Archives For Millennials

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Boy Scouts of America President Robert Gates said last week that the organization should end its ban on gay leaders, a move that some Baptist leaders said was inevitable following the Scouts’ decision two years ago to allow gay-identifying youth to join.

The_Briefing“Back when they changed their thinking regarding the boys themselves, I knew that within a year or so they would reverse their stand with the leadership,” Georgia pastor Ernest Easley, chairman of the SBC Executive Committee in 2013, told Baptist Press. That year, messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution affirming “the right of all families and churches prayerfully to assess their continued relationship with the BSA,” and urging the removal of leadership who sought the policy change “without seeking input from the full range of the Scouting family.”

Gates said May 21 that “Between internal challenges and potential legal conflicts, the BSA finds itself in an unsustainable position, a position that makes us vulnerable to the possibility the courts simply will order us at some point to change our membership policy. We must all understand that this probably will happen sooner rather than later.”

Mentioning councils already operating in defiance of the policy on gay leaders and the Supreme Court’s expected decision on same-sex marriage this year, Gates said, “We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it would be.” The councils’ charters could be revoked, he said, but “such an action would deny the lifelong benefits of scouting to hundreds of thousands of boys and young men today and vastly more in the future. I will not take that path.”

Gates’ remarks reflect “an attitude that has infected many faith-based and religious organizations—and even entire Christian denominations,” blogged Joe Carter of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. “Like Gates, many religious leaders simply lack the courage to stand up to internally destructive dissidents for fear of losing the broader organization.”

LA Governor signs executive order for religious liberty
After legislators in his state struck down a religious freedom bill May 21, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed an executive order designed to protect “people, charities and family-owned businesses with deeply held religious beliefs that marriage is between one man and one woman.”

“We don’t support discrimination in Louisiana and we do support religious liberty,” Jindal said in the order. “These two values can be upheld at the same time.”

Gallup: Support for same-sex marriage at all-time high
60% of Americans support same-sex marriage, Gallup reported last week, up from 55% in 2014. The pollster also found Americans continue to overestimate the number of people who are gay or lesbian.

Theology debate among Arizona churches goes public
A group of churches in Arizona are working across denominational lines against the “progressive Christianity” they see evidenced at a sister church, Bob Smietana reports at The campaign, which includes a sermon series delivered at eight churches and advertised in the local paper, opposes the theology of The Fountains, a United Methodist church in Fountain Hills, Arizona. Pastor David Felten’s views include support for LBGT rights and rejection of the Virgin Birth, according to CT.

IMB missionary remembered in Malawi
An International Mission Board missionary who died of malaria last week is being remembered as “a mother to all.” Susan Sanson, 67, had been serving in Malawi with her husband, Billy, since 2000. The couple had no children, “but she didn’t feel the gap because we were all [her] children,” posted one student who knew her from her ministry at Chancellor College in Zomba, Malawi.

Illinois pastor details journey through anxiety
In an interview on, Joe Thorn, pastor of Redeemer Fellowship in St. Charles, shares about what he calls “the most difficult season in my personal life,” when anxiety got so bad he considered leaving ministry.

Millennials slightly less tuned in to TV
Barna’s report on what we watch on TV is fun and full of interesting facts, like the number of hours of television Millennials watch compared to older adults. (It’s two hours a day versus five for people 69 and over.) Other findings: Procedural shows scored big among Boomers and Elders, and almost everyone likes “The Big Bang Theory.”

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Barna’s most recent list of the country’s most unchurched cities is dotted with Illinois metro areas, but only two have populations that rank above the national unchurched percentage: 38%. (Barna defines “unchurched” as those who haven’t attended a church service in the last six months, except for a holiday or special occasion.)

The_BriefingThe metro area composed of Davenport, Iowa, and Rock Island and Moline in Illinois ranked 27th on Barna’s list of most unchurched cities, with an unchurched population of 42%. Chicago is a few places down the list, at No. 32 with 39% of the population unchurched.

