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Our journey together

Lisa Misner —  September 13, 2018

MIO Logo 500pxBy Nate Adams

I suppose the most self-indulgent car I’ve ever owned was one we purchased just after Beth and I were married. It was a sporty little Honda Prelude, with barely any back seat and just enough trunk space for the two of us.

Then, as our family grew, we found we needed cars with bigger back seats and more trunk space. The arrival of our third son pushed us into a mini-van, and longer trips even required a cartop carrier for all the stuff that tended to go with us. Last spring, with two daughters-in-law now in our family troupe, our family vacation required the rental of something called a “people mover,” with nine seats plus cargo space.

Yes, it costs more and more and takes extra effort for a growing family to travel together. But it’s worth it. Sure, things like your destination and everyone’s comfort are important. But just as important are the relationships that grow, and the experiences you share, as you travel together.

Our journey

That’s also how I feel about our journey and mission together as churches, here in Illinois. Sure, where we are going together is important: We want to reach people with the gospel, and to develop disciples and leaders who can help our churches grow, and start new churches, and go to the mission fields of the world.

But the relationship between and among churches and leaders is important too, and somewhat unique to state and local missions. Here we are close enough, not just to do missions together, but to grow together, and sometimes hurt together, as family.

State missions isn’t only about evangelism and church planting and training leaders, though we certainly invest a lot in those priorities. It’s also helping one another through pastoral transitions, or church conflict, or legal issues. It’s doing camps together. It’s planning mission trips or experiences for multiple leaders, or kids, or students, or churches, when one church can’t do that alone.

It’s answering the phone when a church has a need, and sometimes jumping in the car to bring some help or encouragement or resources. It’s celebrating big church anniversaries together, or the long tenure of a devoted pastor. Sometimes it’s crying together at a funeral.

When churches throughout a state decide not to travel alone, but to band together, and work together, and put a state staff and ministries in place, they are doing more than giving money to send missionaries, as important as that is. They are deciding to journey together in a shared mission field, and to do life together, for better or worse, in a way that isn’t really practical in North American missions or international missions.

I would never take anything away from the challenges that our sister, southern state conventions face. But I will say that when a few hundred Southern Baptist churches that average 75 in attendance take on a northern state like Illinois, with mammoth cities like Chicago and St. Louis, and with a population that is 175 times the total worship attendance of our churches, our journey together is a little more uphill than most.

But this is our mission field. This is where we journey together. It’s not always easy or comfortable. But it’s worth it.

This week, churches across our state will receive a special offering, the Mission Illinois Offering. It helps provide what we need for the journey together. Please consider a generous gift, through your church or through the IBSA.org website, if your church isn’t receiving the offering. Every year we travel together brings new challenges. But, for the sake of the lost here, and the glory of our God, our journey together is worth it.

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

Leading women 2

Halsey (at the mic) leads at panel discussion at the 2018 Priority Conference.

Carmen Halsey has a passion for educating and empowering godly women. As IBSA’s director of women’s ministry, she organizes leadership training cohorts, large equipping events, and mission trips in Illinois and abroad. Her desire is to help women find their God-given gifts, and to bring those gifts to build up the local church and carry the gospel to the marketplace. “We’re investing in you,” she tells women as they grow into leaders, “so you be ready to invest in others.”

 

Halsey (second from left in photo above) said she tends to see where “God has women versus where he doesn’t have women.” According to the U.S. Department of Labor, almost 47% of the country’s workers are women and 70% of mothers with children under the age of 18 are in the workforce.

One of those women is Andrea Cruse. “When I met her, she was already a young mother, she was already a pastor’s wife, but one of the things that intrigued me about Andrea was re-engaging the workforce, and wondering where she was going to fit,” shared Halsey.

Cruse, who is married to Adam Cruse, pastor of Living Faith Baptist Church in Sherman and has three young children, has been the recipient of Halsey’s leadership through Illinois Baptist Women (IBW).

Andrea Cruse

Cruse

“Carmen has taught me to be a leader in the marketplace and my church by just allowing me the opportunity and inviting me to participate in the cohorts that are available,” Cruse said. “I’ve just gained valuable knowledge on those foundational leadership skills that have proved significant in my own personal marketplace.”

 

Cruse began sharing the leadership skills she was learning with her supervisors at work, and when an opportunity for advancement came up, she was tapped for the position.

