Archives For SBC president

Inauguration news round-up

ib2newseditor —  January 20, 2017

small American flags in the background

Time: Trump held a very Godly inauguration
Christianity has been a part of the presidential inauguration since George Washington laid his hand on a Bible for the very first swearing-in. So, it was not unusual that Donald Trump sought to involve faith in his inauguration. But the ways in which the 45th President invoked God in unusually blunt ways in his inaugural address were. He quoted a Psalm of David from the Bible to buttress his policy. “The Bible tells us, ‘how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.’”

S. Baptist involvement in the inauguration
The participation of at least five Southern Baptist pastors in inaugural activities for President Donald Trump continues a tradition of prayer, Scripture, and references to God surrounding presidential inaugurations dating back to George Washington. In addition to Friday’s activities, a Saturday, Jan. 21 National Prayer Service at the National Cathedral in Washington will feature Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd, Texas pastors Jack Graham and Ramiro Peña and California pastor David Jeremiah.

Muslims angry imam to participate in prayer service
A popular Washington-area imam’s decision to issue the Muslim call to prayer at Trump’s inaugural prayer service has sparked a heated debate among American Muslim community leaders and activists over the appropriate ways to engage with a president, who they say has repeatedly disparaged Islam. Mohamed Magid, a Sudanese-American imam, is the only Muslim leader listed on a lineup packed with Evangelicals and other faith leaders who are scheduled to participate in the National Prayer Service at the National Cathedral.

SBC Pres. Gaines pens Christian response to inauguration
Today Donald J. Trump became the 45th President of the United States. As you know, Mr. Trump won a highly volatile election last November. Some see him as a candidate of much-needed change, readily resonating with his Reaganish slogan, “Make America Great Again!” Others see Mr. Trump as a less than desirable candidate for the highest office in the land. What are Southern Baptists to do?

Three S. Baptists nominated for cabinet positions
Three Southern Baptists — Tom Price, Scott Pruitt, and Sonny Perdue – have been nominated to serve in cabinet positions for the Trump administration. Price, a regular attendee at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., has been nominated as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Pruitt, a member of Tulsa-area First Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, Okla., has been nominated as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, was announced Jan. 18 as Trump’s choice for agriculture secretary.

Presidents who mentioned God in inaugural address
Every U.S. President has mentioned God in their inaugural address, even if speaking of the Lord in their own way, fitting with the times. With thanks to Bill Federer in America’s God and Country, consider this sampling of mentions.

Sources: Time, Baptist Press Washington Post, Baptist Press (2), Christian Post

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We live by God’s surprises,” said Helmut Thielicke. The German pastor was speaking in times more trying than ours, but in the darkest days of WW2, he could see the hand of God at work—and was amazed by it.

Dare we say the same of the year just past?

We were surprised by events we witnessed. In their unfolding, we sought the reassurance of God’s sovereignty. Here are some noteworthy moments for Baptists in Illinois—some heavy, some light—and what they may say about the year before us.

– The Editors

SBC candidates: Unity matters

What the U.S. presidential election may have lacked in civility, the 2016 election for Southern Baptist Convention President more than made up for in grace. When a close vote forced a run-off between Steve Gaines and J.D. Greear, the election seemed poised to divide Baptists over matters of theology and generation.

Instead, the candidates talked the night before the third vote was to be taken, and one bowed out, urging his supporters to vote for his opponent.

“It’s time for us to step up and get involved, to keep pushing forward and engaging in the mission with those who have gone before us,” North Carolina pastor Greear posted in support of Tennessee pastor Gaines. “It’s time to look at what unites us.”

On paper, this decade’s SBC presidents are a diverse bunch, not united by much in terms of their backgrounds and interests:

  • Atlanta-area pastor Bryant Wright (2010-2012), who recently spoke out in favor of ministering to refugees
  • Dynamic New Orleans preacher Fred Luter (2012-2014), elected as the SBC’s first ever African American president
  • Ronnie Floyd (2014-2016), pastor of a multi-site church in Arkansas and a prolific blogger who led the denomination toward a laser-like focus on prayer
  • And Gaines, elected in 2016, who has espoused traditional Baptist theology and his own intense focus on evangelism.

What does unite them is a logical progression in the things they have called Baptists toward: For Wright, it was a return to Great Commission principles. Luter’s presidency was marked by impassioned pleas for spiritual awakening and revival. And Floyd called Southern Baptists to their knees—for themselves, their churches, the denomination, the nation, and the world.

Gaines announced he will continue the emphasis on prayer at the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix. It may be a sign that the desire for unity, despite differences in age, theological perspective, and communication style, is actually, in Greear’s words, “what unites us.”

A new missions paradigm

After a season in which budget shortfalls and personnel cuts seemed to limit the future potential for Baptist missions engagement around the world, International Mission Board President David Platt continued to preach a message to the contrary.

