aside to mention the name of a single one of those pioneers who laid the foundation. Few, if any, of the great Churches were really founded by apostles. Peter and Paul may have organized the Church in Rome. They certainly did not found it.”

The next wave of missions will be carried forward, I believe, in much the same way—on the wings of business. Consider this: If you overlay a map of world poverty with a map of world evangelization, you will find that the areas most in need of business development are also the most unevangelized. Many of the most unreached places in the world, most closed to Christian missionaries, have arms wide open to any kind of businessmen.

Missiologists frequently refer to a “10/40 window” in which the most unreached peoples live (lying between the 10 and 40 degree latitude lines). For business leaders, the 10/40 window isn’t a window at all; it’s a wide open door.

God may not call you to leave the United States (though he might!). But if you’re a believer, he is calling you to follow him where he goes, as he seeks to make his name known. Whether you’re an investment banker or a full-time pastor, a stay-at-home mom or an overseas missionary, God has a mission for you. From Raleigh-Durham to Bahrain, the responsibility to think that way belongs to every believer. As we often say, “Whatever you are good at, do it well for the glory of God, and do it somewhere strategic for the mission of God.”

It’s time for the “ordinary believers” in our churches to recover the understanding that they are called to the mission and shaped by God for a specific role in that mission. The question is no longer if we are called to leverage our lives for the Great Commission; it’s only a matter of where and how.

J.D. Greear, Ph.D., is pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and author of “Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches that Send.”

The BriefingIllinois B&B owners lose another round
A same-sex couple denied access to a central Illinois bed and breakfast while planning their civil union ceremony has won another legal victory in a five-year discrimination case that’s highlighted the conflict between religious freedoms and gay civil rights.

Atheists urge skipping church on Christmas
American Atheists, one of the nation’s largest secular groups, is launching a billboard campaign that encourages Americans to skip church this Christmas. The group is putting billboards up in cities across the country, including Colorado Springs, Colorado; Lynchburg, Virginia; Augusta, Georgia; Shreveport, Louisiana; and Georgetown, South Carolina.

Starbucks stirs up controversy — again
The culture wars come every December, fueled by peppermint mochas and venti soy lattes. The battleground is Starbucks. It’s always Starbucks, isn’t it? No one is complaining that the blue-and-brown holiday cups at Caribou Coffee take the “Christ” out of Christmas. Religion. Politics. The Bill of Rights. They all converge here, in front of a glass case full of cake pops.

Liberty advocates lament loss
Religious freedom advocates have expressed deep disappointment about congressional leaders’ failure to protect the rights of faith-based organizations in a national defense bill. The Russell Amendment was not included in the final version of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act which designates nearly $620 billion in spending for the armed services. The amendment would have protected the rights of non-profit religious contractors to maintain hiring practices in keeping with their beliefs.

Docs: Don’t force us to aid suicide
A group of Vermont medical professionals is suing state officials for demanding doctors counsel patients on physician-assisted suicide. The Vermont Board of Medical Practice and Office of Professional Regulation declared the state’s assisted suicide law, enacted in 2013, requires healthcare professionals, regardless of conscience or oath, to inform terminally ill patients that one of their medical options is doctor-prescribed suicide.

Sources: Belleville News-Democrat, Fox News, Washington Post, Baptist Press, World Magazine

Go Church Go!

ib2newseditor —  November 14, 2016

People in the form of  church.First let me say I how much I appreciate my many friends who are St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago White Sox fans, even those who seemed to suddenly become Cleveland Indians fans just prior to the 2016 World Series. I try not to be an annoying or gloating Cubs fan, though some might say that simply writing about the Cubs here makes me so.

But it’s not really the now-world-champion Cubs team or organization that I want to draw on for inspiration with these thoughts. Rather, it’s the persevering, always hopeful, and now victorious Cubs fans. Though I grew up a Cardinals fan like many in southern Illinois, five things have always drawn me to Cubs fans, and made me one of them.

Worldwide – The WGN cable network is probably most responsible for giving the Cubs a more than regional fan base. When wearing a Cubs logo, I have found other fans all around the country, and even around the world.

Wrigley – You just can’t deny the old world charm of the historic yet modernized stadium that the Cubs call their friendly confines. For true baseball fans, it’s one of the most inviting places in the world.

Waiters – As almost everyone now knows, Cubs fans had not seen a World Series championship since 1908. As the Series approached, numerous writers listed things that are more current than a Cubs championship, including the toaster and sliced bread itself. True, faithful Cubs fans are by definition those who patiently wait.