She credits Halsey and IBW, saying when she expressed doubts about accepting the new management role, her supervisor told her, “Andrea, we can teach you what you don’t know, what we need is your leadership skills.”

“And it was at that moment,” Cruse said, “I was just so thankful that IBW and Carmen were willing to invest in me and provided me with the resources to develop those skills.”

Halsey’s work is possible, in part, because of support from the Mission Illinois Offering & Week of Prayer. Collected annually in September by IBSA churches and designated exclusively for ministry in Illinois, this offering supports IBSA missionaries and staff in missions especially needed within the state. That includes Illinois Baptist Women, the group within the IBSA Church Resources Team that focuses on growing women in their roles as disciples, missions mobilizers, and leaders. Under Halsey’s guidance, that has grown to include leadership at home, church, mission field, and in the marketplace.

That’s one main theme of the annual Priority Conference Halsey organizes for Illinois women. “Priority provides a safe environment for us to come and learn together. We can ask questions. We don’t have to feel foolish; we don’t have to shy away from some hard conversations,” Halsey said.

Her conferences have approached hard topics such as assisting refugees, human trafficking, and sexuality. And leadership. “Women are influential folks, and sometimes they just need someone to tell them that.”

Growing influence
Another woman who has benefited from Halsey’s leadership is Becki McNeely. She is a member of Lakeland Baptist Church with a rich heritage.

McNeely is the wife of Brandon McNeely, Baptist Collegiate Ministries director at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. She is also the daughter of Lakeland’s pastor Phil Nelson and the granddaughter of International Mission Board missionaries Jack and Ava Shelby. Even with that pedigree, taking on leadership roles in her church could be intimidating. Until she met Halsey.

“I felt like I was thrown into being a leader until I met Carmen,” NcNeeley said. “She poured so much into me personally through leadership cohort groups. If it had not been for Carmen, I wouldn’t have had the tools I needed to lead.

“I couldn’t put a price tag on how much I learned from her.”

Jacqueline Scott

Scott

Jacqueline Scott, a member of Dorrisville Baptist Church in Harrisburg, may be retired, but the natural born leader isn’t about to slow down. Since becoming active in Illinois Baptist Women, Scott said, “Carmen increased in me a sense of urgency to be serious about the Great Commission. The world is going so fast, we’ve got to catch up, get into the game.”

 

Last summer Scott joined Halsey on a mission trip at the southern tip of the state in Cairo. Scott said the experience taught her, “We need to be ready, better equipped. The Cairo mission trip was a learning curve for me.” She described how many of the people they met while going door-to-door said they practiced other religions. They “challenged” her.

Halsey noticed.

“Jacqueline just saw oppression that her eyes had never seen before,” she said. “And what I loved is that her inner leader just came out. There was a boldness, there was a confidence there that can only come from God.”

Scott agreed. “When I went to Cairo, it was good for me to be there.”

Halsey’s work includes encouraging women in missions mobilization. Her team has led mission trips to Chicago and New Orleans, Europe and South Asia, and has urged Illinois Baptist Women to engage their own neighbors and communities with the gospel.

“It does make me proud—you know, godly proud—when I see somebody succeeding,” Halsey said. And that encourages her in her work with Illinois Baptist Women all the more.

A call to prayer
Please encourage your church to pray for state missions during the Mission Illinois Offering & Week of Prayer, September 9-16. Pray especially for women’s ministry and missions across the state, and the development of leaders through Illinois Baptist Women. Pray for Carmen Halsey and all the members of the IBSA Church Resources Team as they equip churches and leaders for ministry.

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering.

The Briefing

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a June statement from Paige Patterson’s attorney, Shelby Sharpe. His statement is available in full at Baptist Press.

Southwestern trustees issue unanimous decision to terminate president emeritus
The executive committee of the trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary unanimously resolved to terminate former president Paige Patterson May 30, following weeks of controversy and a previous decision to remove him from office and name him president emeritus.

According to a statement from the trustees, the decision was based on “new information…regarding the handling of an allegation of sexual abuse against a student during Dr. Paige Patterson’s presidency at another institution and resulting issues connected with statements to the Board of Trustees that are inconsistent with SWBTS’s biblically informed core values.”

Patterson was named president emeritus of Southwestern May 23 after trustees deliberated for 13 hours in a meeting to address Patterson’s comments on women and domestic abuse. The day of the meeting, the Washington Post published a report claiming Patterson in 2003 told a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he was president at the time, not to report an alleged rape to the police. The student, Megan Lively, later identified herself on Twitter.

