Archives For perseverance

IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams (left) interviews former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran at the Southern Baptist Convention in Columbus.

IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams (left) interviews former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran at the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention.

Columbus, Ohio | Lisa Sergent

I’ve been reflecting on the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention, now that it and Columbus, Ohio, are in my rearview mirror.

The city and the Convention were a study in contrasts. While we were there, the city was issuing proclamations welcoming the LGBT community and celebrating the upcoming Gay Pride Week. The Convention featured panel discussions, sermons and press conferences emphasizing biblical marriage.

An article in the Columbus Dispatch newspaper celebrated that Jim Obergefell, the Cincinnati man at the center of the Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges, was in Columbus to lead the gay pride parade the Saturday following the convention. Meanwhile, discussions at the Convention expressed concern that the case, which could cause the legalization of same-sex marriage in all 50 states, will lead to further encroachment on religious freedoms in the U.S.

That concern is very real.

Former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran spoke at the SBC Pastors’ Conference held just prior to the Convention. Cochran was fired from his position for stating on one page of his 160-page book, “Who Told You That You Were Naked?” that homosexuality is sinful.

Barronelle Stutzman, the Washington state florist who was sued for not providing flowers for a same-sex wedding, made an appearance during the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s report. She lost her case and is in danger of losing her home and business. After ERLC President Russell Moore shared her story, she came to the stage for prayer.

As International Mission Board President David Platt noted at the Pastors’ Conference, “There is no question we live in a culture increasingly hostile to Christ. We cannot pick and choose what issues we will preach and which issues we will ignore.”

In his report, Moore said, “For most of this last century Southern Baptists have been comfortable in the culture in their soft cocoon…Some said that the Southern Baptist Zion was below the Mason-Dixon Line. Those days are gone and not a moment too soon; those days are over thankfully.”

Much of the time devoted to discussing issues affecting our SBC churches was made possible by a new Convention schedule and format. Much of the business took place on Tuesday afternoon, which allowed time for the Wednesday afternoon panel discussion on the Supreme Court and same-sex marriage.

One of my favorite parts of the Convention has always been the SBC Pastors’ Conference which precedes it. But this year, with SBC President Ronnie Floyd and others following God’s leading, the Convention itself was a must see and hear. The best was yet to come.

I think the same is true for the Southern Baptists and evangelicals. While I do believe our freedom of speech and right to freely practice our religion are going be infringed upon to an even greater extent, I do know God will honor those who stand firm and follow His Word. For this we shall grow closer to Him and find strength. And that is truly the best to come.

Lisa Sergent is contributing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper and director of communications for the Illinois Baptist State Association.

Courtney_Veasey_blog_calloutCOMMENTARY | Courtney Veasey

The Gulf Coast of the United States is a geographical magnet for tropical storms. Yet in August of 2005, the people of New Orleans were taken by surprise when Hurricane Katrina came inland and ravaged their city. People incurred innumerable losses, but most weren’t the result of the hurricane itself. Instead, much of the damage resulted from a lack of preparation before the storm came.

Levees were not up to code, little to no systematic evacuation plans were in place, and food supplies had been used more for celebrating a storm’s coming, rather than surviving its wrath.

Aware of the reality of hurricanes, yet grossly underestimating their true potential, the people of New Orleans were caught off guard and found themselves drowning in the waters of their own unpreparedness.

I moved to New Orleans to go to seminary just three weeks before Katrina’s arrival. My earthly belongings were lost in the flood and I found myself unable to return to school in the city for nearly a year. Ten years later, I’m still proud to call New Orleans my place of residence, but the unnecessary losses experienced during Katrina have caused me and others to do life there a bit differently than before.

Leaders have developed city-wide evacuation plans. We keep “hurricane kits” in our homes and cars, with bottled water and non-perishable food. It’s sad but true: It took experiencing such tremendous disaster to awaken this sense of urgency and preparedness in us.

