Archives For Cooperative Program

State Baptist paper editors met for their annual meeting Feb. 14-16 in Ontario, Calif. and heard controversial issues addressed by Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines and International Mission Board President David Platt. As the meeting was taking place Prestonwood Baptist Church, pastored by former SBC President Jack Graham, announced its decision to escrow gifts previously forwarded to support the Cooperative Program while it discusses concerns about the direction of the Convention.

steve-gaines-with-editors

Steve Gaines

Gaines on Trump, ERLC, IMB
In a question-and-answer session Gaines, pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church, told editors he voted for Trump as president because of his pro-life stance.

Referencing Trump’s campaign slogan, Gaines noted that the only way to really make America great again is by winning people to Jesus Christ and mentoring them and changing society through the people they influence.

Discussing the fallout following the issuance of Trump’s executive order on immigration, Gaines said, “At some point we need to understand that God is not an American and is not Republican or Democrat. Christians need to remember that we have dual citizenship, with our allegiance first to the Kingdom of God.

“It’s important to remember that to some degree we have more in common with a believer in a lost country than an unbeliever in our own country,” Gaines said.

“We certainly need to vet people coming into our nation to be sure we are safe from those who would do us harm. That’s why I have locks on my doors at night to keep my family safe.

Concerning controversy involving Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore’s political comments during the election, Gaines said he hopes there would be less divisive talk coming out of the ERLC.

“I hope the kind of talk we have been hearing is not the direction in which we are going. I hope Russell will remain in his position and that we have reconciliation with a lot of people,” he said.

Regarding the amicus brief involving a New Jersey mosque which has embroiled both the ERLC and the International Mission Board in controversy, Gaines said he believes IMB President David Platt would possibly think twice before the mission board enters such a case.

“You may not agree with his theology but he has no arrogance whatsoever in his heart. I really don’t think he would have signed the document [favoring government permission for the construction of the mosque] if he knew the ramifications.

Platt’s apology
“I apologize to Southern Baptists for how distracting and divisive this has been,” Platt said when he met later with Baptist state paper editors.

“I can say with full confidence that in the days ahead, IMB will have a process in place to keep us focused on our primary mission: partnering with churches to empower limitless missionary teams for evangelizing, discipling, planting and multiplying healthy churches, and training leaders among unreached peoples and places for the glory of God.”

The apologies occurred amid ongoing discussion of an amicus curiae — Latin for “friend of the court” — brief joined by the IMB supporting the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, N.J., (ISBR) in its religious discrimination lawsuit against a local planning board. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission also joined the brief.

In December, U.S. district Judge Michael Shipp ruled the Planning Board of Bernards Township, N.J., violated federal law when it required the ISBR to include more than twice as much parking in its site plan for a proposed mosque as it required for local Christian and Jewish houses of worship.

In his ruling, Shipp acknowledged the amicus brief, stating it “supports” the ISBR’s arguments that unlawful religious discrimination occurred.

Platt added, “I am grieved how the amicus brief in the recent mosque case has been so divisive and distracting. And my purpose in bringing it up here is not to debate religious liberty, but to simply say that I really do want IMB to be focused on [its] mission statement.”

Tennessee pastor Dean Haun resigned as an IMB trustee in November because he said joining the brief did not comport with IMB’s mission and could be viewed as an improper alliance with followers of a religion that denies the Gospel.

Gaines on CP, state conventions, revival
Concerning the Cooperative Program, Gaines said there is no biblical imperative for churches to tithe 10% of their receipts to CP, regardless of how good the SBC missions support program is. Churches today have a number of their own ministries for reaching their communities for Christ.

While Bellevue Baptist doesn’t give 10% through CP, Gaines his wife Donna are motivated to give a tithe because of the good work they see going on in their community as well as around the world.

Gaines urged, “State conventions need to be proactive and reach out, embrace them [young pastors and leaders], cultivate them. You know, it’s far easier to talk about someone than it is to talk to them. When you talk to them you get on their level, you empathize with them. And that’s what it’s going to take.”

Looking to the future of the nation, Gaines spoke about his desire to see revival once again sweep America. “The last time it occurred was the Jesus Movement of the early to mid-1970s. That’s when we as a denomination reported the largest number of baptisms in our history. Many missionaries and pastors and church staff members came out of that movement and changed America. It can happen again, and that is my prayer.”