Trustees reported after their May meeting that Patterson had complied with reporting laws regarding abuse and assault, but later indicated their findings dealt with a 2015 rape reported at Southwestern. While it was reported to the authorities, trustee chair Kevin Ueckert said following the decision to terminate Patterson, the former president sent an email to the chief of campus security that discussed meeting with the student alone so he could “break her down” and “that he preferred no officials be present.”

“The attitude expressed by Dr. Patterson in that email,” Ueckert said, “is antithetical to the core values of our faith and to SWBTS.”

On Monday, June 4, Patterson’s lawyer, Shelby Sharpe, issued a media release defending Patterson against alleged “wide-spread misrepresentation and misinformation.” Among Sharpe’s claims, “No reasonable reading of” correspondence from Patterson’s personal archives suggested Megan Lively “reported a rape to Dr. Patterson” in 2003 when he was Southeastern’s president “and certainly not that he ignored” such a report, “as is alleged.”

Sharpe also said “Dr. Patterson explained the full context” of a 2015 email concerning a rape allegation by a female student at the Fort Worth seminary, including his alleged statement that he wanted to meet with the accuser alone to “break her down.” Patterson’s explanation was “to the apparent satisfaction of the full board, as evidenced by the fact that the full trustee board voted to name Dr. Patterson ‘president emeritus’ instead of terminating him.”

Patterson is still slated to preach at the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas this month, a role he was elected to at last year’s annual meeting. SBC President Steve Gaines said in May that in order for Patterson not to preach, messengers in Dallas would have to vote to remove him, or Patterson would have to step down.

In other Southwestern news, Nathan Montgomery, the seminary student and dining hall employee who lost his job after retweeting an article calling for Patterson’s retirement, has been reinstated as an employee.

Church apologizes for treatment of abuse victim
Immanuel Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., issued a detailed statement of apology and repentance to the Washington Post regarding how church leaders reacted to former member Rachael Denhollander, who was the first woman to publicly call attention to Larry Nasser’s horrific abuse of gymnasts. Immanuel’s statement reads in part, “…we had failed to serve the church we love, and we had failed to care adequately for the Denhollanders in a time of deep need.”

Baker wins high court case
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 4 in favor of Jack Philips, the Colorado baker penalized by his state for refusing to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. The 7-2 decision is a win “not only for those of us who are Christians who hold to a pro-marriage, pro-family viewpoint,” said Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore, “but also for all Americans for freedom of conscience and freedom of speech.”

American Bible Society adopts employee doctrinal statement
Even 200-year-old organizations aren’t too old to tweak their employee policies, leaders at the Philadelphia-based American Bible Society have decided. Effective next year, ABS will adopt an “affirmation of biblical community” and ask employees “to uphold basic Christian beliefs and the authority of Scripture, as well as committing to activities such as church involvement and refraining from sex outside of traditional marriage,” Christianity Today reports.

-Baptist Press, Immanuelky.org, The Christian Post, Christianity Today

 

 

Some events from last year offer insight on issues facing evangelicals and church leaders

If evangelicalism is having an identity crisis, as some religious and cultural observers posit, the issue is whether “evangelical” means a person’s theological beliefs and practice, or is it adherence to a conservative political movement. It has at times meant both, and at points in 2017 we saw the movement struggling with itself over which is “the main thing.”

In this short collection of news stories from last year, we see how evangelicals balanced belief and practice. We witnessed the thumb-wrestling of “Big-E Evangelicalism,” inheritors of the socially conservative political force Moral Majority and keepers of its dwindling flame, and “little-e evangelicalism,” the smaller group who are not merely self-identified evangelicals, but whose core-group of beliefs about Scripture, Jesus, and their relationship to him directly affect their behaviors and drive their moral decision-making.

Donald Trump would not be president without evangelicals, more specifically Big-E Evangelicals, and the presence of some in his administration serves as a reminder of that. There is a group of cabinet leaders and others who meet weekly for Bible study. Spokeswoman (and preacher’s daughter) Sarah Huckabee Sanders is possibly the most visible Evangelical in the White House through her daily televised press briefings.

Trump’s appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court as a hoped-for advocate for religious freedoms was hailed by church leaders. And Southern Baptists were present on several occasions in 2017 when President Trump signed legislation affecting religious liberty.

