Archives For Prayer

The real first Thanksgiving

ib2newseditor —  November 22, 2017
The_First_Thanksgiving_Jean_Louis_Gerome_Ferris

The First Thanksgiving Jean Louis Gerome Ferris (Public domain)

Images from the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving Day feast are easy to call to mind—black hats, wide white collars, Native American guests, and an idyllic feast bringing together two very different cultures. But historian Robert Tracy McKenzie—along with others in his field—say that many of those images are, to put it simply, not true.

The Pilgrims often wore bright colors, for example. And while the 1621 feast did include Native Americans, the dynamic between the two groups was likely tense.

McKenzie, chair of the history department at Wheaton College, explores the Pilgrims’ journey from England to Holland to America in his 2013 book “The First Thanksgiving: What the Real Story Tells Us About Loving God and Learning from History.”

The Pilgrims, he writes, wouldn’t have been given to celebrating very many holy days. This set them apart from the Catholic and Anglican Churches. Aside from a weekly Sabbath, the Pilgrims had two distinct reasons to call for a holy day: a day of humiliation and fasting, and a day of thanksgiving.

Both happened in 1623, as new settlers arrived while the existing colonists were already struggling to survive. Food was scarce, and now there were more mouths to feed. And on top of all that, McKenzie writes, they faced a two-month drought that summer.

The Pilgrims called a day of humiliation “to seek the Lord by humble and fervent prayer.” They prayed for eight or nine hours, McKenzie writes, during which the sky became overcast. Then, it rained for the next 14 days.

And then the Pilgrims saw reason for another holy day—a day of thanksgiving. McKenzie writes this particular day was very different from what we traditionally think of as the first Thanksgiving, which historians generally consider to have been a kind of harvest festival. The real first Thanksgiving, he says, was “called to acknowledge a very specific, extraordinary blessing from the Lord.”

The current vestiges of Thanksgiving Day celebrations are very different than what the Pilgrims embraced, McKenzie says. “In their view, an annual Thanksgiving taught human conceit and divine predictability and could easily degenerate into a meaningless ritual that reduced God’s provision for human news to his creation of the crop cycle.

“By observing Thanksgiving irregularly, on the other hand…the Pilgrims reminded one another to look with expectancy for God’s ongoing, direct intervention in every aspect of their lives.”

– The First Thanksgiving (IVP Academic, 2013)

The Briefing

Happy Reformation Day! As Christians around the world celebrate the movement’s 500th birthday, go to IllinoisBaptist.org for our coverage of the anniversary, including:

  • Baptists’ roots in the Reformation,
  • the continuing theological debate, and
  • a list of the ‘new Reformers.’

Pence promises help for persecuted Christians
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said in October that the federal government will shift funds away from United Nations programs and toward faith-based and private organizations to better aid persecuted Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East.

“We will no longer rely on the United Nations alone to assist persecuted Christians and minorities in the wake of genocide and the atrocities of terrorist groups,” Pence said at the annual summit for the group In Defense of Christians. Critics of the U.N. projects have said they have not been effective in helping Christians in the region who have been displaced due to war and the rise of ISIS.

Ahead of rallies, Baptists denounce racism
Counter-protestors far outnumbered white supremacists at two “White Lives Matter” rallies in Tennessee on Oct. 28. Prior to the protests, Southern Baptists in Tennessee joined other faith groups to take a public stand against racism and the white supremacy movement.

Church removes historical markers
A church in Alexandria, Va., is removing plaques that mark where President George Washington and Confederate General Robert E. Lee sat when they attended services there. “For some, Lee symbolizes the attempt to overthrow the Union and to preserve slavery,” reads a letter from the Christ Church board. “Today our country is trying once again to come to grips with the history of slavery and the subsequent disenfranchisement of people of color.”

The church initially considered taking out only Lee’s plaque, but later added Washington because he owned slaves, reports The Christian Post.

House of prayer
A federal judge reaffirmed the constitutionality of legislative prayer with her Oct. 11 ruling against an atheist who filed suit against the U.S. House of Representatives and its chaplain when he wasn’t allowed to deliver a secular invocation.

