Archives For Missions

A sunset in the rearview mirror of car as a races down the road

I recall researching an article a few years back on the actions messengers took at certain conventions. Some years were marked by insightful and course-altering votes; others had no discernable effect. With the advantage of hindsight, we ask, What actions from the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention will have lasting impact on our denomination and the effectiveness of our work in the world?

The vote on alt-right racism will be remembered; and the appointment of a task force on evangelism has the potential to change our direction. But there was one motion that could produce even greater, meaningful change—if it makes it past the Executive Committee. And there’s a second that I want to suggest.

Modest proposal 1: Shall we merge the mission boards?

A couple of years ago, a messenger moved that a merger of the North American and International Mission Boards be studied. When his motion was ruled out of order for parliamentary reasons, the messenger pleaded that exploration of the issue not be delayed because of procedural rules. He cited the emerging financial crisis of the IMB and cuts in missionaries on the field that had just been announced as motivating factors. At the time, it was clear that NAMB had plenty of reserves, and a merger could fix the money crunch. But rules are rules, and the motion was dead.

Until this year.

A similar motion was made at the 2017 meeting in Phoenix. Here’s how Baptist Press reported it, in a list of motions that were referred to the Executive Committee:

“A motion by Harvey Brown of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., requesting the president appoint a study committee to consider the feasibility of merging IMB and NAMB.”

There was no discussion this time around, or emotional pleading for the sake of missionaries on the field. And frankly, it seems some of steam has escaped on this topic.

IMB reported it is on firm financial footing. IMB President David Platt has weathered a couple of storms, and with the honeymoon over, he appears to be settling in for a long ministry focused on global missions. Platt still partners with NAMB, speaking at conferences about church planting in North America. But his heart beats for the peoples of the world.

And NAMB President Kevin Ezell has stopped making the offer, publically at least, for IMB to relocate from Richmond to Alpharetta. During Platt’s first year, Ezell said there was plenty of room at NAMB’s Georgia headquarters since his administrative staff had been radically downsized. Ezell still cheers for Platt’s presidency, but the pair aren’t making as many joint appearances. Maybe both have found their footing.

The question arises every decade or two: Is the distinction between “home” missions and “foreign” missions outdated (just as those terms are)? Should missions today be focused more on people groups and languages than geography—including in the United States? As the “nations” (translating ethnos as “nations” or “peoples”) have come to North America, should missionaries here share the gospel with them in the same ways they would back in their home countries?

And this: Should state conventions (again) lead church planting in their states, as the missions personnel most familiar with the nearby mission field and with the partner churches who can facilitate evangelistic church planting ministry?

Will one mission board focused on people groups, and state conventions focused on their own neighborhoods better achieve the evangelization of the world and the U.S.?

I can’t say for certain, but it’s a good time to explore the issue.

Modest proposal 2: Virtual messengers? In the next issue.

– Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.

Tale of two cities

I’ve visited Phoenix a few times over the years, but attending the Southern Baptist Convention there recently reminded me again how much it differs from cities here in the Midwest. Of course, it’s a city in the desert, a reality that’s evident even from the sky as one’s plane lands. That difference is even more noticeable as you first breathe the dry air, touch the hot pavement or sand, or simply realize that, at least in the summertime, the brown of Arizona bears little resemblance to the green of Illinois.

In the short walk from my hotel to the convention center each day, I also noticed many different cultural influences, from Native American and Hispanic to the Old West. I saw colorful jewelry, pottery, and clothing in the store windows, and pragmatic architecture spread low across the skyline, all reflecting the unique beauty of the desert.

It wasn’t long, however, before I also began seeing similarities between Phoenix and cities like Chicago. For example, there is great wealth alongside great poverty. There are busy freeways, and constant traffic, and countless people in a hurry. There are many faces that seem sad, or angry, or just empty as they go about their routines. And there are relatively few Baptist churches, or visible evidence of Christian hope.

I’m taking time to paint this picture of Phoenix because I hope that by the time our IBSA Annual Meeting rolls around this November, we may be ready to invite many Illinois Baptists to return there. Discussions with Arizona Baptist leaders during the convention revealed several opportunities for partnership.

For example, there are currently only three African American Southern Baptist churches in the Phoenix association, while Chicago has dozens. On the other hand, Arizona Southern Baptists have been particularly effective in suburban church planting, an area of great need in Chicagoland. We began to see that a complementary partnership between churches in our states, focused especially on church planting in these two “Send Cities” of North America, could give each of them a needed boost in reaching people with the gospel and establishing new Baptist churches.