But the December loss of a U.S. Senate seat by Republican Judge Roy Moore, Alabama’s Ten Commandments champion, to a pro-abortion Democrat has caused some pundits to wonder if the Big-E political/Republican alliance has weakened, and what that might mean for President Trump in the future. Given the special circumstances in that Senate race, moral accusations against Moore, another conclusion is that the biblical beliefs of little-e evangelicals trumped the Big-E political machine in the privacy of the voting booth.

Similarly, a Democrat easily won the governor’s race in Virginia, whose considerable Evangelical population had previously supported a string of GOP governors. Conservative analyst Stephen Mansfield wrote in a new book that the loss can be attributed partly to the disaffection of evangelicals.

“The young, probably in reaction to Trump and to some of the machinations on the Right, went strongly for the Democrat. I think that is an indication of future trends,” Mansfield said in an interview. “It will probably settle down, but I think that the social consciences of the young are raising some important questions.”

But can those assumptions be applied to the President himself, who a year ago got 81% of the white, evangelical vote? “He’s had about a 10-15% drop-off in support from the evangelical community since taking office,” Mansfield summarized. “So while there may be a sort of exaggerated self-reporting around the time when an evangelical casts a vote, there is some indication that there was never really that depth of devotion. I don’t think their support was ever very deep, and it seems to be weakening quickly.”

One conclusion is that little-e evangelicalism—personal, biblical belief and practice—is being separated from its Big-E political counterpart in this generation.

“Many have analyzed the weaknesses of the current iteration of this movement,” writes conservative Presbyterian pastor Tim Keller. “The desire by mid-twentieth-century leaders to foster more widespread cooperation between evangelicals and downplay denominational differences cut believers off from the past, some religion scholars have found…. This has made present-day evangelicals more vulnerable to political movements that appeal to their self-interest, even in contradiction to biblical teachings, for example, about welcoming the immigrant and lifting up the poor. However, evangelicalism is much more resilient than any one form of itself. The newer forms that are emerging are more concerned with theological and historic roots, and are more resistant to modern individualism than older, white Evangelicalism.”

Issues in Illinois
Governor’s race: Evangelicals disappointed by Gov. Rauner’s support for HB 40, which allows state-funding of abortions involving state employees and aid recipients, will be looking for a gubernatorial candidate to support in 2018.

Pro-life advocate Jeanne Ives of Wheaton said she would run against Rauner in part because of his signature allowing the abortion legislation. Ives handily won a January straw poll against Rauner among Chicago-area Republican leaders, but she faces an uphill climb against the well-funded incumbent. Seven Democrats are on the March 20 ballot with J.B. Pritzker the apparent leader.

The general election is in November.

Social issues: After successfully moving legalization of same-sex marriage through the Illinois General Assembly, State Senator Heather Steans and some other representatives are preparing to introduce legislation to legalize marijuana use in Illinois. Steans is using economic growth as an argument for legalization, citing a prediction that 250,000 jobs will be created in the “cannabis industry” by 2020. “As many of you may have heard, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced last week that he was rescinding an Obama-era policy that discouraged U.S. attorneys from prosecuting operations in states that legalized marijuana,” Steans wrote to supporters. “This change will not diminish our efforts to legalize adult-use cannabis in Illinois.”

A public hearing is scheduled for late January.

Decatur, Ill. | Two days after a mass shooting at a Southern Baptist church in Texas, Illinois pastor Randy Johnson urged pastors to preach every message like it could be their last opportunity to deliver the gospel.

Johnson, pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Decatur, filled in at the IBSA Pastors’ Conference for Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines, who was slated to preach during the conference but is in Texas ministering to First Baptist Church, Sutherland Springs. On Sunday, Nov. 5, a gunman killed 26 people at the small church outside San Antonio.

Preaching from the book of 2 Timothy, Johnson encouraged pastors to check their measure of gospel urgency. Preach like it could be your last message, he said, and also like it could be your hearers’ last opportunity hear the gospel.

“As a preacher of the gospel, your highest calling is to preach the word,” he said. “It is your responsibility to stand before your people in your church and tell them what is right, what isn’t right, and how to get right.”

Johnson exhorted pastors to not only remember that every message could be their last, but also that every hearer will have a last moment.