Prestonwood escrows CP
Prestonwood Baptist Church’s decision to escrow gifts previously forwarded to support Southern Baptist cooperative missions and ministries was announced Feb. 16.

Mike Buster, executive pastor for the Plano, Texas, church, provided a statement to the Baptist Message explaining that the action had been taken because of “various significant positions taken by the leadership of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission that do not reflect the beliefs and values of many in the Southern Baptist Convention” and that it is a temporary move.

The decision impacts $1 million the 41,000-member congregation would otherwise contribute through the Cooperative Program.

But Graham subsequently explained to the Baptist Message that his congregation’s concerns are broader than just one personality.

Instead, he described an “uneasiness” among church leaders about the “disconnect between some of our denominational leaders and our churches.”

“I’m not angry at the SBC, and neither are our people,” Graham said, “and I’m not working to start a movement to fire anyone.

“This is a difficult decision for me, personally,” he added. “I love Southern Baptists, and still want to be a cooperating partner as we have been for many years.

“We’re just concerned about the direction of the Southern Baptist Convention, and feel the need to make some changes in the way we give.”

Moore told Baptist Press in a statement, “I love and respect Jack Graham and Prestonwood Baptist Church. This is a faithful church with gifted leaders and a long history of vibrant ministry working and witnessing for Christ.”

– Reporting by Baptist Press, Georgia Christian Index, and Louisiana Baptist Message

The power of one

ib2newseditor —  February 13, 2017 — 1 Comment

red leaves church steeple

This is a time of year when we at IBSA do a lot of evaluating, not only of our staff’s efforts, but also of the overall health dynamics of churches. An outstanding 95% of IBSA churches completed annual church profile reports for 2016, and this gives us a wealth of information to study.

Like every year, some churches thrived last year and others struggled, so it’s possible to overgeneralize. But looking at the broad stroke data for 964 churches and missions (up seven from the previous year), it’s reasonable to say that some ministry areas such as leadership development and Sunday School participation were up, while others such as church planting and missions giving were down, at least compared to the previous year.

Of all the “down” areas, though, none concern me more than our churches’ overall baptism number, which dropped more than 11% in 2016, to 3,953. The number of churches reporting zero baptisms increased by over 10%, to 352, meaning that more than a third of IBSA churches did not baptize anyone last year.

Just one voice, one commitment, one resolution of faith can turn things around.

A few days ago, one pastor asked me how things were going, and the first burden I found spilling out of my heart was the decline in church baptisms. He nodded his head in empathy and agreement. “I know we were down in our church last year,” he acknowledged.

But what he said next truly encouraged me. “So we are really getting after that this year. We have set a baptism goal, and we have evangelism training planned. But we also have set goals as a church for the number of gospel presentations we will make, and the number of spiritual conversations we will seek to have, believing that those will then lead to gospel presentations.”

He went on to tell me how each leader and church member was being challenged to look for these opportunities, and that they were reporting them through Sunday school classes and other ways.

That same week, a young pastor wrote me an e-mail, thanking me for how two of our IBSA staff members had specifically helped and encouraged his small church. He admitted that in the past he had questioned how much his church’s Cooperative Program giving helped struggling churches, compared with church plants. Now, in his first senior pastorate, he had experienced firsthand the practical ministry support that state staff provide. Others in his association felt the same, he said, and were planning to join him in increasing their Cooperative Program giving this next year.

What struck me about both these conversations, and both these pastors, was the positive power of one voice, one commitment. One pastor looked at a lower baptism number and said, “We will not be satisfied with that. Here’s what we’re going to do.” Another pastor took a fresh look at the value of cooperative missions giving and said, “We can do more.”

So often it just takes just one voice, one commitment, one resolution of faith to turn things around. I think of Noah, and David, and Elijah, and Nehemiah, and other Old Testament heroes. I think of Peter’s boldness and Paul’s resilience in the New Testament. And of course I think of Jesus, not only on the cross, but also in eternity past, saying to the Father, “This shall not stand. I will do what it takes to make this right.”

Today, each of those pastors is using his own power of one to lead and inspire his church to a better place, regardless of the past, or what happened last year. In doing so, they reminded me how much can change when one person simply refuses to accept the status quo.