We also discovered that there are numerous natural connections between the mission field residents of Chicago and Phoenix. For example, according to recent census data, Chicagoans move to Phoenix more than any other metropolitan area except Champaign, Illinois. In fact, more move to Phoenix than to New York, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, Atlanta, or even Indianapolis, which round out the list of top relocation destinations. And while Phoenix is a much smaller city, more than half the number of people that move from Chicago to Phoenix each year also move the other way, from Phoenix to Chicago.

Many Chicagoans “snowbird” in Phoenix. And the fact that both the Cubs and White Sox hold their baseball spring training camps in the Phoenix area is just one factor that keeps the airports full of tourists as well as business travelers. In fact, one travel writer recently referred to Phoenix as “Chicago West,” and commented on the numerous pockets of Chicago culture that can now be found in the desert city.

So, the tale of these two cities isn’t over with the conclusion of this year’s Southern Baptist Convention, at least as far as Illinois Baptists and Arizona Baptists are concerned. We are discussing a more formal partnership, with vision trips in early 2018, facilitated mission trip opportunities next year, and the matchmaking of several church-to-church partnerships. If all goes as planned, our desert partners may even provide Illinois Baptists with a welcome, new experience—the winter mission trip.

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

What happens at camp

ib2newseditor —  June 26, 2017

Canoeing at Streator Baptist Camp

When our IBSA executive staff recently pulled away for a couple of days of long-range planning, we chose to drive north to Streator Baptist Camp. Mike Young is doing a great job as camp manager there, and we arrived to see new roofs, new siding, new paddleboats on the lake, a newly furnished and equipped dining hall, new mattresses on the beds, and improvements to the grounds too numerous to mention.

Though the camp was bustling with workers making final preparations for the summer camp season, Mike and his staff hosted us graciously, serving delicious meals, and giving us a tour of the well-kept grounds. After dinner, he prepared a toasty campfire for us, complete with marshmallows and all the ingredients for s’mores.

I don’t attend as many camps these days as I once did. But something about the campfire, or the bunk bed, or perhaps the wooded setting made me think back to my first Royal Ambassador Camp at Lake Sallateeska, our other fine Baptist camp in southern Illinois. Believe it or not, this year marks Lake Sallateeska’s 75th year of service to Illinois Baptists!

That summer camp was one of the first times I can remember being away from my parents for more than a night. I can still feel the anticipation of packing up and leaving home with my friends, but then also the homesickness of bedtime, and laying there in the dark with only the sounds of the woods. I recall the fun of canoes and archery and crafts, then the seriousness of the lessons from the Bible and about missions.

Sometimes we get to see down the road a little to the fruit of our efforts in tomorrow’s leaders.

Looking back, what made that first scary and wonderful week away from home OK was my trust in a guy named Ray, who was my RA counselor both at camp that week and at church every week. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, Ray had been investing in my young life for a long time, leading me down a road of Christian discipleship and leadership.

He probably knew he wouldn’t see me all the way down that road. A couple of years later another devoted Christian man led me, then when we moved on to another church, and another. For a while, it was week after week of RA’s followed by camp, and then it was week after week of youth group followed by a retreat. But always my church gave me a Christian man, and his weekly commitment and friendship, and an occasional week away from home when I could stretch my Christian commitment to a new level.

I know I’m not alone in this experience of disciple making and leadership development. Recently I was visiting with Evelyn Tully, IBSA’s retired Woman’s Missionary Union Director. She showed me a commemorative booklet from Illinois WMU’s 100th anniversary, and it was filled with pictures of Baptist women investing themselves into the lives of Baptist girls. One of those pictures was Evelyn with a young Sandy Wisdom-Martin, who is now the Executive Director of National WMU in Birmingham. Sometimes we do get to see down the road a little, to the fruit of our efforts in tomorrow’s leaders.

I don’t know where Ray is today or if he ever got to see much of the result of his investment in my life. But being at camp again last week reminded me of that investment, and the lasting difference it’s made in my life.

There’s an advertising slogan for Las Vegas that simply says, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” But that’s not the case when it comes to investing in kids at a Christian camp. What happens there can last a lifetime—and spread all over the world.

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

Lindsey Yoder

Photos courtesy Walk4Freedom via Facebook

“Sometimes putting one foot in front of another is a lot harder than it sounds.”

That’s especially true for 14-year-old Lindsey Yoder who is walking 15 miles a day along the dusty back roads of Illinois—from her home in Arthur to Nashville, Tennessee—in a quest to raise awareness about human trafficking. She hopes to complete the trek in four weeks.