Winsome – While I’m sure we all know an abrasive Cubs fan or two, the overwhelming majority of Cubs fans I’ve known are friendly, hopeful, optimistic, and deeply loyal. Even though “lovable losers” is a label that’s practically become part of the official Cubs brand, you can’t get a rise out of a Cubs fan with that kind of insult. After all, until this year, what defense was there to that label? Cubs fans just smile, and winsomely recite their equally well-known mantra: “Wait ‘til next year.”

Winners – And finally, this year, we can add a new capital W that could only have been used in small case a few times over the past 108 years. This year, Cubs fans are winners. Their perseverance finally paid off. Next year has finally come. And in a demonstration of support and celebration that has now been labeled the largest gathering in American history, and seventh largest in world history, more than five million fans flooded the streets and parks of Chicago to relabel their lovable losers—beloved winners.

Now, how do I rationalize writing about baseball here? Well, almost any time I am moved or inspired by something in secular culture, I find it’s because I see in that event a reflection of something larger in God’s Kingdom, or God’s character, or God’s people. In this case, I think I find Cubs fans so inspiring (admittedly, some Cubs players are not) because I see in them a faint reflection of the same qualities I see in faithful Christians, and churches.

Throughout much of the world, including our own nation and state, faithful Christians are not seen as current winners. But, at least when we’re at our best, we are seen as winsome people who are patiently waiting for our victorious Lord Jesus to return. We are seeking to take our love and loyalty and gospel message worldwide. And yet we seek to make each local gathering place as inviting and friendly as the confines of Wrigley Field.

There will be a day when the five million that gathered to celebrate in Chicago will be a pale comparison to the tribes, tongues, and nations that will gather at the feet of Jesus, to worship him forever. But for now, a long-suffering group known as Cubs fans have reminded me of a more important group of people whose patient, faithful, hopeful perseverance will eventually be rewarded by victory. Go Church Go.

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

After a destructive election cycle, it’s time to ask some basic questions. 

Flag of USA painted on cracked wall. Political concept. Old text

Inwardly I chuckled when church historian Mark Noll said, “Evangelicalism is a fractious beast.” I was interviewing him for a documentary on the role Billy Graham played in the development of the evangelical movement when he founded Christianity Today magazine in 1956. As described by Noll, at the time a Wheaton College professor, evangelicals had no driving force other than their love for Jesus and desire to share him with the world.

In post-war mid-century America, the number of evangelicals, including Southern Baptists, was growing rapidly, but they were a people “about many things” as Jesus described Martha, with impact on society disproportionately weak compared to their numbers. They had no recognized think-tank to coalesce and articulate their conservative, biblical views and no central voice to bring those views to bear on culture, the courts, and behavior of the masses. No one was really paying attention to evangelicals as a political or cultural phenomenon.

We could use another Billy Graham today.

Graham remedied that by bringing top Christian thinkers together in his magazine, brought unity around a few ideals such that evangelicals over the next twenty years became a movement, and through a popular medium of the day he gave them a megaphone to broadcast their beliefs.

We could use another Billy Graham today.

Evangelicals today are fractured. The 2016 election cycle has divided us. While 4 out of 5 white evangelicals (the SBC’s predominant constituency) voted for Trump, that fact should not be read as evangelical unity. Believers who may have voted for Trump did so for a variety of reasons. Some were wholeheartedly behind the candidate; some were choosing “the lesser of two evils.” Some were motivated by religious liberty issues, or the future of the U.S. Supreme Court, or pro-life concerns.

No single issue or theology can be said to have brought together the 81% of self-identified white evangelicals who voted for Trump.

And there’s the other 19% who didn’t. And African Americans, Asians, and Hispanic believers who pollsters don’t measure as “evangelicals” and often lump in with other Protestants groups or even Catholics.

We are divided. The divides are between white and black, urban and rural, high levels of education and lesser. And in Southern Baptist life, we have seen some divide between older and younger Christians (especially Millennials), and notable differences among spokesmen for Baptist causes, and distance between leaders and pews.

What are the few things we will stand for—that will bring us together in the name of Jesus Christ?

For the first time in a generation, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission does not appear to have spoken for average Southern Baptists. Russell Moore and a few others were critical of Trump, especially on issues of character and behavior. On the other hand, a few leading megachurch pastors, including Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church of Dallas, stood with Trump. Others kept mum. SBC president Steve Gaines advised not making politics a church issue, so as not to offend people who need to the hear the gospel.

In this election, there were many reasons for speaking up—or not. Thus, in their analysis of the Republican win, pundits may report evangelicals a “silent majority,” but if that is the case, this majority was bound by many motivations.