Other familiar cities: St. Louis is 45th, Champaign/Springfield/Decatur is 53rd, and Harrisburg and Mt. Vernon (along with Paducah, Ky., and Cap Girardeau, Mo.) are 80th.

Does young = pacifist? Maybe not necessarily, according to a Harvard poll of young Americans that found nearly 60% approve of sending ground troops to fight ISIS.

Imprisoned pastor urges prayer | Saeed Abedini’s 35th birthday coincides May 7 with the National Day of Prayer in the U.S., which is the focus of a letter he wrote from prison in Iran. “As Ezra cried out to God in repentance and the Israelites joined him in weeping bitterly and turning from their sin, I would like to ask you to join me in repenting and praying for revival,” Abedini wrote. This story from The Christian Post also reports on the political chaos swirling around the pastor’s captivity and the fight for his release.

New nominees for persecuted countries list | The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has recommended the State Department add eight countries to a list of the “world’s worst violators of religious liberty,” Baptist Press reports. The Central African Republic, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan and Vietnam all were nominated for the list of CPC’s (countries of particular concern), along with nine nations already on the list.

10 questions from Court’s marriage arguments | Transcripts of last week’s U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments on same-sex marriage are available online, as is this guide–provided by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission–to the 10 most important questions asked by the justices. For example, would it be unwise for the Court to redefine an institution as ancient as marriage? And would redefining marriage impose on institutions’ religious liberty, like the loss of tax-exempt status?

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

While 30% of the Millennial generation say going to church isn’t important at all, 30% also say church attendance is very important. And 40% are in the middle. The reasons why vary, as detailed in research by Barna Group. Among all Millennials, the researchers found, 66% say American churchgoers are judgmental, and 44% believe it seems like an exclusive club.

Better news: 65% say church is a place to find answers to live a meaningful life.

A Peoria, Ill., woman committed to wear a traditional Muslim head covering during Lent in order to “remember what it feels like to be an outsider.” “People end up grouping all Muslims with extremists. I want to remember that people are individuals, and so by doing this I’m remembering to welcome and include people no matter what they look like,” Jessey Eagen told The Christian Post.

Phyllis Sortor, a missionary with the American Free Methodist Church who was kidnapped in Nigeria in February, has been released, The Christian Post reports. “It appears she was kidnapped by a criminal gang, and there is no evidence this event is associated with terrorism or religion,” said David W. Kendall in a news release from the denomination’s Board of Bishops.

Sortor’s kidnappers originally demanded $300,000 for her release, the details of which will not be discussed publicly, Kendall said.

Franklin Graham, son of famed evangelist Billy Graham and president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, told Fox News on Sunday, “I believe we’re going to see persecution in this country. We’ve already seen many laws that have been passed that restrict our freedom as Christians.”

The Washington florist who came under fire for refusing to provide services for a same-sex wedding said she would hug her accuser if he walked into her shop. “The same faith that tells me that I can’t be a part of Rob’s wedding is the same faith that tells me to love him as Christ does,”

Barronelle Stutzman told Baptist Press. The 70-year-old Southern Baptist church member was found guilty last month of violating her state’s non-discrimination law. She is appealing the verdict.


COMMENTARY | Meredith Flynn

As the crowd thinned and the reception neared an end, one voice could be heard from a table near the chocolate fountain: “Come over here and take my picture so I can go home.”

Thurman Stewart was kidding; he wasn’t looking for press, just laughs. Surrounded by other volunteers in yellow hats and shirts, he and his wife, Carol, marked the end of another day watching kids while their parents attended the IBSA Annual Meeting.

The Stewarts are part of a group of Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers who provide free childcare every year. Several of them also travel in the summer to the national Southern Baptist Convention to serve families there. And they have a mobile Disaster Relief childcare unit, so they can help kids and parents in crisis across the country.

At the Crowne Plaza in Springfield, their classrooms were stationed on the third floor, one level above the ballroom where the business meeting took place. Downstairs, messengers to the 2014 Annual Meeting adopted several resolutions, including one on including younger leaders in church and denominational life. Among several “resolved” statements, the document encouraged IBSA churches to pray for, identify and train young leaders, “and to release joyfully
young leaders into ministry.”