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

The Faith Frontier

ib2newseditor —  October 24, 2016

Illinois has come a long way, but we still have a way to go

Illinois IL State United States of America 3d Animated State Map

When Illinois became a state in 1818, fewer than 100 people lived in Chicago, and less than that at Calhoun. The hubs of activity were places such as Kaskaskia, on the banks of the Mississippi River. The town swelled to 7,000 when it became the first state capital for one year. Then bustling Vandalia was the capital for 20 years, until Abraham Lincoln and a few others had the capital moved to Calhoun in 1839. Calhoun had been renamed after Springfield, Massachusetts, a center of trade, creativity, and innovation. They had high hopes for their new Springfield—and for all of Illinois.

Catholic priests came to the area early, following French trappers and traders into St. Louis and later Chicago, building a few churches and converting a few Native Americans. The trappers were largely unconverted. Baptists and some Methodists were on scene by 1781, starting the first Protestant congregation in Illinois and building a Baptist meeting house at New Design, across from St. Louis on the river.

Illinois was a frontier state 200 years ago. Today, in many ways, it still is.

Almost 13 million people live in Illinois. But in terms of faith, the state is wild and untamed. At least 8 million residents do not know Jesus Christ. As the population grows, the percentage who identify with any religion at all continues to decline.

The state’s population hubs are our largest mission fields, especially metro Chicago and metro East St. Louis. Our cities are teeming centers of commerce and education, with growing populations of immigrant peoples.

The last census showed Hispanic and Asian populations are the fastest growing ethnic groups in the state. In fact, the Hispanic population grew in all but one of Illinois’ 102 counties.

In Illinois, nine people groups are unreached with the gospel because of language and cultural barriers, but literally millions of English-speaking and culturally mainstream people have never heard the message of salvation in a way they have understood and believed.

On our college campuses, for example, almost 900,000 students represent a mission field with enormous potential, and historically the lowest percentage of believers among young adults ever.

The cultural withdrawal from the Christian faith is felt all across Illinois—in cities and university settings, in small towns and crossroads communities. The northwest quadrant of Illinois is one of the least-Christian areas in the nation. And scattered across the state, there are nine counties that have no Southern Baptist congregation, 12 counties have only one, and many more have minimal evangelical presence.

In 40% of Illinois counties, less than 1% of the population identifies as Southern Baptist.

By faithful, regular, systematic giving to missions through the Cooperative Program, Baptists together serve as missions pioneers, in our frontier territory in Illinois and around the world, wherever the gospel is needed.

Editor’s note: Doug Munton, pastor of First Baptist Church in O’Fallon, will be nominated for First Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention when the SBC’s annual meeting convenes in St. Louis June 14.

Dr. Doug Munton, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of O’Fallon, Illinois

Dr. Doug Munton, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of O’Fallon, Illinois

Illinois Baptist: What lessons from your ministry in the Midwest do you think Southern Baptist pastors would benefit from, especially in transforming the prevailing culture?

Doug Munton: The power of the Holy Spirit is not limited geographically. We have found that loving God and loving people really matters. A church that is true to the Bible and that teaches that truth clearly, powerfully, and relevantly can impact the culture.

We have found that God can do things that some say can’t be done—“You can’t grow a church in the Midwest. You can’t reach old and young people. You can’t cross racial barriers.” These things are not too great for God and he is at work doing those things in churches across the Midwest.

IB: It appears that the SBC is fragmenting along lines of theology and philosophy of missions. Are you concerned about that?

Doug: I am concerned about our fragmentation. We can overcome differing views of soteriology, worship styles and other issues through love and respect. Unity in our fellowship can be a powerful tool for our mission.

I do hope we will be careful not to throw away the Cooperative Program and our cooperative mission approach. We can find ways to be more effective in our mission. But the Cooperative Program can be a great blessing to our mission work together. I want to encourage that cooperation.

IB: Are you concerned about the future of the Cooperative Program?

Doug: The effectiveness of the CP should not be taken lightly. It is why we have been able to send so many to the mission field in days gone by. It is a blessing to our seminarians. And, in Illinois, it has allowed us to cooperate together to do so much more than we could do separately here, nationally, and internationally.

IB: What about being a Southern Baptist in today’s culture challenges you and excites you?

Doug: These are the best of times, these are the worst of times. (I should use that line as the opening of a novel!) We are weaker in evangelism than ever in my lifetime. We have sent missionaries home from the IMB for lack of funds for the first time ever. But we also have young people who will sacrifice all for the cause of Christ. We are making strides in racial unity that give me encouragement for our future. And, our call for spiritual awakening is exactly what is needed at this time.