It might be said that the journey began in Springfield in November 2015, when young Yoder attended AWSOM, the Illinois Baptist Women’s annual event for teen girls. “Human trafficking was the focus,” her mother, Regina, said, “and that fueled her interest in the issue.” When a movie about the international sale and trade of vulnerable young women was shown near her town, Lindsey knew she was ready to make a difference.

“My heart was broken at the thought of all the girls who are in this horrible situation, and I asked God specifically to tell me how I can help,” the teen said in an interview from the road with the Illinois Baptist. “Priceless” is a 2016 film about a man who realizes the young women he’s being paid to drive cross country are actually being sold into the sex trade.

About 57,000 people in the U.S. are victims of human trafficking. According to Shared Hope International, “the common age a child enters sex trafficking is 14-16, when they’re too young and naïve to realize what’s happening.” Most victims are girls, but boys are trafficked and sold to pimps as well.

Lindsey is walking to Tennessee because Nashville is the U.S. home of Hope for Justice, an organization that works internationally to stop human trafficking through its offices in Cambodia, England, and Norway. Her eventual goal is to raise enough money to support 30 rescue operations–$195,000.

Why not do a car wash or some other typical student ministry fundraiser? “Because God asked me to walk, so I’m doing it out of obedience. It wasn’t my idea. My faith was the main reason I decided to do step out and do this event that is bigger than me.”

“God has her attention,” said Carmen Halsey, director of IBSA’s Women’s Missions. “She sees the people through his eyes. Lindsey’s not just sitting in a pew. She’s put feet to the vision—literally!”

Lindsey’s biggest challenge walking so far has been the unusually early summer heat. The bugs are are a problem too, but “I’d rather have the heat than the bugs,” she said.

Lindsey Yoder 3

Awesome family project
As a homeschooling family, the Yoders lead a missional lifestyle. Last year Lindsey went to Honduras on what she called a “class field trip” with her grandfather. She has travelled to Haiti with her mother and sister to work in an orphanage. And she wants to become a teacher in India, working as a full-time missionary.

For this trip, her family is, again, all in. “My mom planned all the routes, and we took two pilot trips to make sure all the roads are safe for walking. My dad is at home working hard at his job and is super supportive of my walk. My three older brothers each drove all the way from Ohio to walk the first two miles with me. My younger siblings are along for the ride, even though they’d rather be home. They haven’t bit each other’s heads off yet.”

And the support extends to her church family. “My church has been incredibly supportive…even more than I expected,” Lindsey said of Arthur Southern Baptist Church. “My youth group sold candy bars in the Walmart parking lot to help cover expenses for lodging and gas as we travel. Our church also gave me funds to cover more of our expenses.”

Lindsey started her walk after the May 28 Sunday morning service where several in the congregation gathered to lay on hands and pray for her. When it was time to start the walk, “about 80 people joined me for the first two miles of the walk,” she said. “It was so fun to be supported and surrounded by the people in my church.”

And her request of fellow Baptists in Illinois? “I really need people praying that I can see this through to the end, for those who have no voice and need to be set free.”

Editor’s note: Lindsey’s made it to Nashville, Tennessee. She will reach the 300-mile mark and celebrate at Bicentennial Park at 2 p.m. (eastern) Saturday, June 24. Follow her on Facebook and learn how you can donate.

Welcome to our mission field

Elizabeth Young

Elizabeth Young

For the third time in 14 years, Arizona Southern Baptists will welcome the larger Southern Baptist family to Phoenix in June.

When Phoenix was chosen to host the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting the first time in 2003, we were more than a little surprised, given our reputation for high summertime temperatures. But with Baptists’ repeated visits, we figured the word must have gotten out that, given our low humidity, our average 102-106 degree June temperature isn’t as bad as “back home” for a lot of folks.

We’re delighted when the family comes to town. We hope, for many, it’s a reminder that Southern Baptist work does exist outside of the Deep South and west of the Continental Divide. Illinois Baptists may feel the same way about recognition of Southern Baptists north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

While we want to offer a warm welcome to the family, we sincerely pray that our guests will remember they are on a mission field. We pray for a quiet, peaceful annual meeting so that we don’t have to explain to our lost neighbors why feuding Baptists, or Baptists engaged in culture wars, made the local news. When you’re up to your eyeballs in lost people, it puts a different perspective on priorities of concern.

Illinois Baptists probably understand this, too. Although we have some differences, we seem to have a lot in common.

