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There are two kinds of worship interruptions, said IBSA’s director of worship and technology Steve Hamrick—avoidable and unavoidable. Some interruptions just can’t be helped—the power goes out, a baby cries, or someone in the audience forgets to turn off their phone. But most worship interruptions, Hamrick said, can be avoided with effective planning.

“Worship interruptions are things that happen in corporate worship that distract people from the gospel and from connecting with Christ,” Hamrick said. Could it be spiritual warfare? “Yes, but often it’s poor planning.”

Hamrick offered these ideas for avoiding worship interruptions:

1. Pray for the people leading worship and for the congregation.

2. Plan. What gear is needed for the worship service? What special logistics or set-up are needed to make it work? Communicate those needs with staff and volunteers.

3. Predict. What interruptions could happen? What has happened in the past, and how can you avoid the same challenges?

4. Prepare. Know your worship plan. Work through transitions, and think through technology, video, lighting, and print materials. Create a worship checklist with needs and special circumstances for the different worship elements.

5. Practice with the technology you plan to use, including sound, video, and lighting. Approach practice as if it’s a real worship experience (and it should be).

6. Present (perform) and trust God with the results.

Worship leaders can also prepare in advance by creating an environment that encourages success for the whole team. Hamrick advises leaders to communicate the importance of each team member’s ministry by creating job descriptions for individual roles.

Avoid overwhelming your team by recruiting multiple people to work on a single service. For example, one works at the desk while someone else produces (listening, advising, and looking ahead to what happens next). Resist having one person run sound and video at the same time, if possible.

Finally, Hamrick said, handle interruptions with grace. They’re inevitable, and the tech team likely will be the first to recognize the problem.

Sign up for IBSA’s online Resource Center at IBSA.org.

Kick-off includes new blog, podcast tailored to Baptist women
Connection is the main goal of the newly launched Southern Baptist Women’s Leadership Network (WLN). “Historically in SBC life men have had multiple options to connect in this way,” said WLN steering committee member Kathy Ferguson Litton. “Women have had very few environments where we could organically relate, mentor, and collaborate across all the domains in which we lead. It is time to change that.”

The network includes a podcast, blog, and Facebook page, and will hold its first meeting June 11 during the Southern Baptist Convention in Birmingham.

Congress yet to act on church tax law
A coalition of religious leaders is still pursuing action by U.S. lawmakers they say will relieve churches of a costly tax burden. Current law requires churches to file tax returns, some as early as this spring. The U.S. House of Representatives voted late last year to reverse the provision—Section 512(a)(7) of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017—but the Senate didn’t have the votes to approve the reversal, Baptist Press reported.

“Uncle Sam is welcome in our churches,” said Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore, one of the leaders calling for repeal of the provision. “But we don’t work for him. And Congress should end this deeply un-American tax on churches immediately.”

Baptists choose ‘proven leader’ to helm Executive Committee
Arkansas pastor and former Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd was elected April 2 to lead the denomination’s Executive Committee, headquartered in Nashville, Tenn. Floyd, 63, will be a key part of the SBC’s response to current challenges, including helping churches prevent sexual abuse and care for survivors of abuse.

Mormon Church softens stance on same-sex marriage
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced April 4 that members in same-sex marriages will no longer be designated apostates to their faith. “While we still consider such a marriage to be a serious transgression, it will not be treated as apostasy for purposes of Church discipline,” the church said. “Instead, the immoral conduct in heterosexual or homosexual relationships will be treated in the same way.”

The change in policy also will allow children of LGBT members to be baptized in the church, Religion News Service reported.

Iraqi Christians could face deportation
An appeals court declined April 2 to hear further arguments from 1,400 Iraqi natives detained in immigration raids in 2017. The group includes more than 100 Detroit-area Chaldean Christians, Christianity Today reports, who would face returning to one of the world’s most dangerous countries for Christians.

Sources: Baptist Press (2), Illinois Baptist, Religion News Service, Christianity Today

 

 

 

By Whitman H. Brisky

red leaves church steeple

What happens to church property when most of its members depart, leaving only an unpopular pastor and a few of his close friends and family to determine its use? Unfortunately, in all too many cases, the congregation essentially shuts down as an active ministry, converts the property to cash, and then pays the remaining funds to (or for the benefit of) the pastor. Frequently the money is paid out as salary for doing very little since the congregation is now defunct. Even worse, in some situations we have seen, the pastor seems to deliberately drive the bulk of the congregation away so that he can sell the property for his own personal benefit without having to account for the money.

We are even aware of an example where a single minister became pastor of three separate congregations and drove the members of all three away leaving him with the property. While this situation would normally not occur in denominations with relatively strong connections because the denomination would step in, it is all too common among independent congregations and in denominations with much looser structures.

Whether the pastor is truly a wolf in shepherd’s clothing, intentionally driving most of his congregation away so that he can profit personally from the sale of the property, or simply a poor pastor, the result is the same: the destruction of a congregation, the sale of church property often for secular use, and the waste of assets which should be used to build the Kingdom.