Major league visibility
With the Houston Astros still in the hunt for a World Series Championship, the city’s First Baptist Church is gaining notice for its prominent sign in right field.

Illinois Baptist, Christianity Today, The Tennessean, Baptist Press, The Christian Post

Somebody’s prayin’

ib2newseditor —  October 2, 2017

Pray button

After my dad’s mother died, I remember him saying that he physically felt the absence of her prayers. Dad had, in some ways, a challenging personality for pastoring. He was introverted, in many ways non-assertive, a quiet thinker and reader who scripted his sermons by hand so that he could deliver them effectively.

So, if you only knew my dad personally, you may have been surprised when you first saw him step into the pulpit, or witnessed him in some other pastoral role. He was wise, articulate, bold, insightful, truly helpful. As a pastor, he was supernaturally equipped for the role to which God had called him, in a way that eclipsed his natural limitations. And I believe this was supernaturally sustained by the devoted prayers of people who supported him over the years, his mother and my mother chief among them.

Our pastors need our sincere and earnest prayer. They need us to intercede spiritually for them, every bit as much as they need us to support them in leading the ministries of our church. Not all pastors face the same challenges that my dad did, but all of them face their own unique struggles and obstacles. If it is primarily those closest to them that sustain them in prayer, just think what could happen with an entire church earnestly praying.

Pastors need our sincere and earnest intercession.

October is Pastor Appreciation Month. If this is not already your practice, let me encourage you to take the month of October to pray for your pastor, and perhaps other pastors you know, daily. At the IBSA.org website, there will be a daily prayer guide to assist you in that discipline.

You will not be alone. Throughout October, our IBSA staff will be praying for every IBSA church pastor, by name. We are also asking for specific prayer requests by e-mail, and personally calling more than 300 pastors for whom we don’t have a current e-mail address, to ask them how we can pray.

I hope many pastors will share specific prayer needs, perhaps some that are difficult to share with church members, and will allow us to pray for them personally in this way. For those from whom we don’t receive specific requests, we will simply use the prayer guide to pray for each pastor.

Many churches give gifts and other expressions of love to their pastors during October. Prayer, especially consistent, daily prayer, is one of the greatest appreciation gifts you can give. When something “appreciates,” it increases in value. And I believe that the sincere, consistent prayers of a congregation will “increase the value” of a pastor more than anything else. And by the way, that’s true even when you may personally struggle with your pastor!

In a recent IBSA chapel, we were talking about praying for pastors. Our state worship director, Steve Hamrick, shared about his dad, also a pastor, who prayed for him daily throughout his ministry. When his dad passed away a few years ago, his father-in-law noted at the funeral how special that prayer relationship was, and committed to him to take up the privilege of praying for Steve from that day forward.

During that same chapel, Steve led us in singing the old Ricky Skaggs song, “Somebody’s Prayin’.” The first two lines of that song are simply, “Somebody’s prayin’, I can feel it. Somebody’s prayin’ for me.”

IBSA pastors, I will be one of those somebodies praying for you throughout the month of October, along with every member of our staff. I hope you “feel” it in the same way that my dad did from his mom. And I hope you will feel it from many faithful church members as well.

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

The Briefing

Trump meets with SBC’s Ezell, other relief leaders
President Donald Trump met with leaders of the three largest disaster relief organizations in the United States at the White House Sept. 1 to discuss relief efforts in south Texas in the wake of historic flooding and other damage left by Hurricane Harvey. Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), represented Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) at the 25-minute private meeting in the Oval Office with the president and First Lady Melania Trump.

Nashville Statement signers stand for marriage
Signers of the Nashville Statement, a declaration affirming Biblical teaching on human sexuality, defended their position from other Christian and secular opponents this week. The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) released the statement online Aug.29. The initial 150 evangelical leaders who signed it asserted the church needed clarity amid widespread confusion about a Biblical understanding of sex, sexuality, and morality.

Ministry sues over ‘hate group’ label
One Christian ministry has apparently had enough of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s disparaging “hate group” characterization. D. James Kennedy Ministries filed a lawsuit in an Alabama federal court alleging the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) “trafficked in false and misleading descriptions” of the ministry and that other entities also named in the suit perpetuated the libel.

