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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.

Meet_us_in_St._Louis

Online registration by messengers urged; big prayer meeting Tuesday night

Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd has clear objectives in mind for Baptists meeting June 14-15 in the Gateway City. When they depart from St. Louis, he told Baptist Press, he’s praying they will do so with a “deep burden for our nation, a new commitment to racial unity and an extraordinary commitment to evangelize America.”

Floyd, completing his second one-year term as SBC President, is planning the second-annual Convention-wide prayer meeting for the Tuesday evening session in St. Louis. “A National Call to Prayer for Spiritual Leadership, Revived Churches, Nationwide and Global Awakening” will feature SBC leaders and pastors, with music by Keith and Kristyn Getty, the composers of modern hymns including “In Christ Alone.”

“Here is what I know: If we do not plan to pray, we will not pray!” Floyd blogged in April.

“It is past time for us to prioritize prayer, both personally and in the church, as well as in our Southern Baptist Convention. For far too long, we have seen what we can do; it is time for us to see what God can do. This can only happen when we pray.”

The 2015 prayer meeting highlighted the need for racial unity and diversity in the SBC. In St. Louis, African American pastor Jerry Young, president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., will participate in the prayer meeting and also in a Tuesday morning session titled “A National Conversation on Racial Unity in America.” Marshall Blalock, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charleston, S.C., also will join the conversation.

“With the racial unrest in St. Louis due to what happened in Ferguson in August of 2014, Southern Baptists will have a strong opportunity to represent Christ through Crossover ministry in the city,” Floyd said, noting the evangelistic effort prior to the Convention.

“I believe we will leave St. Louis with a powerful, strong, clear and encouraging testimony of the need for loving one another, regardless of the color of one’s skin.”

In addition to racial unity, the convention will include a panel discussion on pastors, churches and politics, and a Q&A session with SBC entity leaders, who will answer questions from messengers.

Meeting highlights

The North American and International Mission Boards will host a Sending Celebration to conclude the Convention Wednesday afternoon. NAMB also will launch “Send Relief,” an initiative to train church members to engage their communities with gospel-centered compassion ministries.

Prior to the convention, NAMB will host several ministry opportunities in the St. Louis area, including a partnership with First Baptist Church, Ferguson, Mo., to give away Backpacks of Hope and host a carnival for Ferguson children. Southern Baptist volunteers, in partnership with the Red Cross, will also go door-to-door to install free smoke detectors for Ferguson residents.

“We hope Southern Baptists can walk away from the convention this year knowing that there is a very attainable ministry that they can be involved with that will help them engage with and reach their community,” said David Melber, NAMB’s vice president for Send Relief.

The mission board also will operate mobile dental and medical clinics in St. Louis, and plans to make the units available to churches desiring to do similar ministry in their communities.

LifeWay Christian Resources will screen two movies during the Convention, including “The Insanity of God,” a documentary featuring real-life stories of persecuted Christians around the world. The film, produced by the International Mission Board, is based on the book of the same name by Nik Ripken.

“The Insanity of God” will be shown free of charge in Ferrara Theatre at America’s Center Monday, June 13, at 9 p.m. Tickets are not required, but seating will be limited. LifeWay Films will screen an additional movie following the Tuesday evening session.

The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission will release the first three books in its “Gospel for Life” series in St. Louis. The 9-book series “aims to help the church in navigating through ethical and cultural issues,” said ERLC President Russell Moore. The first three books in the series focus on religious liberty, racial reconciliation, and same-sex marriage.

The SBC Exhibit Hall will once again include a Wellness Center hosted by GuideStone Financial Resources. The center will offer cholesterol and glucose screenings, as well as data to determine body mass index. Participants will receive a personalized report that is suitable to take to their family doctors, and on-site medical professionals will be available to discuss results.

GuideStone also will offer three seminars aimed at various audiences: “Retirement Income Solutions,” “Health Care Reform Impacts Your Church, Too,” and “The Struggle is Real: The Solution is Simple,” a seminar for younger investors. All seminars are free, space is limited. Visit GuideStone.org/SBC16 to register.