“Limitless” is the word Platt has used to describe the mission force needed to take the gospel to places without it. To achieve that goal, he has said, the SBC has to think differently about missions and missionaries than we have in the past.

“Let me be crystal clear: the IMB is still going to send full-time, fully-funded career missionaries just like we’ve always sent,” Platt said during his report at the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis. “They are the priceless, precious, critical core of our mission force.”

But the IMB’s emerging strategy is to put around those missionaries a “limitless” force of students, retirees, and professionals—people who, to borrow Platt’s words, are willing to leverage their jobs and lives so that more might hear and respond to the gospel.

The newly redesigned IMB website reflects the strategy, with buttons for people in a variety of categories to search for opportunities overseas. There are needs for business consultants, healthcare professionals, construction engineers, and more. The IMB also offers training resources for churches to equip and mobilize members for missions, both short-term and longer.

Global mission “is not just for a select few people in the church, but for multitudes of Spirit-filled men and women across the church,” Platt said in St. Louis.

A year ago, when hundreds of IMB missionaries moved back home, the chances of getting the gospel to some of the world’s darkest places seemed dimmer. Now, with a strategy focused on everyday people like the ones who sparked a gospel fire in the New Testament, the opportunities seem endless. Or, limitless.

If I had a hammer

We’ll hear it a lot in the new year. On Halloween night in 1517, disgruntled priest Martin Luther nailed his 95 complaints on the church door in Wittenberg and started an ecclesial revolution. We’re likely to hear about it from all corners, including events at our seminaries, panels at the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix, and bus tours of Germany. And we may have a few serious discussions about the theological direction of the SBC. Look for Reformation@500 in the pages of the Illinois Baptist throughout 2017.

Read Cloudy with a chance of surprises, pt. 1

Fractured alliances

ib2newseditor —  July 11, 2016

Fractured alliances

As the national political conventions approach, it’s time for evangelicals to decide. For some, it’s a choice they’d rather not make.

With the national conventions for both major American political parties just days away and the nominees all but a foregone conclusion, the only remaining question is how voters in November will react to this most unusual presidential election.

Christian voters in particular have yet to coalesce behind either candidate, although a June meeting between presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump and nearly 1,000 evangelicals signaled things may be changing, at least for some conservative leaders.

And Trump’s announcement of an evangelical advisory committee, including several Southern Baptists, reverberated around the Twitter-sphere, shaking the unified front Baptists had shown just days before at the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis.

The divide is growing between conservatives who support Trump over Hillary Clinton’s liberal ideals, and those who say they won’t vote for the businessman-turned-reality TV star with a penchant for saying whatever is on his mind. Along with the differences among Christians, some pundits see a growing split between the traditional “religious right” and the Republican party.

“In the coming weeks, we are going to be learning a great deal more about the presidential candidates,” forecasted Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler in a recent edition of his Briefing podcast. “But it’s also increasingly true that we’re going to be learning a great deal about ourselves as evangelical Christians in America.

“Perhaps we’d better brace ourselves for what we’re going to learn.”

Meeting the Donald

On June 20, Donald Trump met in New York City with nearly 1,000 Christian leaders, including immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention Ronnie Floyd and newly elected president Steve Gaines, along with several other Southern Baptists.

The gathering, emceed by former Republican candidate Mike Huckabee, included a Q&A time with Trump, who has won over conservative voters in the primaries even as Christian leaders have decried his volatile speaking style and confession last year that he wasn’t sure he had ever asked God for forgiveness of his sins.

Following the meeting, Trump named a 25-member evangelical advisory board, which includes Floyd and at least seven fellow Southern Baptists. Floyd is among the members of the board who say their participation doesn’t constitute an endorsement of the candidate, rather “as an avenue to voice what matters to evangelicals,” he told The Christian Post.

Floyd also cited several key issues that compelled him to participate on Trump’s advisory board, including Supreme Court appointments, the sanctity of human life, religious liberty, Israel and the Middle East, and racial tension.

But many Christian and conservative leaders took issue with the meeting and the participation of those appointed to the advisory board. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and a recent Trump target on Twitter, took on the seeming divide between Trump’s public persona and his coziness with evangelicals:

“If you wondered why younger, theological, gospel-centered evangelicals reacted (negatively) to the old guard Religious Right, well, now you know,” Moore tweeted June 21, following up with, “If character matters then character matters.”

Moore wasn’t the only voice to question the authenticity of Trump’s relationship with Christians. Writing for The Federalist online, film critic Rebecca Cusey described reading through the meeting transcript, “thinking maybe Trump might exhibit some charm, some thoughtfulness in a smaller setting that is lost on the large stage, something that would explain why people who profess to believe in Jesus would be so taken in by Trump.

“Sadly, no. The transcript is shocking in its pandering: of Trump to evangelicals, yes—we expected that—but also in their pandering to Trump.”

