Archives For New Year

Gallup poll finds low expectations for global peace
70% of Americans expect 2019 to be “a troubled year with much international discord,” according to Gallup data collected in December. Hopes are higher for economic prosperity and employment, but the nation’s political system received a gloomy forecast from many respondents. 89% predicted a year of conflict, while only 11% foresaw a year of cooperation.

Bible app gets 1 million subscriptions on New Year’s Day
The YouVersion Bible app’s Bible-reading plans got more than one million new subscriptions to start the new year, The Christian Post reported. The app offers more than 13,000 reading plans, including some offered in 1,000 languages other than English.

Greear launches evangelism emphasis with local associations
Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear will work with local associations of Southern Baptist churches to implement a focus on personal evangelism in 2019. “Who’s Your One?” is an initiative to encourage every Southern Baptist to share the gospel with one person this year. Greear will introduce the emphasis to his own local association—Yates Baptist Association—at a Jan. 31 simulcast available to associations across the country. More information is forthcoming at

Third gender option legal in New York City, California
The nation’s most populous city and state now allow people to choose a “third gender,” often designated by X on legal documents. New York City and California join Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington State, and Washington, D.C., as places that allow a non-binary gender option for people who believe they are neither male nor female.

Passion attenders raise money for deaf Bible translations
Young people at this year’s Passion conference gave $450,000 toward translating New Testament stories in sign languages used in 16 countries. The Deaf Bible Society reports only 2% of deaf people around the world have been introduced to the gospel, and that there is no Bible translation for at least 95% of more than 400 unique sign languages used globally.

In a border town of Turkey, a Syrian family who fled from the civil war struggles to find food and shelter. IMB photo by Jedediah Smith

In a border town of Turkey, a Syrian family who fled from the civil war struggles to find food and shelter. IMB photo by Jedediah Smith

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The International Mission Board’s pictures of the year show “light in the darkness” around the world. In the Philippines, hard hit by a typhoon just over a year ago; in Turkey, where a Syrian family tries to escape civil war (right); and in the Dominican Republic, where church planting efforts reach across geographical and cultural divides. See them all and more at

Almost 9.5 million people heard the gospel through the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in 2014, and more than 1.6 million of those trusted Christ. “Our hearts overflow with gratitude to God for all He has done and is doing, and we are eager to keep pressing forward as He continues to open doors,” BGEA’s chief executive officer Franklin Graham wrote recently, The Christian Post reported.

Also from The Christian Post: Houston Baptist University will create a Center for American Evangelism, spearheaded in part by apologist Lee Strobel and directed by author Mark Mittelberg.

“I’ve been there, done that and I’d love to share with you a few reasons why, even though I’ve failed, I’m doing it again,” Trillia Newbill writes about her resolve to read the Bible in 2015. Read about the four step plan she chose at

Most of us make and break them every year, but can New Year’s Resolutions actually be harmful? Author (and Billy Graham’s grandson) Tullian Tchividjian says yes, in this interview with Religion News Service. “When it’s up to you to go out and get the love you crave, create your own worth, or work at becoming acceptable to those you want to impress, life gets heavy,” Tchividjian told writer Jonathan Merritt. “New Year’s Resolutions are a burdening attempt to fix ourselves and make ourselves more lovable.”

The current basketball season has gone “in the opposite direction” L.A. Laker Jeremy Lin anticipated, he posted on his blog at the beginning of this year. But despite his slump, Lin—a known Christian—said he wants to live with more joy in the coming year. “…[T]hrough it all, I’ve been learning how to surrender the results to God, how to walk by faith and not by sight, how to be renewed through times of prayer/Scripture and how to fight for a life of joy in the midst of trials.”



2015: The year of prayer

Meredith Flynn —  January 1, 2015

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of posts on prayer. In 2014, Illinois Baptists focused on prayer and spiritual awakening at their November Annual Meeting. The national Southern Baptist Convention also will mark a Call to Prayer this year, detailed by Ronnie Floyd during his few few months as SBC President.)

Eric Reed | Our IBSA Annual Meeting focused on prayer, as part of a statewide call to revival and spiritual awakening. Using Isaiah 6:1-8 as our inspiration, moving through this cycle of prayer:

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1. We lament the sins of our state. As Isaiah said, after witnessing the holiness of the Lord in the temple, “Woe is me…I am undone.”

2. We repent of apathy among believers and ask God to send revival to our churches. The angel affirmed to Isaiah, “Your sins are forgiven.”

3. We intercede for the needs of the 13 million people of Illinois and especially the 8 million or more who are lost, asking God for spiritual awakening in our state and across the United States. The Lord asked Isaiah, “Who will go?”

4. We commit to pray for their salvation and to minister in the name of Jesus. And He waits to hear, “Here I am. Send me.”