How does this example of real-life crisis relate to how we should live as Christians? Consider for a moment the subject of persecution. Christianity in its many forms, the largest and most widely practiced faith in the world, is met with limitations and hostility in at least 111 countries, ahead of the 90 countries discriminating or harassing the second largest faith, Islam.

We commonly hear of the torture and killing of Christians in places like North Korea, Syria, and other middle- to far-eastern countries. Here in America, the seemingly distant reality of such experiences has contributed to a lack of urgency towards preparing to face the same here.

But Jesus, in both the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:11-12) and in his words to the disciples just before his death (John 15:18-27), predicted an infallible forecast of persecution as the future reality for his followers. The word for “persecution” in the Greek is dioko, meaning “to chase down,” or “pursue.” This act can take shape in many forms, but regardless of how it comes, the real question is, will you be ready when it does?

What if we as Christians, while trusting in God’s providence and sovereignty, prepared for the inevitable crises of life, and also for persecution? What tools would we need in our spiritual hurricane kit? Let me suggest three:

1. Memorize Scripture. Put to memory passages that are both encouraging and that clearly communicate the gospel. Places to start are Psalm 27:1-3, Ephesians 6:10-20, and Romans 5:6-11.

2. Have a persecution song. Choose and memorize a go-to song that you can start singing the moment trouble begins, one that will encourage you to remain faithful. Songs to consider are “No Turning Back,” and “Blessed Assurance.”

3. Practice praise in pain. When you experience pain, whether it comes by way of getting shots, stumping a toe, physical illness, etc., practice going immediately to the throne of God in praise. You may get some funny looks, but this will serve as great conditioning for those times when it really counts.

Prepare for crisis; as a human being, you’re bound to experience it. Prepare for persecution; it’s promised for believers. And do so not only that you may stand, but also that others, even the persecutors themselves, may come to know Christ through your witness.

Courtney Veasey is a Ph.D. student and director of women’s academic programs at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

FRIENDLY INVASION – “Invade your city strategically,” advises Ronnie Floyd. The Arkansas pastor and SBC leader urged Illinois pastors to identify local people groups and customize ministry to share the Gospel with them.

“Invade your city strategically,” advises Ronnie Floyd. He urged Illinois pastors to identify local people groups and customize ministry to share the Gospel with them.

COMMENTARY | Eric Reed

Many pastors and church leaders may wonder if they could be more effective in a different community or congregation. But Ronnie Floyd, who has served his Arkansas church for more than 25 years, warned against longing for a better location.

“Some of you wonder if He forgot your e-mail address and your cell number, but He’s got you fixed where you are,” said Floyd, who spoke to Illinois leaders during the IBSA Pastors’ Conference November 13.

He told a story about his community of Springdale, Arkansas, which is home to up to 8,000 people from the Marshall Islands. It’s a long way from Arkansas to the tiny collection of atolls in the North Pacific Ocean. In fact, fly out of Little Rock to Honolulu, and you’re still only about halfway there.

These thousands of Marshallese have journeyed to the middle of America in search of jobs, mostly in the poultry industry. They found jobs. But more important, they found the Gospel.

“They thought they were coming for chicken,” Floyd said of the Marshallese immigrants, “but they were groping for Jesus.” Today, Floyd’s congregation hosts the first Southern Baptist congregation for Marshallese in North America.

God’s placement of people – whether it’s a pastor or someone who needs to hear the Gospel – is providential and purposeful.

“God had brought everyone of those people to town for a purpose, that they might seek and go after God,” Floyd said. “His sovereign plan has brought lost people to your town, too, so you can see them as he sees them and can strategize and reach them.”

If you [lose heart], be a basketball, not a football.

A football is built to be unpredictable. Not a basketball. It can bounce. It is predictable.

Don’t stay down long. Bounce.

Phill Hunter, pastor of West County Community Church, Glencoe, Mo.

Heard at the IBSA Pastors’ Conference