What can Christian lay people do to avoid this kind of situation in their own congregations? First, build strong, independent lay leadership for the congregation and resist attempts by the pastor to “pack” the board with his own supporters. This will ensure that there is a strong independent board to check the pastor, offer guidance if he seems to be taking a wrong path, and if necessary, initiate the pastor’s removal.

The second way congregations can help prevent this kind of situation is to exercise great care in selecting a pastor. This should include a careful check of his background and prior employment. Frequently these wolves in shepherd’s clothing move from church to church, repeating the process multiple times. A call committee should be very reluctant to hire a candidate who has left his prior church worse off than when he arrived. It would be wise to talk to some people who left the candidate’s prior church to find out why they left.

Third, the church’s bylaws should be reviewed and updated to ensure that a pastor, with or without a compliant board, could not use parliamentary tricks and super majority requirements to prevent the majority of a congregation from supervising or removing an unpopular or incompetent pastor. The bylaws should not allow a pastor to unilaterally remove anyone from membership or limit a member’s voting power.

Fourth, there should be a written contract with each pastor not only detailing the compensation and other benefits he will receive, but also specifying what he is expected to do and the conditions under which he can be terminated. This ensures that a civil court can and will enforce decisions which are consistent with that contract.

And lastly, make sure that the church treasurer, and other people charged with handling the money of the church, are independent of the pastor and that their work is independently reviewed (preferably by a third party accountant) to ensure that financial transactions are properly recorded.

Taking these common sense steps will not only help avoid the wolf in shepherd’s clothing, but also strengthen the church congregation generally—particularly its lay leadership, which can also lead to more effective evangelism and ministry. Even if you already have a wolf in shepherd’s clothing, it might not be too late. You should contact an attorney experienced in handling these matters before you walk away from a congregation.

The firm offers a free newsletter on religious liberty issues at www.mauckbaker.com.

Whitman H. Brisky is a partner with the Chicago-based law firm of Mauck & Baker, which handles cases involving churches and religious liberty. He has practiced law in Illinois since 1975, after graduating from the Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago. He frequently represents churches and pastors, and is an ally with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). According to his company biography, Brisky was brought to the Lord after wandering into a Presbyterian church where the pastor preached a sermon entitled “Has Anyone Been Saved Here Lately?” At the end of the service Brisky could respond enthusiastically, “Yes, me!”

 

Briefing

IL. abortion bill stalled
A bill to expand abortion practices in Illinois is stalled in committee, due in part to a large pro-life rally at the Capitol rotunda. A March 20 pro-life rally and march at the Illinois Capitol protested The Reproductive Health Act, SB 1942 and HB 2495, which would repeal the 1975 Illinois Abortion Law, the state’s partial birth abortion ban, and regulations banning anyone other than physicians from performing abortions.

China closes fourth major underground church
A prominent house church in Beijing was shut down after government and police officials raided Bible classes at two of the church’s locations. The officials changed the locks and banned the congregants from gathering to worship. Shouwang Church, which draws more than 1,000 attendees, is the fourth major underground congregation shut down by the Communist government over the past several months.

8 yr. old chess champion gives back to God
A young immigrant from Nigeria is giving credit to God for lifting his family out of poverty. After Tanitoluwa Adewumi, a third grader, won a New York State chess championship in his age bracket, a GoFundMe campaign was set up to help remove the family from their homeless shelter in New York. Of the $246,000 raised, Adewumi’s family has vowed to sow ten percent back into their local church and use the rest to benefit other African immigrants settling in the United States. “To whom much is given, much is required,” Tanitoluwa’s dad wrote in an update on the page.

Survey: moms more influential than dads in child’s faith
Christians are far more likely to say their mothers had a bigger influence on their faith than did their fathers, according to a new Barna study. The study, which examines the roles that moms and dads play in the development of children, found that 68 percent of U.S. Christians who grew up with someone who influenced their faith say their mother’s faith impacted them. That was followed by the father (46 percent) and a grandparent (37 percent).

‘Unplanned’ movie receives backlash from media
A new pro-life movie, “Unplanned,” is receiving backlash from media on the film’s depiction of abortion. The movie, produced by Pure Flix, tells the true story of a Planned Parenthood clinic director’s subsequent conversion to pro-life views. Many cable networks refused to air commercials for the movie and many other channels declined to advertise it due to its “sensitive nature,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. The movie began airing in theaters March 29.

Sources: Illinois Baptist, Christian Post, CBN, Christian Headlines, Baptist Press

Pro-life organizations urge advocates to visit lawmakers this week
As Illinois lawmakers consider abortion legislation one lobbyist called “more extreme than New York’s,” pro-life advocates will be in Springfield Wednesday, March 20, for a “Lobby Day” and rally outside the Capitol.

Court finds in favor of ministers’ housing allowance
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit unanimously reversed an earlier lower court ruling that found the ministers’ housing allowance unconstitutional. The tax exemption permits “ministers of the gospel” to exclude for federal income tax purposes a portion or all of their gross income as a housing allowance. The Seventh Circuit’s decision rejected claims by the Freedom From Religion Foundation that the tax law grants a government benefit to a religious group.