Callout_1113_edited-1But when they’re released, what kinds of ministries will these young leaders be looking for? Certainly, some will be pastors. Some will serve on committees and trustee boards. Some will lead mission teams to the other side of the world. And some, hopefully, will join the Stewarts’ ranks on the third floor. Or look for similarly vital roles that happen behind the scenes.

George Jones sang, “Who’s gonna fill their shoes,” about country music legends who are hard to replace. No one’s ever going to be like Willie Nelson or Johnny Cash, Jones sings. But who’s next? “Who’s gonna give their heart and soul to get to me and you?” he asks in the chorus.

The Stewarts and their fellow volunteers are the Illinois Baptist version of those country music superstars. Giving their hearts to work that isn’t front and center, ministering to kids and families and underserved communities. Perhaps young leaders can make the greatest contribution to church and denominational life by emulating the example set by the Stewarts and so many others.

Theirs are big shoes to fill.

The_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

A new Barna study explores what kinds of worship spaces are most attractive to Millennials, and what words describe their ideal church. Not surprisingly, not every answer matches up: 77% chose “sanctuary” compared to 23% who answered “auditorium.” And 67% of Millennials chose “classic” over “trendy” to describe their idea church. But modern and casual also won out over traditional and dignified.

Barna points out this “cognitive dissonance” evident in the survey: “Many of them aspire to a more traditional church experience, in a beautiful building steeped in history and religious symbolism, but they are more at ease in a modern space that feels more familiar than mysterious.”

After the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals became the first such court to uphold states’ rights to ban same-sex marriage, Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore said it’s now up to the Supreme Court to take up the issue, The Christian Post reported.

From “The Pakistani state has to act proactively to protect its minorities from violence and injustice,” Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said after a Christian couple was beaten and burned to death one week ago. A mob attacked Shahzad Masih and Shama Bibi, who was five months pregnant, over accusations that Bibi had burned the Qur’an.

Christian Kenneth Bae returned to the U.S. over the weekend after two years of imprisonment in North Korea, CNN reported. “Kenneth has been in God’s care all this time, and we are thankful that he brought him home,” Bae’s sister, Terri Chung, told reporters. “He only has the best wishes and intentions for that country, still.”

The organizers of International Day of the Bible are calling for people around the world to read Scripture out loud at noon on November 24.

Baptist Press reports Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary has finalized the purchase of its new, larger campus in Southern California and is on schedule to relocate its main campus from the Bay Area by June of 2016. The seminary will request a name change—to Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention—during the 2015 SBC Annual Meeting in Columbus, Ohio.

International Mission Board President David Platt launched his new podcast series, Radical Together, on Nov. 3. “Every 2 weeks, 30 minutes of Word to exhort you to pray, give, & go however God leads in the world,” he tweeted.

Things are looking up for church giving, according to survey by LifeWay Research. More than half of the Protestant churches surveyed reported still feeling the negative impact of the economy, but two-thirds are meeting or exceeding their budgets for 2014. And 74% report offerings at or above 2013 levels.

The_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Commission, urged Christians to “pray fervently” for believers facing persecution for their faith.

“As Christians, we should pray for the president and our military leaders to wisely administer the sword of justice (Romans 13:1-3),” Moore said in a written statement. “As part of the global body of Christ, we must also pray fervently for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Iraq and across the Middle East (Hebrews 13:3).”

His comments came after President Barack Obama authorized U.S. airstrikes and humanitarian aid to help Iraqi religious minorities under attack from militant groups in the country.

Obama “is right to take action to protect religious minorities, including Christians, in Iraq from ISIS,” Moore said. “He has my prayers.”

Read the full story at, or click here for an overview of the recent onslaught of persecution around the world.

Other news:

Amid controversy surrounding Driscoll, LifeWay stops selling Seattle pastor’s books
A day after the Acts 29 church planting network removed Pastor Mark Driscoll and his churches from their membership, LifeWay Christian Resources stopped selling Driscoll’s books online and in stores. “LifeWay Stores and are not selling Mark Driscoll’s books while we assess the situation regarding his ministry,” communications director Marty King told Christianity Today.