“Preach like it’s their [the congregation’s] last moment. They don’t know when it’s going to be… You’re going to have people who don’t want to hear what you’re going to say. Consider their last moment. What are you leaving them with? What are you turning their hearts toward?”

On Wednesday morning, Ed Stetzer (below) spoke to Pastors’ Conference attenders about working for and journeying toward the long view of ministry. Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College, urged pastors to have an eternal perspective and to recognize the contrast between life now and eternal life in heaven.

Ed Stetzer web

“It’s a long hard slog sometimes in ministry,” Stetzer said, “and we’re going to see Jesus one day.” That sounds very “old-school Baptist,” he acknowledged, but Baptists a few generations ago talked about heaven a lot more than we do now.

Christians have a confident hope, he said, because they walk by faith and not by sight.

“The afterlife is a sighted life, but life now is not. You don’t know everything. But you have a confident hope, because you know Jesus does.”

 

 

 

Curtis Gilbert 2 webDecatur, Ill. | The IBSA Pastors’ Conference began Tuesday with an impassioned plea for leaders to heed the apostle Paul’s words in Titus 1:5-9:

“The reason I left you in Crete was to set right what was left undone and, as I directed you, to appoint elders in every town: one who is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of wildness or rebellion. For an overseer, as God’s administrator, must be blameless, not arrogant, not hot-tempered, not addicted to wine, not a bully, not greedy for money, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, righteous, holy, self-controlled, holding to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it.

Curtis Gilbert (above) warned pastors not to miss four areas of needed assessment evident in Paul’s words. First, how’s your love for Jesus, asked Gilbert, pastor of The Journey in Belleville. Don’t get used to Jesus, he told pastors.

“If you’re bored, the reason is you’ve gotten your eyes off him, and onto yourself and onto your ministry,” he said. No matter how long you’ve walked with Jesus, Gilbert told conference attenders, you still have as much need for the gospel and for Jesus as when you first confessed him as Lord.

The Metro East pastor asked pastors to assess their lives and ministries in three more areas: how well they love the gospel, their families, and God’s people.

He reminded pastors that as shepherds, they have as much need of their people as their people do of them. “If they keep putting a cape on you, and you keep letting them, then you need to be rebuked,” Gilbert warned pastors. “Because you are nobody’s Superman.”

Joe Valenti webJoe Valenti (right) spoke after Gilbert and urged pastors to fall in love with the gospel. “Everything else comes out of that,” said the student and missions pastor from Cuyahoga Valley Church in Broadview Heights, Ohio.

There are more than 11,000 people groups in the world, Valenti said, and more than 7,000 are still unreached with the gospel. That’s not a problem for the International Mission Board or for missionaries or for the Cooperative Program, he said. Rather, “We need to see the completion of the Great Commission as a personal problem.”

The Mission Illinois Offering and Week of Prayer is September 10-17, but there are plenty of opportunities for prayer ahead of that week. In fact, all of September is a good time to focus on God’s work through Baptists in Illinois.

Devote time to prayer every Sunday or Wednesday in September. Share mission facts and videos on the mission stories. Our main focus is evangelism and church planting in Illinois. Review the statistics about lostness in Illinois. These are not just numbers, they are people.

Pray for salvation. Check Wikipedia for the population of your county or town. According to the experts, more than two-thirds (say 65%) of those people do not know Jesus Christ. Do the math. Pray for their salvation. While you’re at it, make a list of people you know who need Jesus.

Pray for the missionaries by name. Use the daily devotions as brief prayer prompts in worship services and in personal prayer. They are in the MIO Prayer Guide/bulletin insert, online, and printed in the special Illinois Baptist wrapper on the outside of the Aug. 14 issue.

Schedule a special prayer meeting for state missions. Some churches use the Wednesday during the Week of Prayer, others use Sunday morning or Sunday night. Or pick another time, day or night.

Spread the responsibility. Ask Sunday school teachers and small group leaders to focus prayer on state missions during September. Ask the missions team or WMU or men’s group to pray for state missions in their September meeting.

Focus on Romans 10:14.
“How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher?” (CSB)

Pray each section of the verse:
• For the Holy Spirit to open hearts to believe;
• for the gospel to be shared; for the church planters;
• for gospel witnesses to respond to the call to
missions and evangelism, especially in Illinois.

We could plant so many more new churches and reach so many more lost people in Illinois if there were more future leaders in the pipeline.

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering at MissionIllinois.org.