Seminary answers Facebook’s questions
Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention responded to inquiries from Facebook about a post the school tried to boost on the social media site (Facebook refused). The post included this quote from President Jeff Iorg: “Holding the line on positions based on timeless biblical standards as an ultimate authority has been and always will be important.” Facebook asked questions about the seminary and Iorg, the president wrote later, “to establish we are a valid company, not a hate group or a foreign entity.”

Texas bill would protect churches that report sexual abuse
Southern Baptist pastors have proposed legislation in Texas that would allow churches to disclose allegations of sexual abuse without fear of civil liability. “I don’t think that it solves all of the problems related to abuse and sexual misconduct,” said Pastor Ben Wright, who helped initiate the bill. “But it does help churches and organizations know that if they pass on information that they believe to be true, that they have good reason to believe is true, it helps them know that they will be shielded from potential lawsuits.”

Most churches report little growth, few conversions
A new study by LifeWay Research found 6 in 10 Protestant churches are plateaued or declining in attendance and more than half saw fewer than 10 people become new Christians in the past 12 months.

-Illinois Baptist media, FactsandTrends.net, Baptist Press (2), LifeWay Research

 

 

 

 

 

 

SBC workgroup clears 6 churches, says 3 warrant further inquiry
During a Feb. 18 report in Nashville, Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear named 10 Southern Baptist churches mentioned in a recent newspaper report on sexual abuse, asking the SBC Executive Committee’s bylaws workgroup to determine whether the churches have operated with a faith and practice closely aligned to the SBC’s adopted statement of faith.

The workgroup responded Feb. 23, reporting that while three of the churches warrant further inquiry, six do not. The response was met with dismay and outrage by victims and advocates, including Rachael Denhollander, a member of Greear’s Presidential Study Group on Sexual Abuse.

“J.D. Greear and some leaders have been seeking expert/survivor help and moving forward with firm first steps to change,” Denhollander tweeted. “The EC has undermined and destroyed that effort. I hope these mistakes are due to lack of learning and that they will withdraw, seek help and remedy these errors.”

Illinois Disaster Relief volunteer childcare room brings peace after shooting
Three days after a gunman killed five people at an Aurora manufacturing plant, Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers were on the scene to minister to grieving families.

Methodists vote to uphold Biblical sexuality
The United Methodist Church on Tuesday voted at its international conference in St. Louis, Mo., to apply its standards on Biblical marriage and sexuality more consistently throughout the denomination, according to World Magazine.

Executive Committee: Presidential nomination coming ‘very soon’
Illinois Baptist pastor Adron Robinson said the SBC’s Executive Committee has identified “God’s candidate” for their presidential vacancy. Robinson, search committee vice chairman and pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills, said Feb. 19 the search committee cannot announce the candidate’s name yet because they have not officially notified the person of their intent to nominate him.

10-year-old advises SBC leaders on value of kids in ministry
Ten-year-old Zak McCullar brightened the Executive Committee’s February meeting with his presentation in favor of a Children’s Ministry Day across the Southern Baptist Convention. McCullar, who made a motion supporting the idea during last summer’s SBC annual meeting, spoke to the EC during their final session Feb. 19.

Briefing

Survey: Church attendance linked to higher levels of happiness
Church participation leads to more happiness and civic engagement, according to Pew Research’s analysis of surveys from the U.S. and 25 other countries. Religious affiliation without participation does not lead to the same positive outcomes, Pew found.

Young adults keep Christian label; fewer ‘devout’
Most young adults who attended church as teenagers say they believe in God today, but fewer consider themselves devout Christians, according to a LifeWay Research study released Jan. 31. And some say they believe in God but are uncertain of Christianity.

Boy Scouts officially accepting girls
The Boy Scouts of America officially changed their name Feb. 1 and began accepting girls in all scouting programs. Troops, however, will continue to be single gender, the organization has said. Maybe a quick quote from the opposition?

Asia Bibi finally free to leave Pakistan
On January 29, the Supreme Court of Pakistan upheld its decision to acquit Asia Bibi. In one of the most high-profile Christian persecution cases in the past decade, Bibi spent eight years in prison convicted of blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad—which is a crime punishable by death in the Islamic Republic—until Pakistan’s Supreme Court rejected her conviction last October. Bibi was the first Christian woman in the country to be convicted of blasphemy and to have her case go all the way to the Supreme Court.

Who is most ‘Bible engaged’ in the U.S.?
Amid cultural shifts in beliefs and reading habits, African Americans consistently outrank other racial groups for their reliance on the Word. Last year, the American Bible Society (ABS) once again named African Americans “the most Bible engaged in the US.” They are more likely to own a Bible—93 percent of African Americans do, versus 82 percent of Americans overall—and more than twice as likely to say Bible reading is crucial to their daily routine, according to the society’s 2018 State of the Bible report.

Sources: BP News (2), Christian Headlines, Christianity Today (2)