Business notes

In addition to the three candidates for SBC President (see page B-3), Illinois pastor Doug Munton has announced he will be nominated for the office of First Vice President. John Yeats, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention, will be nominated for a 20th term as SBC Recording Secretary.

John Avant, pastor of First Baptist Concord in Knoxville, Tenn., will be nominated for president of the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference.

Several Baptists from Illinois have been selected for committees meeting during the Convention: Munton and Michael Allen, pastor of Uptown Baptist Church in Chicago, will serve on the Committee on Committees, which nominates members of the Committee on Nominations who, in turn, nominate trustees for the boards of SBC entities.

Dan Eddington, director of missions for Three Rivers Baptist Association, and Ric Worshill, a member of Crossroads Community Church in Port Barrington, will serve on the SBC Credentials Committee.

Online registration tools

Convention messengers can register online at sbcannualmeeting.net under the Messengers/Guests tab. To help ensure the orderly flow of attendees and enhance security of the convention hall, this year each messenger, exhibitor, and guest must be registered and properly badged for entrance into the general sessions June 14-15.

After completing online registration, each individual will receive an eight-digit registration code to present at the express registration lane. There, the code can be entered into a computer and a nametag will be printed.

Registration is also open for preschool child care, Giant Cow Children’s Ministries, Children in Action Missions Camp, and Youth on Mission in conjunction with annual meeting. All activities for children and youth will be housed at America’s Center. Youth who have completed grades 7-12 will begin their days at the convention center with worship before going into the community for hands-on mission projects.

Pre-registration is required and is available online at sbcannualmeeting.net under the Children/Youth tab.

The SBC Annual Meetings app is again available to Convention-goers, including a listing of speakers for the SBC Pastors’ Conference and SBC annual meeting, as well as the daily program schedule, daily events, exhibitor listing, convention center maps, 2016 Book of Reports and more.

For more information on the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention and the SBC Pastors’ Conference in St. Louis, as well as other meetings and events, go to sbcannualmeeting.net.

– From Baptist Press reports

Tuesday_BriefingLeaders debate disconnect between millenials and the church

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

“Some millenials, like many from generations before us, want the church to become a mirror – a reflection of our particular preferences, desires, and dreams,” Trevin Wax blogged earlier this summer.

“But other millenials want a Christianity that shapes and changes our preferences, desires, and dreams.”

Those words from Wax, managing editor of LifeWay’s “The Gospel Project,” succinctly explain the debate sparked in July by a blog post by Rachel Held Evans. At issue: the millennial generation (generally defined as those born around and after 1980), the church, and the perceived distance between the two.

Evans, a 32-year-old author right on the edge of the millenial divide, shared on CNN’s “Belief” blog that too often, church leaders think they can bridge the gap with better, cooler style choices in music, technology, and the entire worship experience. But, “we’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there,” Evans wrote.

She gives to church leaders who want to appeal to young Christians: “…I explain how young adults perceive evangelical Christianity to be too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

“I point to research that shows young evangelicals often feel they have to choose between their intellectual integrity and their faith, between science and Christianity, between compassion and holiness.”

Evans’ column lit up social media and garnered thousands of comments on CNN’s site, where it’s still getting feedback more than a month after it posted. Other Christian leaders responded too, agreeing with some of Evans’ points but also offering their own take on the problem: 59% of young people disengage from the church for an extended period of time or for good, according to Barna.

It’s an important conversation to have, said Chase Abner, IBSA’s collegiate evangelism strategist. “Like it or not, Millenials will soon be at the helm of our churches, schools and governments. Let us labor that they might hear and respond in faith to Christ.”

It’s the in’s and out’s and how to’s of that labor that had leaders talking about Evans’ blog post. Trevin Wax noted that although Evans says Millenials long for Jesus in the church, the ideal church she describes may not look like Him.

