Archives For preaching

The_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

A new Barna study explores what kinds of worship spaces are most attractive to Millennials, and what words describe their ideal church. Not surprisingly, not every answer matches up: 77% chose “sanctuary” compared to 23% who answered “auditorium.” And 67% of Millennials chose “classic” over “trendy” to describe their idea church. But modern and casual also won out over traditional and dignified.

Barna points out this “cognitive dissonance” evident in the survey: “Many of them aspire to a more traditional church experience, in a beautiful building steeped in history and religious symbolism, but they are more at ease in a modern space that feels more familiar than mysterious.”

After the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals became the first such court to uphold states’ rights to ban same-sex marriage, Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore said it’s now up to the Supreme Court to take up the issue, The Christian Post reported.

From “The Pakistani state has to act proactively to protect its minorities from violence and injustice,” Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said after a Christian couple was beaten and burned to death one week ago. A mob attacked Shahzad Masih and Shama Bibi, who was five months pregnant, over accusations that Bibi had burned the Qur’an.

Christian Kenneth Bae returned to the U.S. over the weekend after two years of imprisonment in North Korea, CNN reported. “Kenneth has been in God’s care all this time, and we are thankful that he brought him home,” Bae’s sister, Terri Chung, told reporters. “He only has the best wishes and intentions for that country, still.”

The organizers of International Day of the Bible are calling for people around the world to read Scripture out loud at noon on November 24.

Baptist Press reports Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary has finalized the purchase of its new, larger campus in Southern California and is on schedule to relocate its main campus from the Bay Area by June of 2016. The seminary will request a name change—to Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention—during the 2015 SBC Annual Meeting in Columbus, Ohio.

International Mission Board President David Platt launched his new podcast series, Radical Together, on Nov. 3. “Every 2 weeks, 30 minutes of Word to exhort you to pray, give, & go however God leads in the world,” he tweeted.

Things are looking up for church giving, according to survey by LifeWay Research. More than half of the Protestant churches surveyed reported still feeling the negative impact of the economy, but two-thirds are meeting or exceeding their budgets for 2014. And 74% report offerings at or above 2013 levels.

God wants his people to trust in him and arise, said Pastor Marvin Parker, referencing the theme of the 2014 IBSA Pastor's Conference. "Get up, get out, get going."

God wants his people to trust in him and arise, said Pastor Marvin Parker, referencing the theme of the 2014 IBSA Pastor’s Conference. “Get up, get out, get going.”

Kevin Smith (left) and Jill Finley (right) joined local ministry specialists including IBSA's Sylvan Knobloch (center) for the Elevate Marriage conference Oct. 16 in Springfield.

Kevin Smith (left) and Jill Finley (right) joined local ministry specialists including IBSA’s Sylvan Knobloch (center) for the Elevate Marriage conference Oct. 16 in Springfield.

NEWS | Preachers don’t have to make the Word of God relevant, said Kevin Smith, a pastor and professor in Louisville, Ky. “The teaching of Scripture is relevant. But we must teach Scripture.”

In practicing the prophetic role of the pulpit as it relates to biblical marriage and sexuality, pastors need to preach systematically the whole of Scripture, including its teachings on those topics, Smith said during the “Elevate Marriage” conference held Oct. 16 in Springfield, Ill.

Pastors and church leaders gathered at the Illinois Baptist State Association to hear from national and local experts, including Smith, Jill Finley, women’s ministry director from Bethel Baptist Church in Troy, and Andrew Walker of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. IBSA sponsored the one-day conference to help leaders navigate the shifting marriage culture in Illinois and nationwide.

Illinois’ state legislature legalized same-sex marriage last November, and unions officially began in June. The U.S. Supreme Court decided this month to let stand lower-court rulings on marriage. Their action plus a subsequent appeals court decision means a total of 35 states could soon have legal same-sex marriage.

But the wave of support for same-sex marriage isn’t the only cultural shift threatening biblical marriage. It is a symptom of the decline of marriage, Walker told conference attenders in a video message, not the cause. The ERLC’s director of policy studies urged church leaders to be “happy warriors” in defending biblical marriage. “To speak the truth as we’re called to do, is to do so in love,” he said.

Ministry specialists from the Illinois Baptist State Association also were on hand to update churches on constructing their bylaws and membership policies in ways that protect marriage, and preaching on the topic in a way that elevates it. The process, said IBSA’s Mark Emerson, starts at home.