The Acts 29 and LifeWay decisions came after a string of controversies and charges surrounding Driscoll, founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle.

Gungor stands by beliefs about Adam & Eve, biblical flood
Christian musician Michael Gungor’s admission that he no longer believes in a literal Adam and Eve or flood sparked controversy when the comments were published in a WORLD magazine online report this month. Ken Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum, called for Gungor to apologize for the statements, while the musician responded to the controversy on his blog.

Marriage rates in decline among Millennials
Millennials are less likely to marry by 40 than any other previous generation, according to data from the American Community Survey analyzed by the Urban Institute. For example, in 1990, 91% of women age 40 had married; currently, only 69.3% of women age 40 have married. The rate for men is approximately 4% lower, Baptist Press reported.

Coming to a theater near you: “Christian Mingle The Movie”
Girl creates fake faith profile on Christian dating site, meets potential Mr. Right. Girl admits phony faith and loses Mr. Right, but gains a relationship with God. “Christian Mingle The Movie” is due in theaters in October. Read more at

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

As World Cup fever raged across the globe – and even here! – new research from Barna showed most Americans recognize their country’s fascination with sports, and almost two-in-three think the culture cares too much about athletics.

The nationwide survey conducted in February found 89% of adults strongly or somewhat agree that sports are an important part of American culture, with men slightly more likely to strongly agree than women. Interestingly, practicing Christians (55%) were the most likely group to strongly agree.

soccer ballBarna also found 27% of Americans believe the culture cares too much about sports, and 39% agree somewhat. A majority of Americans also agree strongly or somewhat that professional athletes make too much money (86%), and that American professional sports are very corrupt and distract from important global issues (both 62%).

As for America’s favorite sport: Football reigns supreme with regular viewers (53%), followed by basketball and baseball (both 33%). Soccer’s numbers were higher than you might think, especially considering the survey was completed before the World Cup. 11% of Americans regularly watch the beautiful game (that’s what they call soccer), 20% have played it, and 16% say their kids play.

Zamperini remembered as Olympian, war hero, Christian
Former Olympic runner and prisoner of war Louis Zamperini died July 2 at the age of 97. Zamperini, the subject of Laura Hillenbrand’s 2010 book “Unbroken,” also was a Christian. His conversion happened at a Billy Graham Crusade after he returned from a Japanese POW camp, at the height of his bitterness and rage over two years of captivity. Read Denny Burk’s tribute to Zamperini.

Some Nigerian girls escape, more than 200 remain captive
While many Americans were celebrating independence, dozens of women and girls in Nigeria were finding freedom from a much more immediate threat. The Christian Post reports more than 60 women and girls kidnapped by Boko Haram on June 22 escaped around July 4. More than 200 girls reportedly are still held by the terrorist group founded to fight the influence of Western education. In a video message released earlier this year, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau threatened to sell the kidnapped girls.

Book release: Piper’s ‘Pastor’s Kid’
Barnabas Piper’s new book “The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity,” was written for PKs, pastors and churches, the son of famed pastor John Piper wrote in the introduction. Coinciding with the book’s July 1 release, the author answered questions from culture writer Jonathan Merritt in this Q&A for Religion News Service, including the biggest negative effect of his upbringing (“not connecting with God in a personal way”). Piper also shared a few surprising facts about his dad, like his love for the comedy “What About Bob.”

Four Southern Baptists named to ’33 under 33’ list
Christianity Today’s list of influential young leaders includes four Baptists, Baptist Press reported July 1. They are:

  • Trevin Wax, a blogger and managing editor of LifeWay’s The Gospel Project
  • Hip-hop artist turned pastoral intern Trip Lee
  • Former rapper D.A. Horton, who is now the North American Mission Board’s national coordinator for urban student missions
  • Saira Blair, a 17-year-old candidate for West Virginia’s state legislature

See the rest of the list at