The four video collages from the IBSA Concert of Prayer (held during November’s Annual Meeting) are available for use in your church. Download them here.

Part 2

Part 3

Eric Reed is IBSA’s associate executive director for the Church Communications team, and editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Tis the season for best-of lists, and several interesting are already floating around the internet:

Other news:

“I’m proud of you,” Rick Warren told Mars Hill Church Dec. 28. Via video, Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Ca., preached the final message members of the multi-site church will hear before Mars Hill disbands and several of the locations become independent congregations. “You know, anybody can follow Jesus when it’s a party,” Warren said. “The real test of spiritual maturity is how you handle the storms of life, the difficulties, and even the changes that you didn’t ask for.” Mars Hill Pastor Marc Driscoll resigned in October amid charges of unbiblical leadership.

“We can support the police and talk about how to make policing better at the same time,” writes Ed Stetzer. “We can seek to insert grace into these difficult moments.” The missiologist and president of LifeWay Research (and native New Yorker) reflected on his blog in the wake of the murders of two New York City police officers.

If the United States’ unchurched population was its own country, it would be the eighth most populous nation in the world, Barna reports in these “10 Facts About America’s Churchless.”

A positive note to end on: Seven NFL players participated in a holiday Bible giveaway, reports The Christian Post. “God placed us here for a reason. Use the time you have on this platform to spread His Word,” Tampa Bay Buccaneer Alterraun Verner told CP.


O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the works Thy hands have made in 2014…

365 days marked by evening and morning, 365 sunsets and sunrises, as 143,341,000 people were born onto this planet and 56,759,000 departed, all receiving 1,640 minutes each day and blessings beyond number, I say

Thank you, Lord, for saving my soul; thank you, Lord, for making me one of the billions you have saved by grace through faith. I was sinking deep in sin, far from your holy standard, and yet you made a Way for me—for us—to be rescued.

And His Name is Jesus.

Dear Lord and Father of mankind, forgive our foolish use of time and grant that we may more wisely employ our moments and our days to share your peace with a world that has suffered its absence this year: the death-march of ISIS and the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, the kidnapped girls and the lost boys; the fear in Ferguson, and the failure of our social contract. We are grateful for God’s peace in our hearts, even as we realize the fragility of peace in our streets.

Sixty years after D-Day, bless the Greatest Generation who secured our freedom, and guard the young soldiers whose service today has redefined sacrifice.

calendar 2014.In this, the year of Ebola, we pray: Eternal Father, strong to save, whose arm hath bound the deadly wave with wonder drugs and rescue teams, hazmat suits and quarantines. For healthcare, though at times it’s costly, sparing lives that once would lost be; for ribbons pink and yellow wristbands and friends who live strong when faced with cancer. (And their hats.)

O God, our help in ages past, our hope for the year to come, we’re grateful for a stronger economy, steadier jobs, and the roof overhead. Our kids are warm and safely tucked in; thank you for the joy of children (those here now and those a’comin’).

For our Baptist family on bended knee lifting lost ones up to Thee; for our dear church, where would we be without your Body on earth that meets just down the street and comes over for small group?

For faithful friends and faithful givers, co-laborers in Christ who become brothers and sisters, the cloud of witnesses in heavenly places who cheer us on as we run our races.

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed is all you made and we marvel still at your inscrutable creation…yet little things cheer our hearts and make us sing “Happy” songs. I love breakfast (oh it’s so good!), foods I eat and foods I should. Coffee hot and iced tea sweet, mittened-hands and sock-warmed feet; feeling glad when winter comes and gladder still when winter goes.

Clinging to the hope of spring, there are 10,000 reasons for my heart to sing…Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul…because whatever comes in 2015,
“I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist and IBSA’s associate executive director for the church communications team. This column was written in the style of the late Joan Beck, Chicago Tribune columnist, whose annual “thanks” essays inspired readers for 30 years.

Nate_Adams_blog_calloutCOMMENTARY | Nate Adams

The Christmas and New Year holidays have passed, again. The decorations are mostly put away. The gifts have been placed into use, or into storage, or quietly returned. The various stresses of the season now finally seem to be subsiding, only to be replaced with something new – the stresses of returning to our regular routines.

One of the Christmas messages I heard last month focused on the shepherds. Before telling the story of how the angels came to announce Jesus’ birth, and how the shepherds left immediately for Bethlehem, the pastor went into some detail on how miserable the life of a shepherd was during that day. Their work was hard, and long, and dirty. They were poor. They had no status in society, no education, no real prospects. They were not only physically unclean, they were also considered spiritually unclean, at least by religious people. They had little hope.

As the pastor spoke, I began to think about how hard and thankless and frustrating work can be, and the drudgery of life’s routines. None of us have it as rough as first century shepherds. But I started thinking about the stacks of papers I had brought home from the office, and had not yet touched. I thought about my job’s most challenging problems, projects, and people, all of which would be waiting for me after the holidays.

