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Kevin Smith (left) and Jill Finley (right) joined local ministry specialists including IBSA's Sylvan Knobloch (center) for the Elevate Marriage conference Oct. 16 in Springfield.

Kevin Smith (left) and Jill Finley (right) joined local ministry specialists including IBSA’s Sylvan Knobloch (center) for the Elevate Marriage conference Oct. 16 in Springfield.

NEWS | Preachers don’t have to make the Word of God relevant, said Kevin Smith, a pastor and professor in Louisville, Ky. “The teaching of Scripture is relevant. But we must teach Scripture.”

In practicing the prophetic role of the pulpit as it relates to biblical marriage and sexuality, pastors need to preach systematically the whole of Scripture, including its teachings on those topics, Smith said during the “Elevate Marriage” conference held Oct. 16 in Springfield, Ill.

Pastors and church leaders gathered at the Illinois Baptist State Association to hear from national and local experts, including Smith, Jill Finley, women’s ministry director from Bethel Baptist Church in Troy, and Andrew Walker of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. IBSA sponsored the one-day conference to help leaders navigate the shifting marriage culture in Illinois and nationwide.

Illinois’ state legislature legalized same-sex marriage last November, and unions officially began in June. The U.S. Supreme Court decided this month to let stand lower-court rulings on marriage. Their action plus a subsequent appeals court decision means a total of 35 states could soon have legal same-sex marriage.

But the wave of support for same-sex marriage isn’t the only cultural shift threatening biblical marriage. It is a symptom of the decline of marriage, Walker told conference attenders in a video message, not the cause. The ERLC’s director of policy studies urged church leaders to be “happy warriors” in defending biblical marriage. “To speak the truth as we’re called to do, is to do so in love,” he said.

Ministry specialists from the Illinois Baptist State Association also were on hand to update churches on constructing their bylaws and membership policies in ways that protect marriage, and preaching on the topic in a way that elevates it. The process, said IBSA’s Mark Emerson, starts at home.

“Before we can elevate marriage in the church, we have to elevate our own marriage. We have to take a look at our own life.” Tim Sadler, IBSA’s director of evangelism, followed Emerson with four tips for preachers preaching on marriage:

1. Preach the truth of God’s word as a sinner/saint,
2. Preach biblical marriage, instead of “traditional” marriage,
3. Root your theology of marriage in creation, and
4. Understand and preach the role of Christian marriage in evangelism.

“Christian marriage done properly is a picture of how Christ loves the church and sacrificially gave himself for her,” Sadler said, referencing the apostle Paul’s words in Ephesians. “So, in our preaching we need to elevate biblical marriage and the living out of biblical marriage before a watching world, because it is only in biblical marriage, marriage done rightly, that the watching world gets a beautiful picture of how Christ loves the church.

“And any time we mar the picture, then we convolute the picture the world has of how Christ loves the church and is in relationship with the church.”

Look for more on on the “Elevate Marriage” conference in the next issue of the Illinois Baptist, and watch for videos of presentations by Kevin Smith and Jill Finley on www.e-quip.net, IBSA’s online training resource. Go to www.Vimeo.org/IBSA.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The Supreme Court’s decision Oct. 6 to let stand lower-court rulings on same-sex marriage combined with a subsequent appeals court ruling could mean 35 states will soon have legal same-sex marriage, Baptist Press reported.

The effort to “redefine marriage is perhaps the fastest, most effective social change in our nation’s history,” said Andrew Walker of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. “The furthered erosion or deinstitutionalization of marriage that comes by redefining it will re-wire or re-circuit how we understand family arrangements.”

The_BriefingBefore the courts’ rulings, 19 states allowed same-sex marriage, including Illinois. The Supreme Court’s action legalized same-sex unions in Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Utah, and put Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming on the same path. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down laws marriage laws in Idaho and Nevada on Oct. 7, a decision that will likely affect Alaska, Arizona and Montana.

Walker will be part of this week’s “Elevate Marriage” conference at the Illinois Baptist State Association in Springfield, Ill. For more information and to register, go to www.IBSA.org/Marriage.

Hong Kong protestors include Christians
Some churches in Hong Kong are supporting protestors in the city this week, Christianity Today reports, and some Christians are actively objecting to the Chinese government’s control over Hong Kong’s 2017 election. CT and other media outlets explain how tensions between China’s Communist government and a growing church movement could be at the root of the protests.

Ebola survivor urges greater response
“…The reality on the ground in West Africa is worse than the worst report you’ve seen,” Dr. Kent Brantley told an audience at Abilene Christian University this month. Brantley, the missionary doctor who contracted Ebola and was successfully treated in the U.S., expressed sympathy for the family of now-deceased Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan, The Christian Post reported. He also urged listeners to avoid panic. “Let’s stop talking about that highly improbable thing and focus on saving people’s lives and stopping the outbreak where it is.”

YouVersion reaches 1,030 versions, 721 languages
A Bible app developed by a media-savvy Oklahoma church is now available in 1,030 versions and 721 languages. And counting. A ticker on YouVersion.com tracks key metrics like versions, languages and installs—currently at more than 156 million. The app, developed by Lifechurch.tv’s Bobby Gruenewald, reached the 1,000-version mark earlier this month, but there are still more than 1,800 languages that do not have a Bible translation in progress, according to YouVersion.

Care line offers help for pastors
A new telephone care line opened Oct. 1 for pastors dealing with crises in their personal lives, families, or congregations. 1-844-PASTOR1 is co-sponsored by the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and Focus on the Family. “Because [pastors] have always been there for others, it’s our privilege to be there for them,” said Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, in a NAMB article about the care line. Workers from the ministry’s Family Help Center answer the confidential calls, pray with pastors, and refer the call to a counseling team as needed. The care line, open weekdays between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. Eastern time, offers help in English and Spanish.