Perhaps we will see God move in our day as never before. May it be so and may our fellowship of churches seek God and his direction more fully than ever.

Munton is presently unopposed for First Vice President. The election will be held on Tuesday afternoon, June 14.

Dr. Doug Munton, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of O’Fallon, Illinois

Doug Munton

Doug Munton, expected Southern Baptist Convention First Vice President nominee, is a featured guest on SBC This Week’s May 20 podcast. You can listen to the interview and learn more about his vision for the SBC and the Cooperative Program at sbcthisweek.com.

Munton, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, O’Fallon, Ill., announced April 26 he will be nominated for First Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The nomination will be made by John Marshall, pastor of Second Baptist Church, Springfield, Mo., during the SBC’s annual meeting in St. Louis June 14-15.

Munton, 56, has pastored FBC O’Fallon for more than 20 years, during which time the church has grown from 550 to over 1,600 people in average attendance and has baptized about 2,000 people. In the 2014-15 reporting year, the church gave just over 8% of budget receipts through the Cooperative Program—Southern Baptists unified method of supporting missions and ministry.

He served as president of the Illinois Baptist State Association for two years, and is currently on the SBC’s Committee on Committees. His wife, Vickie, is the president of the Ministers’ Wives Conference this year at the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis. The Muntons have four adult children and will soon have their seventh grandchild.

SBC_VotingWith another call to prayer for the redemption of America, another missionary commissioning, and another bunch of resolutions on national politics and the precipitous slide in our national moral values, this might appear to be another fairly predictable meeting when the Southern Baptist Convention convenes in St. Louis June 14-15.

It isn’t.

The more significant news from the convention is not likely to come from its political statements or from protests by cultural liberals outside the hall. What can be said about the run for the White House, same-sex marriage, or sexual identity that hasn’t already been said? It will be in the election of an SBC president to succeed outgoing Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd that messengers will signal a turn.

Floyd has issued a “national call to prayer for spiritual leadership” in the Tuesday evening session. Floyd is using the mid-America location to address issues at the spiritual heart of America, in particular the need for evangelism and spiritual awakening, and renewed efforts at racial reconciliation. (See “What are the three greatest challenges facing the SBC?”)

By the time of the prayer gathering, messengers will already have selected a new president—and perhaps a new direction. At this crossroads, signs point to missions funding, evangelism and theology, and the age of denominational leaders.

The most obvious turn could be generational. Only recently has the “greatest generation” of Southern Baptists handed off leadership to their children, the Baby Boomers born after World War II. The possible election of 43-year-old J.D. Greear over Steve Gaines, 58, or David Crosby, 63, would confirm the handoff to Generation X, or the Baby Busters. These younger leaders, born after 1964, have already assumed leadership of the Convention’s two missions boards.

Leaders have reported that the demographics of convention attenders have shifted younger over the past decade. The meeting isn’t as gray as it used to be, and that’s good news observers say. These younger Southern Baptists are making their presence known through Baptist 21, SEND conferences, and other venues aimed at Busters and their quickly advancing successors, the Millennials. Electing one of their own could hasten the transition.

“One of the things God has put on my heart is that my generation needs to take personal responsibility for the agencies and the mission boards of the SBC and not just think of them as the SBC’s, but think of them as ours,” said Greear in his nomination announcement.

A second turning point for the Convention is the future of the Cooperative Program. Implicit in the election of a president is endorsement of his view of CP funding for missions and Southern Baptist work, whether it is whole-hearted and longstanding, recently renewed as part of the Great Commission Resurgence, or newly embraced as one of many ways of funding missions. The three candidates for president all speak highly of the Cooperative Program, but their churches have notable differences in their historic support of CP and their current giving levels.

Crosby’s response to a question from the Illinois Baptist is enlightening: “As SBC president, I will not talk or act as if a return to the society method of supporting our cooperative work is progress.” (See “What are the three greatest challenges facing the SBC?”) At its foundation, this is what a church’s record of CP support demonstrates: Is missions giving through Cooperative Program the main way Southern Baptist churches fund missions, or rather one of many ways?

And third, simmering under the surface in this election is the role of election in salvation and the future commitment to evangelism in the SBC.

“Listen very carefully: We have criticized evangelism right out of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Floyd told the SBC Executive Committee in February. “Years ago, something happened where pastors and churches that reached and baptized people effectively came under the microscope of other Baptists who oftentimes did not have a heart for evangelism themselves. A culture of skepticism about evangelism began to creep into our Convention. Evangelism began to die.”