“When I read the Gospels, I’m confronted by a Jesus who explodes our categories of righteousness and sin, repentance and forgiveness, and power and purity,” he blogged. “I see a King who makes utterly exclusive claims, and doesn’t seem to care who is offended.”

Wax writes later, “Rachel says Millenials want to be ‘challenged to holiness,’ but the challenge she appears to be advocating is one on our own terms and according to our own preferences.”

Several leaders who commented on Evans’ post turned the focus away from the church and took a harder look at Millenials themselves. Are today’s young Christians giving the “me generation” a run for their money when it comes to self-centeredness?

“I’m sorry Millenials, but I’m going to have to throw us under the bus here: we do not have everything figured out,” wrote author Brett McCracken on The Washington Post’s On Faith” blog. “And if we expect older generations and well-established institutions to morph to fit our every fickle desire, we do so at our peril.”

In response to Evans’ suggestion that church leaders sit down with young Christians and talk about what they’re looking for in a church, McCracken proposed the opposite. “Millenials, why don’t we take our pastors, parents and older Christian brothers and sisters out to coffee and listen to them?”

Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, echoed that idea in a column on Baptist Press, but took it a step further by calling on church leaders and parents to help young people experience the church as a member of the body, rather than just part of various age-graded programs.

“When they are disconnected from the congregation, it should not surprise us that young adults, who have never known the church as a whole, are disinclined to embrace it when their age-graded group has run its course.”

Allen wrote he wants his children to get to know people at all stages of life in the church – from young couples to senior citizens. That focus on relationships is increasingly important to young Christians, Abner said. In a day when technology can make anyone an expert on anything – even Christianity – young people want to know whether the information we have is making a difference in the world.

“They can’t see that just from shaking your hand before or after a service. They can’t see that just because you teach the Bible well,” Abner said. “But they can see it in the way you love your spouse and children. They can see it in the way you follow Jesus at work. They can see it in the way you refuse to compartmentalize your devotion to the Gospel.”

Read more about young people and the church in the next issue of the Illinois Baptist, online this Friday at http://ibonline.IBSA.org.

Kazakh Baptists fined for meeting
Authorities in Kazakhstan fined 18 Baptists this summer for participating in religious activity not authorized by the state, Baptist Press reports. The country’s Administration Code bans participation, leadership or financing of any unregistered religious community. Forum 18, a religious freedom organization based in Norway, reported three Baptists fined an two months’ average salary for leading the meetings, and 15 others were fine one month’s average salary for attending worship.

Kazakhstan’s Council of Baptists don’t seek state registration, maintaining that the country’s constitution and international human rights commitments forbid requiring government approval for worship. Read more at BPNews.net.

Doves offer something for everyone
The nominees for the 44th annual Dove Awards showcase Christian music’s diversity, from rock to hip-hop, Southern Gospel to praise & worship. “The Doves represent the best of the best – in all genres of Gospel music, celebrating talent, ministry and outstanding performances,” said Jackie Patillo, executive director of the Gospel Music Association. The Dove Awards will be presented Oct. 15 and broadcast Oct. 21 on the UP network. Worship leaders Matt Redman and Chris Tomlin each received nine nominations, and will vie for song of the year with “10,000 Reasons” and “Whom Shall I Fear,” respectively. Read the full list of nominees at DoveAwards.com.

NAMB offers online resources to encourage church leaders
With Pastor Appreciation Month coming in October, the North American Mission Board is providing churches with resources to encourage and support their leaders. NAMB is encouraging churches to pick one Sunday to lift up their pastors during a worship service. The web page NAMB.net/honoring_pastors offers posters and bulletin inserts with 50 practical, specific ways lay leaders can encourage their pastors and their families year-round. Read the full story at BPNews.net.

HOUSTON | A luncheon hosted by the North American Mission Board today had one foot planted in the past – celebrating Southern Baptists’ Conservative Resurgence of the 1970s and 80s – and one foot in the future, highlighting church planting as the most effective way the denomination can penetrate spiritual darkness.