Yes, leaving my own field of work for a break had actually sounded pretty good to me just prior to Christmas. The question was, where would I find my enthusiasm for returning to that field? Where do any of us find new hope and purpose for our work at the start of a new year, or a new week, or a new day?

We find it the same place the shepherds did. We find it in the presence of our King.  We intentionally pull away from our work, both its importance and fulfillment, and also its occasional drudgery and hopelessness. And we worship. We run to Jesus, and we realize again that He is our hope, that He is our strength, that He is our reason for living and that He gives purpose to our work.

Whatever our life’s work may be, if we do it merely for a paycheck, or for status or success, or to try and give our lives meaning, we will constantly feel like hopeless shepherds. But look at how these shepherds returned to their fields after worshiping the Christ child! They were enthusiastic, they had hope, and they were eager to tell everyone about the Immanuel who had come and made all the difference in their lives.

Especially if you are a pastor or busy church leader, you may have allowed the holidays to come and go this year without pulling away for some genuine, personal, renewing worship time. If so, let me urge you to do that before returning to your ministry field’s routines for 2014. Gaze at Christ as if for the first time, and remind yourself what your life, and His, and your work, and His, are really all about.

In fact, throughout the year, let’s let the shepherds remind us that we can always return to the fields of our work and our ministries different, with renewed strength and purpose, after experiencing true, heartfelt worship. It’s true once in a lifetime, when we meet Christ. It’s true once a year, when we pull away for the holidays and then start a new year. It’s true every week, when we remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. It can even be true every day that we go to work, if we return to that same old field with a fresh view of the King.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.

Tuesday_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

“The reason I am here is because I don’t want to have to rescue you.” 

Tajuan McCarty stood in front of more than 100 teenage girls and their leaders in November, pulling no punches as she told her story. Speaking in short, unflinching sentences, she explained how she was pushed into prostitution at age 15, and trafficked into every state except Hawaii and Alaska over the next 11 years.

“I am a survivor of trafficking.”

McCarty is founder and director of The Wellhouse, a ministry that rescues women trapped in the same kind of life that once enslaved her. Headquartered in Birmingham, The Wellhouse is in a prime location to fight trafficking along I-20, known as the sex trafficking superhighway. She also helps raise awareness about the global problem that is deeply entrenched in the United States.

McCarty has been a Christian for four years, so her message begins with this: All women are beautiful, because they’re made in God’s image.

“If you walk away from here thinking prostitution is a choice and/or she’s doing it because she’s on drugs, I have not done my job,” McCarty told a captivated audience at AWSOM, an annual missions event for young women in Illinois. Drugs are only a symptom of the problem, she added.

“At The Wellhouse, what we try to do is reach the core of the problem. And yes, we introduce them to Jesus because that is the only way to heal people.”

Read more in the new Illinois Baptist, online at

Other news:

New missions housing opens in Chicagoland
The new home of the Chicago Metro Baptist Association also has room for volunteers serving in the city. The Rockwell Street building’s 9,000 square feet on three floors have been remodeled into several large spaces for mission teams to stay, plus a chapel/meeting space, and in the basement a large dining hall and full commercial kitchen. And nine showers. At $15 per mission tripper per night, “it’s a clean, affordable, functional place,” said Jay Noh, “and I am prayerfully optimistic that many more churches will be able to bring groups to minister in the city.” Read more here, and check out page 6 of the newest Illinois Baptist for information about another mission housing opportunity in the Chicago suburb of Plainfield.

Rainer blogs 14 trends for 2014
LifeWay President Thom Rainer’s predictions for 2014 include more megachurches, downsized denominations, smaller worship centers and a stronger focus on small groups. Read more of his 14 predictions for churches at (Note: Predictions are split into two posts.)

Creation Museum president vs. Science Guy in evolution debate
The president of a museum dedicated to creationism will soon debate Bill “the Science Guy” Nye on evolution. Ken Ham, president of the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., and Nye will engage in a sold-out public debate at the museum on Feb. 4. “It is an important debate to have as we deal with the question, ‘Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?'” Ham posted on his blog.

Nye, host of TV’s “Bill Nye the Science Guy” in the mid-1990s, made headlines last year with a YouTube video calling creationism inappropriate for kids. A recent study by Pew Research found 60% of Americans believe in evolution. Read more about the survey here, and go to for more about the debate, which also will be live streamed.

Most popular Scripture passages of 2013
According to analysis shared on, Philippians 4:13 was the most popular verse on the YouVersion Bible app last year, followed by Isaiah 40:31, Matthew 6:13, Joshua 1:9, and Philippians 4:6. Read YouVersion’s top 10 shared verses of 2013 at

200255412-001HEARTLAND | Meredith Flynn

I got stuck in a shopping center right before Christmas. My ride wasn’t coming for another hour, and I had already been in every store. I pulled out my phone, hit the round button and…nothing. Dead battery.