This culture shift was framed by some as evangelism versus discipleship. Evangelism was criticized as “easy believe-ism” while discipleship was elevated. Discussion of the “sinner’s prayer” at the 2012 Pastors’ Conference was followed by Executive Committee CEO Frank Page’s appointment of an ad hoc panel to address the rise of Reform Theology and whether Calvinists and “Traditionalists” as they were called at that time could peacefully coexist in the SBC tent.

Gaines was an outspoken supporter of the “sinner’s prayer” style of personal commitment at the time, while International Mission Board President David Platt, then pastor of Birmingham megachurch The Church at Brook Hills was critical of evangelism that emphasized acts of conversion, such as “walking the aisle” at church, over discipleship of new believers that emphasizes personal recognition of God’s call and sovereignty in their salvation.

This election brings up that question again. Gaines and Crosby have traditional views on evangelism and conversion, while Greear’s theology is Reform. The church Greear pastors is evangelistic, baptizing 928 in 2014, but it is also active in the Acts 29 Network of church planting, which expects its members to hold Reform views. And of the three candidates, Greear has the greatest support among the rising group of younger, Reformed pastors in the SBC.

These three issues—and the candidates holding different views on them—stand before Southern Baptists at the crossroads.

– Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist

TentI often find myself at denominational functions looking around the room and wondering, “What is it that really brings us together here?” Is our unity based simply on an expressed common desire to reach the lost? Or do we gladly join together in mission because we have deeply shared doctrinal convictions?

I’ve found some guidelines in a couple of the smallest books in the Bible, 2 and 3 John. One way to read these short letters (which combine for a total of just 28 verses) is to put them side-by-side as two crucial lessons in cooperation.

First, here is some background to both books: a church planting movement is taking root in the Roman world furthered by traveling missionaries who depend upon support from other Christians, primarily in the form of food and lodging.

In 2 John the tone and feel is one of caution: “Many deceivers have gone out into the world.” “Watch yourselves.” The emphasis is on getting the gospel right. Specifically, some of these traveling missionaries “do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh,” what has been referred to as the “Gnostic heresy.” John speaks soberly of remaining in Christ’s teaching and not going beyond it. He then directs genuine believers: “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your home… for the one who says, ‘Welcome’ to him shares in his evil works.” In other words, don’t cooperate with everyone!

The tenor is different in 3 John. Here John is commending a “dear friend” for his generosity to certain missionaries. The emphasis in this mini-epistle is on getting the gospel out. “You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God.” These missionaries “set out for the sake of the Name” and trusted God to provide through his people. “Therefore, we ought to support such men,” says John. He even calls out a guy named Diotrephes for his independent spirit. “He not only refuses to welcome the brothers himself, but he even stops those who want to do so.” Don’t be like Diotrephes. Don’t cooperate with no one!

2 John teaches us not to make our tent too big. 3 John encourages us not to draw our circle too small. We need both messages.

Notice the disproportionate amount of times the words truth and love occur in these two short letters. We absolutely cannot disconnect them. There are people who have great drive, but do not have good doctrine. We have to be discerning about who we partner with. On the other hand, there are Christians who are cranky and overly separatist. We must be large-hearted and kingdom-minded.

Because of 2 John I know that the Apostle John would applaud the “Conservative Resurgence” in the SBC. Is it not amazing that we have six top-notch seminaries that are committed to robust and orthodox theological training?

At the same time, based on 3 John, I am pretty certain that the Apostle would thoroughly endorse the concept of the Cooperative Program and be thrilled with our North American and International Mission Boards. It is wonderful that we have state and local associations. And is it not telling that we have Directors of Mission and not District Superintendents? We are the people who come up with campaigns like “Million More in ’54.” And I love that I live in what was once a Strategic Focus City, now a SEND City.

However, we have not always gotten this balance right. At times I have seen people approved for work in the SBC based on their passion without an examination of their doctrine. And at other times I have seen people who were well qualified turned away because of a technicality.

In all of our missional zeal, may we never fudge on doctrinal clarity. And in making sure we are all on the same page about what the gospel is, may we make sure we are doing whatever it takes to get the gospel out. If we are truly faithful to Scripture, we will heed the lessons of both 2 and 3 John. But there just might be something to the fact that 2 John comes before 3 John.

Nathan Carter is pastor of Immanuel Baptist in the University District of Chicago.