You have more people—almost 13 million to our 6.9 million—but we have more land—nearly 114,000 square miles to your almost 58,000. You have more churches—nearly 1,000 to our about 450—but we have similar church-to-population ratios—one church for every 13,000 people in Illinois and one for every 15,000 in Arizona.

Both of our states have one large metropolitan area that encompasses two-thirds or more of the state’s population. And whether it’s Chicagoland or greater Phoenix, also known as the Valley of the Sun, the city is a massive sea of people who don’t know Jesus as savior.

Whether on not you make the trek to the Grand Canyon State this summer, our message to you is the same. We’re drawing from Paul’s Macedonian Call in Acts 16:9 and inviting you to “Come over…and help us.”

Consider what God is calling you to do:
• Pray for God’s work in our vast state.
• Partner with an Arizona church.
• Plant a church in Arizona.

May God give all of us a “Macedonian” vision for Arizona—and beyond!

Elizabeth Young is director of communications for the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention and the editor of Portraits magazine.

The Briefing

Christian nation no more?
Most Americans do not believe America is a Christian nation today, even if many say it was in the past. About one-third (35%) of the American public believes the U.S. was a Christian nation in the past and is still a Christian nation today; close to half (45%) say the U.S. was once a Christian nation but no longer remains so; and 14% say the U.S. has never been a Christian nation.

SWBTS apologizes for photo
Paige Patterson, the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, apologized for a photo of white professors posing as rappers that appeared on Twitter and was instantly deemed racist. The photo featured senior School of Preaching faculty members gesturing and wearing bandannas and chains and was labeled “Notorious S.O.P.” One of them appears to hold a handgun.

Cedarville’s Philippians 4:8 rule
This spring, Cedarville University enacted new curriculum guidelines inspired by Philippians 4:8 and aimed at purifying coursework of erotic and graphic content. The university has spelled out new guidelines officially barring any materials that “may be considered ‘adult’ in nature, that represent immorality, or that may be a stumbling block to students.”

Religious freedom dying in Russia
Russia’s nationwide outlaw of Jehovah’s Witnesses will likely ricochet and strike other religions outside of Russian Orthodoxy there, said Donald Ossewaarde, an independent Baptist missionary forced to shut down his church in that country. He has exhausted his appeals on an August 2016 conviction of operating a church without a permit under the 2016 anti-religion Yarovaya Law. Ossewaarde, who is making plans to return May 8 to his home in Elgin, Ill., said every religion outside Russian Orthodoxy is considered a cult.

Students: Biblical views on sex ‘unChrist-like’
A student club at Seattle Pacific University recently protested against the Christian university because it adheres to biblical views on human sexuality and gender identity.  The club, called SPU Haven, which advocates for gay students, claims that the university’s “Statement on Human Sexuality” is “unethical, unscientific and unChrist-like,” according to College Fix.

Sources: Facts and Trends, Religion News, Christianity Today, Baptist Press, The Christian Post

The BriefingChurches are open for Christmas
Nearly 9 out of 10 Protestant senior pastors say their churches plan to hold services on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, as both fall on a Sunday, according to LifeWay Research. Small churches and large churches are slightly less likely to be open for Christmas. Pastors in the Midwest (92%) and South (89%) are more likely to say their church will be open on Christmas.

Hark! The herald hipster sings
For those that have wondered what it would be like if Jesus was born in 2016 or what a modern day wise man would look like — hint: he wears skinny jeans — the folks at Modern Nativity have the answer. The company has created a hipster version of the classic nativity scene featuring a young Mary and Joseph taking a selfie with baby Jesus in a solar-paneled stable.

Macy’s ends Planned Parenthood gifts
Macy’s Inc.’s latest 990 tax form verifies that the retail giant no longer includes the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in its community contributions, the research group 2ndVote said, describing the news as the latest “miracle on 34th Street.”

Compassion International out of India
Compassion International, a Christian nongovernmental organization (NGO) that aids 145,000 impoverished Indian children, has three weeks left in the country unless officials give it a reprieve. It is the largest humanitarian presence in the second most populated country in the world—providing $50 million in annual relief funds. But India is cracking down on foreign NGOs based on fears that groups are using humanitarian work to mask evangelization efforts.

Graffiti welcomes Muslims in MO
At a time when reports of anti-Muslim sentiment are rising, an Islamic Center in Missouri has received a different message. Kamel Ghozzi, imam at the Islamic Center of Warrensburg, says “Welcome” and “Thank you for choosing our community” were written in chalk on the center’s sidewalk during the weekend.

Sources: Facts and Trends, CNBC, Baptist Press, World Magazine, Fox News