“Before we can elevate marriage in the church, we have to elevate our own marriage. We have to take a look at our own life.” Tim Sadler, IBSA’s director of evangelism, followed Emerson with four tips for preachers preaching on marriage:

1. Preach the truth of God’s word as a sinner/saint,
2. Preach biblical marriage, instead of “traditional” marriage,
3. Root your theology of marriage in creation, and
4. Understand and preach the role of Christian marriage in evangelism.

“Christian marriage done properly is a picture of how Christ loves the church and sacrificially gave himself for her,” Sadler said, referencing the apostle Paul’s words in Ephesians. “So, in our preaching we need to elevate biblical marriage and the living out of biblical marriage before a watching world, because it is only in biblical marriage, marriage done rightly, that the watching world gets a beautiful picture of how Christ loves the church.

“And any time we mar the picture, then we convolute the picture the world has of how Christ loves the church and is in relationship with the church.”

Look for more on on the “Elevate Marriage” conference in the next issue of the Illinois Baptist, and watch for videos of presentations by Kevin Smith and Jill Finley on, IBSA’s online training resource. Go to


In the past couple of weeks, I found myself reaching for the remote every time the news showed that video of NFL football player Ray Rice coldcocking his future wife in a hotel elevator. Seeing him drag her, unconscious, into the hallway and dumping her body on the floor is too much to take. For some of us, domestic violence hits too close to home.

A 2010 survey by the Centers for Disease Control showed 24% of women and 14% of men have been “hit with a fist or something hard, beaten, slammed against something at some point in their lifetime” by a partner. And yet, new LifeWay Research shows 4 out of 10 pastors never preach or teach about it, and only 2 in 10 raise the topic annually.

Country Church InteriorThat means in two-thirds of our churches, attenders might hear domestic violence, which affects one-fourth of households, referenced in a sermon or large group meeting once a year, if at all.

Spousal abuse still isn’t a subject for public conversation—even from the pulpit.

In my years of hearing and reading sermons, I’ve encountered only one on domestic violence. The preacher was a quiet man, unmarried, and he gave no indication what prompted him to tackle the subject. He chose as his text the account of Jephthah’s daughter in Judges 11.

So many more familiar verses would have supported his argument and from a more positive angle: Man, God made womankind to be your perfect complement (Genesis 2:18). Love your wife as Christ loves the Church; love her as you love your own body (Ephesians 5:25, 28). And as simply as this: love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39, Mark 12:31).

But instead the preacher trudged faithfully through the gruesome report of a rash vow that ended, by most interpretations, in the slaughter of an innocent woman. This wasn’t violence of a husband against wife, but the horrific act of father against daughter was just as unthinkable. And the preacher’s willingness to tell the bloody story made domestic violence very real, even within the sanctuary.

The preacher applied Jephthah’s brutality to parents who abuse their children and husbands who beat their wives. He even spoke of domestic partners and live-in relationships where it appeared degradation perversely motivated staying together, even when no law required it and no church encouraged it.

Knowing his congregation, that was a brave move. In his neighborhood there along the streetcar line, brutish Stanley Kowalski was still a common character. TMZ attests he still is.

Not many pastors tackle the subject as bravely. Even pastors who preach on domestic violence once in a while are more likely to think violence in the home troubles their community (72% said it did) more than their church (only 25% said so). Lifeway Research says half of senior pastors (52%) say they don’t have enough training to deal with the issue. Many say nothing.

I remember my mother wearing sunglasses in church of necessity, and rehearsing an excuse that she ran into a door should anyone question her. No one did. Even as she directed the choir and led the singing behind shades, the cause of her bruises was never raised.

But what the church historically hasn’t done, perhaps TMZ and the NFL will force us preachers to do: bring what happens in angry, broken households into the light and hold it up against the Word of God.

Because for too many of us, domestic violence hits close to home.

Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist.

–Statistics from and LifeWay Research

IBSA PASTORS’ CONFERENCE | The annual gathering for Illinois pastors and leaders kicked off this afternoon in Springfield, and beloved hymns have ruled the day so far, with a twist. JourneyWorship, the team from Journey Church in Bourbonnais, led the crowd in “Down at the Cross,” “I’ll Fly Away” and “Victory in Jesus,” complete with thumping percussion and electric guitars.

Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, brought the conference’s first message on “Leading through Disaster.” His voice breaking several times, Kelley shared how he led the seminary in the days and months following Hurricane Katrina. “In a disaster, you always tell the truth. You don’t act like it’s no big deal. You don’t act like it’s going to be easy,” he said.