“We feel like this is a strategic moment for Southern Baptists,” NAMB President Kevin Ezell said to the crowd gathered for the Send: North America lunch. But this strategic moment wouldn’t be possible without other moments from Baptist history, he added. Ezell invited Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler, knwon as the architects of the SBC’s return to conservative doctrine, to join him on the stage and thanked them on behalf of church planters and younger Southern Baptists.

The presentation that followed mixed old-school sleight of hand with modern technology. Illusionist “Harris III” took the audience through a timeline of Southern Baptist history, emphasizing landmark moments like Annie Armstrong’s leadership of Woman’s Missionary Union. The multi-media journey also pointed to the trends, specifically mass urbanization, that are driving NAMB to plant more churches all over the continent, but particularly in cities.

NAMB President Kevin Ezell (right) recognizes Judge Paul Pressler (center) and Paige Patterson at a luncheon for Send: North America.

NAMB President Kevin Ezell (right) recognizes Judge Paul Pressler (center) and Paige Patterson at a luncheon for Send: North America.

Illusionist Harris III presents a history of Southern Baptists, while a ticker moved through the years from Baptists' beginnings to the year 2013.

Illusionist Harris III presents a history of Southern Baptists, while a ticker (in this photo, set at 1845) moves through the years from Baptists’ beginnings to the year 2013.

Banners representing metro areas designated as "Send" cities by the North American Mission Board. Chicago and St. Louis are among the 30 cities.

Banners representing metro areas designated as “Send” cities by the North American Mission Board. Chicago and St. Louis are among the 30 cities.

 

Nanette Franks (center) and Judy Rinkenberger (right) share information about a women's luncheon with a Chicago resident.

Illinois WMU volunteers share information about a women’s luncheon with a Chicago resident.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

A volunteer mission team braved cold temperatures and gusty winds yesterday to bring a little warmth to Chicagoans. Eight women representing churches across the state and Illinois Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) worked in the name of Chicago’s Uptown Baptist Church during the annual trip.

Several in the group stood outside Uptown, handing out gloves, hats scarves and socks. Others worked inside the church’s kitchen to prepare an evening meal for more than 100 people.

“It just really opens my eyes [to needs] that I read about, but don’t ever see in my everyday life,” said Nanette Franks, a Harrisburg resident, as she worked on table decorations for the Valentine’s Day-themed meal. Uptown hosts a free dinner every Monday evening.

Along with the meal and clothing giveaway, the women helped organize Uptown’s clothes closet and hosted a women’s luncheon. They also worked with a neighboring missions organization, and visited local nursing homes and hospitals. For more information about the trip, see the March 4 issue of the Illinois Baptist.

Evangelicals: Pope Benedict has been a ‘friend of life’
(From Baptist Press) As the world reacted to the unexpected news that Pope Benedict XVI would become the first pope in six centuries to resign, evangelicals acknowledged major theological differences while citing Benedict’s commitment to human dignity as a key part of his legacy. Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, located in a heavily Catholic region, told Baptist Press that Benedict “is a man worthy of our respect and appreciation.”

“Although there are profound differences in Baptist and Catholic perspectives on faith, we shared a commitment to the sanctity of life and other biblical values.” Read the full story at BPNews.net.

Athletes have more influence than clergy, survey says
A new Barna survey found 64% of Americans think professional athletes have more influence in society than faith leaders, and 61% of respondents favor athletes talking publicly about their faith. Read more at Barna.org.

Frost to lead NAMB’s Midwest region
(From Baptist Press) New York pastor Gary Frost has been named the North American Mission Board’s new Midwest Region vice president. Frost spent 18 years as pastor of Rising Star Baptist Church in Youngstown, Ohio, and plans to locate near Cleveland for his new role.

“I love the Midwest and I came from Ohio, so we are excited about the move. And people in Cleveland face many of the same issues we face in New York. I hope I will be able to draw on those experiences and apply them to reaching new people and helping plant new churches in the Midwest.” Read more at BPNews.net.