The need of the hour is for evangelicals, Southern Baptists in particular, to process this awkward election theologically—not practically, politically, or emotionally—and identify the kingdom-worthy reasons for future political involvement. What are the few things we will stand for—that will bring us together in the name of Jesus Christ?

Is it U.S. Supreme Court appointments that preserve religious liberty? Marriage, family, gender preservation?

Is it social justice and a biblical view of peace, poverty, and the sanctity of human life?

And what is the role of character and trustworthiness in supporting a candidate or, moving forward, working with a presidential administration? Which is mandatory for Christ-followers when choosing political allies: biblical political positions or biblical behavior? (It appears nearly impossible to find both in a single person these days.)

In the 1950s, Graham drew Christians together around conservative, biblical theology, and eventually brought that to bear on politics and politicians—not the other way around. At 98 (his birthday was the day before the election), does Graham even recognize the movement he codified?

Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist. 

The BriefingGenocide of Middle East Christians ignored
Nearly six months after Secretary of State John Kerry declared the murder of Christians in the Middle East a “genocide,” Westerners are doing little to stop the killings, said activists gathered for a convention on the victims’ plight. Religious freedom advocate Katrina Lantos Swett called the crisis “perhaps the great moral challenge of our time right now.”

Transgender bill applied to churches
A Massachusetts government commission is claiming churches may be subject to the state’s transgender restroom bill. At issue is a document stating, “Even a church could be seen as a place of public accommodation if it holds a secular event, such as a spaghetti supper, that is open to the general public. All persons, regardless of gender identity, shall have the right to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of any place of public accommodation.”

Kaine predicts change in Catholic view of same-sex marriage
Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine spoke about his evolution on the issue of same-sex marriage, and predicted that the Catholic Church would eventually change its views on the matter. “But I think that’s going to change, too … And I think it’s going to change because my church also teaches me about a creator in the first chapter of Genesis who surveys the entire world including mankind and said it is very good, it is very good,” he said.

ESV becomes ‘unchanging’ Word of God
The English Standard Version (ESV) received its final update this summer, 17 years after it was first authorized by Crossway, its publisher. The translation oversight committee changed just 52 words across 29 verses—out of more than 775,000 words across more than 31,000 verses—for the final “permanent text” edition. The board then voted, unanimously, to make the text “unchanged forever, in perpetuity.

Cross Point’s Pete Wilson resigns
Citing his exhaustion and personal brokenness, Pete Wilson, senior pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN, and author of Plan B, shocked his congregation when he announced his resignation from the church he founded. As the church celebrated its 14th anniversary and America remembered the terror attacks of September 11, Wilson told his congregation that he was no longer fit to lead.

Sources: Religion News, Baptist Press, NBC News, Christianity Today, Christian Post

The BriefingWhen it rains, it pours for weary south Louisiana
For the second time in five months, historic flooding has left widespread devastation and suffering through south Louisiana. As of Sunday afternoon, four people have been killed in the flooding, thousands have been displaced and thousands of homes, businesses and churches have been affected by the flooding. Louisiana Southern Baptist churches are responding amid the devastation.

Five Christian gold medalist Olympians at Rio 2016
Athletes from across the globe have gathered in search of gold at the 2016 Olympic Games, and five Christian sportspeople have managed to overcome obstacles to earn the top honor. Simone Manuel, Caeleb Dressel, Laurie Hernandez, Osea Kolinisau, and Anna Van Der Breggen are five Olympians whose Christian faith has helped them prevail when stumbling blocks could have prevented them from winning gold medals in Rio De Janeiro.

Egyptian sent home from Rio for refusing to shake Israeli’s hand
An Egyptian athlete who refused to shake his Israeli opponent’s hand after their judo bout has been reprimanded and sent home from the Rio Olympics. When Sasson extended his hand, El Shehaby backed away, shaking his head. The referee called the 34-year-old El Shehaby back to the mat and obliged to him to bow; he gave a quick nod and was loudly booed as he exited.

Russia’s ban on evangelism is now in effect
Last month, Russia’s new anti-terrorism laws restricting Christians from evangelizing outside of their churches, went into effect. The “Yarovaya package” requires missionaries to have permits, makes house churches illegal, and limits religious activity to registered church buildings, among other restrictions. Individuals who disobey could be fined up to $780, while organizations could be fined more than $15,000. Many are wondering how strictly will it be enforced.

Countries make Christian charity harder to give and receive
Nearly 20% of the world’s population could lose access to the ministry efforts of Western Christians next year. In April, China banned foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from engaging in or funding religious activities. The measure could expel Christian groups that are doing medical, developmental, or educational work in the world’s largest country by population, with 1.4 billion people.

Sources: Louisiana Baptist Message, Christian Post, Christianity Today, Christianity Today