Without anything else to do, and almost an hour of free time stretching out in front of me, I decided to think.

For 45 whole minutes. (It took me 15 minutes to decide to think in the first place.)

It was an idea that had been percolating for a few weeks. In my work, and probably every other job, good ideas are essential. Creativity is key. And I had been out of both for a while. Maybe if I think – just think – for a few minutes, I’ll have some good ideas, I thought.

So I did. And as I thought – in my case, going through the next issue of our newspaper page by page – thinking quickly turned into praying:

What feature story should go on page 11?

Which columnists should we use on page 5?

What headline will catch people’s attention on page 1?

When my husband pulled into the parking lot, I didn’t have any big answers. But I did have some ideas. And I felt calmer after having turned over some of my concerns to God, who understands the value of creativity.

That’s why one of my New Year’s resolutions is to think. For at least half an hour every day. I admit, I’ve already failed; it will be a difficult discipline for me. But its value extends to areas outside of work too. If I thought a little more – about how I could give more generously, speak more lovingly, or live more joyously – I’m sure God will be faithful to show me how.

I know what you’re thinking – this is less about thinking than it is about praying. It’s basically a resolution to pray more, which lots of Christians probably make every year. All true. But I find that resolving to pray more often ends up in me staring at the ceiling, thinking about all I need to do.

I’m a list maker. Maybe you are too. As the lists get longer of everything I need to do, I can get too busy to think or pray about what I’m doing. But what if I resolved to take seriously the charge in Philippians 4:6? “…Through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”

So, I’ll think in 2014. My prayer life depends on it.

Be it (still) resolved

Meredith Flynn —  January 1, 2014

Scott_Kelly_blogCOMMENTARY | Scott Kelly

At this time of year, it’s likely that someone may ask us this question: “Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?” And when asked, we usually answer: “Lose weight,” or “Read the Bible more,” or something like that. Our culture’s common thinking on resolutions tends to be individualized thinking about our own personal goals. That’s normal, right?

Not if you’re an Illinois Baptist. Our family of churches makes resolutions together. We make these resolutions not as individuals, but as a gathering of Christians from hundreds of Illinois Baptist churches. And we make these large-group resolutions at a strange time, in early-to-middle November, not on January 1. These resolutions are part of our Annual Meeting every year.

My dear Illinois Baptist family, now that the New Year has come, I must gently ask: Do we even remember our resolutions from our annual meeting this past November? The messengers from our churches enthusiastically approved resolutions about marriage, religious freedom, human trafficking, and state-sponsored gambling. As we gather in our churches for our first prayer meetings of 2014, let’s remember our resolutions and keep praying about these things that we were so resolved about on those days in November.

I left our annual meeting very encouraged by what God is doing through our Great Commission work in Illinois. As I boarded the last Amtrak train out of Springfield a few hours after our last meeting session had ended, I was still affected by the last-minute resolution that one of our brothers proposed regarding repentance and evangelism.

The wording of the resolution was both convicting and inspiring – and repentant. We resolved we should “repent of our unfaithfulness to God and beg for His mercy, grace and forgiveness because at times we have all failed to faithfully and regularly share the Gospel.”

Furthermore, we said, “All members of Illinois Baptist State Association churches are encouraged to regularly pray for God to give His people the ability to speak HIS message with boldness and clarity by the power of the Holy Spirit, and regularly pray for all to receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.”

Illinois Baptists, let’s keep repenting and sharing the Gospel in 2014, so that we may truly grow as churches together advancing the Gospel.

And may God receive all the glory!

Scott Kelly is pastor at Evanston Baptist Church and director of the Baptist Collegiate Ministry at Northwestern University.

calendar_blog copyThe web is bursting today with lists that highlight the year’s biggest stories, like this one compiled by the Religion Newswriters Association. The group chose the selection of Pope Francis as the top religion news story of 2013, followed by Pope Benedict’s resignation as #2.

Also on the list: The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (#3), the death of Nelson Mandela (#6), and controversial action taken by the Boy Scouts of America (#9). Rounding out the top 10: Muslims and other people of faith react to the Boston Marathon bombings.

And check out these lists:


  • The staff of the Illinois Baptist has published our list of the year’s biggest stories, led by the debate over same-sex marriage in Illinois. For the full list, go to, click on Archives and search for December 16.
  • The Christian Post introduced its list of most-read stories with a sad disclaimer: “A year of heartbreaking personal tragedies suffered by Christian leaders appeared all too often as the main news at The Christian Post and the Church & Ministry section in 2013.” The website’s most read story was about the suicide of Matthew Warren, son of Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren.



What are your favorite year-end lists so far? What stories and trends would you add to these?