H.S. coach loses prayer case
A federal court has ruled that a Washington state high school football coach violated the U.S. Constitution by taking a knee at the 50-yard line and praying after games. Joe Kennedy lost his job as an assistant football coach at Bremerton High School in 2015 after the school district suspended him for his post-game prayers. Kennedy sued and accused the school of violating his free speech. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the district’s suspension was justified.

Most churched (& unchurched) cities in America
For six of the last seven years, the American Bible Society has named Chattanooga, Tenn., the nation’s most Bible-minded city. This year, it was the only American city where at least half the population was classified as Bible-minded. Almost 6 in 10 residents (59%) are regular churchgoers. Overall, almost 4 in 10 Americans (38%) are active churchgoers who have attended a service in the past seven days.

Sources: Baptist Press, World Magazine, Baptist Press, Fox News, Facts & Trends

The Mission Illinois Offering and Week of Prayer is September 10-17, but there are plenty of opportunities for prayer ahead of that week. In fact, all of September is a good time to focus on God’s work through Baptists in Illinois.

Devote time to prayer every Sunday or Wednesday in September. Share mission facts and videos on the mission stories. Our main focus is evangelism and church planting in Illinois. Review the statistics about lostness in Illinois. These are not just numbers, they are people.

Pray for salvation. Check Wikipedia for the population of your county or town. According to the experts, more than two-thirds (say 65%) of those people do not know Jesus Christ. Do the math. Pray for their salvation. While you’re at it, make a list of people you know who need Jesus.

Pray for the missionaries by name. Use the daily devotions as brief prayer prompts in worship services and in personal prayer. They are in the MIO Prayer Guide/bulletin insert, online, and printed in the special Illinois Baptist wrapper on the outside of the Aug. 14 issue.

Schedule a special prayer meeting for state missions. Some churches use the Wednesday during the Week of Prayer, others use Sunday morning or Sunday night. Or pick another time, day or night.

Spread the responsibility. Ask Sunday school teachers and small group leaders to focus prayer on state missions during September. Ask the missions team or WMU or men’s group to pray for state missions in their September meeting.

Focus on Romans 10:14.
“How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher?” (CSB)

Pray each section of the verse:
• For the Holy Spirit to open hearts to believe;
• for the gospel to be shared; for the church planters;
• for gospel witnesses to respond to the call to
missions and evangelism, especially in Illinois.

We could plant so many more new churches and reach so many more lost people in Illinois if there were more future leaders in the pipeline.

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering at MissionIllinois.org.

Eclipse through glasses

As eclipse-watchers turned their eyes to the skies Monday, Aug. 21, much of the attention in Illinois was focused on the southern part of the state, where several communities laid in the eclipse’s “path of totality.” In Carbondale, just north of the point of longest duration for the total eclipse, churches worked together to share the gospel with thousands of people who traveled to the region for the event.

“As we see this amazing event today that God has made, let’s point people to see the Son who paid for our sin so that we can have eternal life!” Pastor Scott Foshie posted on Facebook. Foshie, pastor of Steeleville Baptist Church and an IBSA zone consultant in southern Illinois, helped facilitate an area-wide evangelistic effort to hand out 50,000 eclipse-themed gospel tracts.

The churches of Nine Mile Baptist Association, working in partnership with IBSA, had the tracts printed and mobilized volunteers to get them into the hands of eclipse-viewers in a multi-day outreach effort. The tract was designed to serve as a souvenir of the eclipse experience. “This is going to be the easiest thing you’ve ever passed out in your life,” Lakeland Baptist Church Pastor Phil Nelson said in a video promoting the outreach.

“They’re coming to see this eclipse, but God wants them to meet his son Jesus…I can’t think of an easier way to tell somebody about Jesus,” Foshie said. “All you’ve got to do is smile, walk up to them, and say, ‘Would you like to have this souvenir? God bless you.’ I mean, it’s that simple, and then we’ve planted a gospel seed.”