“You get in touch with who God is, you get in touch with your mission, and you get to work. And with your heart breaking, and with every day a battle, you simply get after it.”

Follow the Pastors’ Conference and IBSA Annual Meeting here and at


LifeWay_storeTHE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

LifeWay Christian Stores opened its third Illinois location August 1 and will celebrate with grand opening festivities throughout the month. The Wheaton store, located in the Town Square Wheaton on South Naperville Road, is formerly a Johnsen & Taylor Bookstore operated by Tyndale House Publishers.

“I’ve heard from many individuals and churches who are excited about LifeWay Christian Stores being here,” said store manager . “We are grateful to see the continuation of the ministry started by Johnsen & Taylor.”

LifeWay also operates stores on the campus of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and in Carterville, Ill.

Other news:

‘Wrath of God’ too much for hymnal
The Presbyterian Church USA chose not to include the song “In Christ Alone” in their new hymnal, all because the song mentions the “wrath of God.” On Mary Louis Bringle, chair of the committee that made the decision, wrote that the song propagates “the view that the cross is primarily about God’s need to assuage God’s anger,” and that view could be harmful to future generations of worshippers.

Southern Baptist leaders, including Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore, have weighed in on the decision. Read his commentary on The Washington Post’s On Faith blog here.

Most churches still do VBS
A Barna study found 68% of churches held a Vacation Bible School last year, including 91% of Southern Baptist churches. The research also found that churches in the South are most likely to host VBS, along with churches with larger budgets and more adult worship attenders. And churches with “Buster” pastors, those aged 30-48, are the most likely to participate in VBS, according to Barna. Read more findings here.

Street preaching resumes on Bourbon St.
The city of New Orleans has revised an ordinance that prohibited street preaching on Bourbon Street, reports. The ban, enacted in 2011, controlled preaching from sunset to sunrise and forbade individuals or groups from gathering “for the purpose of disseminating any social, political or religious message…” Several preachers are suing the city after being arrested or threatened with arrest for preaching during last year’s Southern Decadence Festival, an annual pro-gay event. Read the full story at

Graham calls for prayer for Abedini

Franklin Graham is urging people to pray for Pastor Saeed Abedini (right), an American imprisoned in Iran since last September. Graham, the son of evangelist Billy Graham and president of Samaritan’s Purse, spoke to FOX News about Abedini’s plight and the prayer vigil scheduled for Sept. 26 – the one-year anniversary of his captivity. He also questioned President Obama’s response: “President Obama has been silent on the issue as an American Christian endures the horrors of Evin Prison,” Graham said.

“Many in the international community are expressing outrage over this blatant example of religious intolerance,” he said. “I ask that our government do the same and demand that Pastor Saeed Abedini be released and allowed to return home to his wife and family in the United States.” Read more on reporter Todd Starnes’ FOX News page.


John Bolin, minister of worship and arts at FBC Houston, leads in worship at the Southern Baptist Pastors' Conference, which began Sunday, June 9.

John Bolin, minister of worship and arts at FBC Houston, leads in worship at the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference, which began Sunday, June 9.

Greg Matte, pastor of FBC Houston, Texas, moderated a panel discussion on leadership with Rodney Woo (International Baptist Church, Singapore, Jack Graham (Prestonwood Baptist, Plano) and Eric Geiger (LifeWay Christian Resources).

Greg Matte, pastor of FBC Houston, Texas, and president of the SBC Pastors’ Conference, moderated a panel discussion on leadership with Rodney Woo (International Baptist Church, Singapore, Jack Graham (Prestonwood Baptist, Plano) and Eric Geiger (LifeWay Christian Resources).

Children in costumes representing nations around the world join FBC Houston's praise team and choir to sing a moving version of  "How Great is Our God".

Children in costumes representing nations around the world join FBC Houston’s praise team and choir to sing a moving version of “How Great is Our God”.

Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter closed the Pastors' Conference opening session with a message from Psalm 34.

Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter closed the Pastors’ Conference opening session with a message from Psalm 34.

Affliction will come to the righteous, Luter quoted Psalm 34, but, "You know how I know you're going to make it?" he asked pastors. "It's in the script!" he said, holding up his Bible.

Affliction will come to the righteous, Luter quoted Psalm 34, but, “You know how I know you’re going to make it?” he asked pastors, holding up his Bible. “It’s in the script!”