THE BRIEFING | Posted by Meredith Flynn

Targeting 163 new church plants in Chicagoland over the next five years, the Send North America planting strategy for Illinois’ largest metropolitan area launched Oct. 7-8 with a prayer gathering of local church leaders and a meeting of North American Mission Board trustees.

This visit by NAMB trustees marks the importance of Chicago in the Southern Baptist Convention’s plans to reach the central United States with the Gospel. “With nearly 9 million people in the Chicago metro area, it is our largest, most influential city in the Midwest,” said Steve Davis, NAMB’s vice president for the Midwest region. “The task of penetrating the lostness and conserving the harvest through church planting is enormous.”

Davis joined NAMB President Kevin Ezell, the trustees, leaders from the Illinois Baptist State Association, and a host of missionary planters and local pastors when the Send plans for Chicagoland were presented October 8.

Send North America is NAMB’s strategy to help churches and individuals become active in all regions of North America to lead people to faith in Jesus Christ and start new churches. Chicago is one of 30 highly influential urban centers throughout North America that NAMB is focusing the attention of Southern Baptists on through Send.

With 8.7 million people in the 10 Illinois counties surrounding the city, Chicago is behind only New York City and Los Angeles as the largest Send North America cities.

“Few cities have more impact than Chicago,” said Van Kicklighter, associate executive director for missions and church planting at IBSA. “This is certainly true for Illinois but equally true of Chicago’s impact nationally as well as globally.  Chicago is a wonderful place for Southern Baptists to cover with their intercessory prayer, engage with church partnerships, and spread their missionary wings by sending people who will plant their lives here for the sake of the Gospel.”

For more information on Send North America: Chicago, read the current issue of the Illinois Baptist online, or visit namb.net/Chicago.

Eric Reed is editorial consultant for Illinois Baptist media and reported this story with additional information from Tobin Perry of the North American Mission Board.

In other news:

Six-year-old Texan partners with IBSA for ministry in Haiti
IBSA’s Missions Team recently received a check for $516.20 from an unlikely source: 6-year-old Mackenzie Howell, a Texan who has been burdened for Haiti since she first learned of the devastating earthquake that rocked the country in 2010. “She was deeply touched and wanted to do something for the kids who, in her words, ‘lost their moms, their dads, their schools and their homes,’” wrote Mackenzie’s mom Allison Howell in a letter to IBSA. Mackenzie’s donation will be used to help purchase school supplies or books for children who wouldn’t have them otherwise. And the gift may also help a local Haitian church point people to the Gospel. The full story is on page 8 of the newest edition of the Illinois Baptist. Read it here.

Survey: Pastors reject pulpit endorsements
Nearly 90 percent of pastors believe they should not endorse candidates for public office from the pulpit, according to a survey by LifeWay Research. That marks an increase since 2010, when a similar LifeWay survey found 84% of pastors believed they shouldn’t endorse candidates from the pulpit. The new findings, released Oct. 1, also revealed that 44 percent of pastors personally endorsed candidates, but did so outside of their church role. Read more at Baptist Press.

Cooperative Program ends year 3% above budget; downturn may be reversing
The Cooperative Program ended its fiscal year 3 percent over budget and at 99.41 percent of last year’s contributions. Church giving hopefully has dipped as low as it will from the U.S. economic downturn and may be ready to stabilize or climb, Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President Frank Page said. “We finished 3 percent ahead of our budgeted goal and only slightly under last year’s CP total. This is hallelujah territory! To God be the glory.” Read the full story at Baptist Press.

Tyndale files suit against abortion mandate
Bible and Christian book publisher Tyndale House has filed suit against the Obama administration’s abortion/contraceptive mandate, asserting it is an unconstitutional violation of religious liberty to force the publisher to pay for drugs that violate its faith tenets. The mandate requires employers – with few exceptions – to carry employee health insurance plans that cover contraceptives and drugs that can cause chemical abortions. At least 30 lawsuits have been filed against the mandate. Go to BPNews.net for more.