In addition to the tracts, pray-ers were stationed at four points in Carbondale—Lakeland, Murdale Baptist Church, FBC Elkville, and the Baptist Student Center at Southern Illinois University. The volunteers, standing next to six-foot crosses, prayed for cars as they entered the city. It was estimated around 90,000 people would be in Carbondale for the eclipse.

Many churches in the region partnered together for the outreach, Foshie said. “It was encouraging to see so many jump in and respond to our call to partner with us to share the gospel. This kind of partnership to reach the lost is what led Southern Baptists to join together in cooperation, and it is what keeps our ties strong.”

Foshie had heard of a young woman in Goreville who gave her life to Christ after receiving the tract, and reported volunteers had also handed them out to crowds that gathered in Carbondale, Pinckneyville, Chester, Ellis Grove, Steeleville, and other places in southern Illinois.

“It has been so encouraging to see so many churches and pastors pull together to plant gospel seeds in this way. I think God has used this ministry to bring us closer together. No doubt, he will continue to use this increased cooperation and closeness to reach the lost for Christ in more ways in the future.”

-Meredith Flynn

Rites of Summer: Camps

ib2newseditor —  August 7, 2017
SWU creative movement

Summer Worship University at Hannibal-LaGrange University

A week away from home can start the journey of a lifetime

Summer camps bring to mind the outdoors, hayrides, bonfires, and new friends. But a honeymoon? For one couple serving on staff at Summer Worship University (SWU), that’s exactly what it is.

Gabe and Jenna Herbst were married June 24 and spent the first part of their honeymoon at Disneyworld and Gatlinburg. Then it was on to part 2. “We picked our wedding date around camp,” Jenna said. SWU week was July 11-15 followed by the All State Youth Choir tour.

Gabe grew up attending IBSA’s music camps for children and youth. Then he served three years as an intern before joining the SWU staff this year. He met Jenna while serving as an intern. “Gabe’s parents snuck me up here to see him and what he did,” Jenna said. “We would talk on the phone and I would hear the impact of the testimonies. It ignited a passion in me, I wanted to go.”

For his part, Gabe said the friendships he developed at camp led to relationships that have made an “impact by modeling how Christian men should live their lives.” Gabe served as youth director at First Baptist Church in Pinckneyville, but the couple has moved to the Carterville area where he is now employed as a junior high school teacher.

Breaking out
Rich Barnett is pastor of University Baptist Church in Macomb, but during SWU and All State Tour he’s also the sound tech. Those who know him know he’s not shy, but Barnett says that wasn’t always the case.

“Music camp broke me out of my shell,” he said. “My first Sunday back I sang a special a church.” It came as a surprise to his parents who didn’t know he could sing. The camp director that year was the late Carl Shephard, IBSA director of music. “He was the first church leader that really paid attention to me,” said Barnett. “He really made a big impact on me.

That same year Barnett made a commitment to ministry. “After high school I ran from God, but he dragged me back,” shared Barnett.

While in seminary he called then IBSA Director of Music Allen Mashbern to let him know that as a former All-Stater, he was going into ministry. “Allen said, ‘I still need a camp pastor.’” Barnett has served on camp staff ever since.

Pray for play
Michael Warren will be a high school senior in the fall. He is the grandson of retired pastor Tom Eggley and his wife, Esther. Michael attended music camp in sixth grade and hated every minute of it.

The children’s camp was cancelled that year, so a handful of sixth graders moved up to join the older students. “I was very scared,” he said. “I was not as outgoing then and always quiet.”

His assigned group formed a prayer circle and each person took a turn praying out loud. When his turn came, “I was silent. I’d never prayed out loud. Jonathan Hayashi (the leader) was outstanding, he prayed in my place.”

He was back at SWU two years later, becoming a member of the touring All State Choir the following year. “What really helped me was that I took classes that made me uncomfortable, like ‘Breaking Barriers’ about sharing your faith. I also got to know the seniors and developed camaraderie.”

Michael shared how he learned about the power of prayer while on tour. “We were in Arkansas doing a show for Alcoholics Anonymous members. One of our leaders said we really need to pray for this to be one of our best performances. And, it was!”

– Lisa Misner Sergent