Floyd acknowledged the widespread criticism, blogging a few days after the meeting that his short time out of the office of SBC president had been in some ways more difficult than leading the denomination for two years. He listed several Bible characters who had opportunity to speak into the lives of national leaders, including Old Testament prophet Daniel.

“What if Daniel had refused to acknowledge King Nebuchadnezzar and acted like he was too righteous to relate to him?” Floyd asked.

Similarly, Richard Land, who preceded Moore as president of the ERLC, asked critics of the Trump meeting what they would have the advisory team do instead of participate when asked.

“Would they really have us spurn the opportunity to give spiritual counsel and advice to Mr. Trump and his team?” Land wrote in a column for The Christian Post. “How would that be obedience to our Saviour’s command to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world?”

Fractured alliances 2

 Weighing other options

Some evangelicals are looking to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton as an alternative to Trump, in spite of her policies on abortion and LGBT issues that run counter to traditionally-held conservative views.

Thabiti Anyabwile, in a column for The Gospel Coalition, said in May he planned, for the time being, to vote for Clinton. “…However we might evaluate her as a leader or her platform as a vision for America, we could say more or less the exact same things about Trump—with one glaring exception,” wrote Anyabwile, pastor of Anacostia River Church in Washington, D.C.

“We have no way of predicting Trump’s behavior from one hour to the next. None. Except to predict that the behavior will be vile and repulsive for any person who cares about civility, truth, and the dignity of the office.”

Deborah Fikes, executive advisor to the World Evangelical Alliance, gave Clinton her endorsement in June, saying of Trump, “…I worry that allowing religious and ethnic intolerance here in America will undermine our ability to have a prayer of fighting it around the world.”

Still, Trump has branded himself as the candidate most invested in religious liberty and other Christian concerns. So far, a majority of voters agree: A June poll by CBS found Trump leads Clinton among evangelical voters by a margin of 62% to 17%.

However, as Religion News Service’s analysis of the poll pointed out, Trump’s 62% is lower than the percentage of white evangelical voters who favored George Bush (79%), John McCain (73%) and Mitt Romney (79%) in the last three elections.

Gallup polling from May found the two candidates neck and neck among those who identify as “Protestant” or “Other Christian”—36% had a favorable opinion of Clinton, and 38% had a favorable opinion of Trump. Both candidates’ numbers were slightly lower among the “Highly religious”—35% for Clinton and 37% for Trump.

For those voters who don’t foresee an appealing option for November, Christian and conservative leaders have floated other ideas, including third-party candidates, write-in voting, and abstention. Alan Noble, a professor at Oklahoma Baptist University, wrote for Vox that “unless a third-party candidate with broad appeal emerges, evangelical Christians would be better served by abstaining from that vote and shifting their energy toward electing people to Congress and local and state governments who have the opportunity to restrain whichever candidate is elected as needed.”

But many Christian leaders have been vocal about getting out the vote, even for candidates that are less than ideal. On his tour of state capitals, evangelist Franklin Graham has urged Christians to vote, but hasn’t endorsed specific candidates. Graham has instead warned against inactivity, citing a statistic that reports 20 million evangelicals did not vote in the 2012 presidential election.

In Springfield, Graham told several thousand gathered in front of the Capitol, “Our job as Christians is to make Christ felt in every [area] of life—religious, social, economic, political.”

Keep the lines open

No matter who believers support in the election, said Wheaton College’s Ed Stetzer, the rhetorical tone should be loving.

“In years past, I generally had to encourage evangelicals to avoid scorning fellow evangelicals who voted Democrat. Now, perhaps we need exhortation to avoid scorning those who vote for Donald Trump….Rather than looking down with scorn on evangelical Trump supporters, perhaps we should sit down with them, listen to them, and hear their concerns.”

Mohler prescribed similar action in his June 22 podcast, urging Christians to think through the issues at hand.

“In this difficult political season, evangelicals must not demonize one another as to how we’re thinking through these issues, but I must plead with all evangelicals that we must indeed think through these issues carefully and faithfully, and think very biblically and candidly.”

To fail to remember oneness in Christ and fall instead into factions and camps could result in a loss of the unity achieved during the recent Southern Baptist Convention, wrote Pastor Ted Traylor following the meeting with Trump, which he attended. At the June 14-15 convention in St. Louis, Baptists united around one presidential candidate, Steve Gaines, after another, J.D. Greear, bowed out prior to a second run-off election.

Now, as Baptists consider another election, Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., advised them to think carefully in a blog post titled, “What I learned from a conversation with Donald Trump.”

“There has been much vitriol on social media about the Trump meeting within the tribe of Southern Baptists. We left our convention last week in unity. Demonizing each other over secular politics will quickly destroy what we saw and hailed as God-given unity. We are in the Gospel business.

“However, as we render to Caesar what is his we must be wise, kind and discerning.”

Greear Floyd Gaines2

JD Greear, Ronnie Floyd, and Steve Gaines.

There are three winners at the conclusion of the SBC presidential race: Steve Gaines takes the position and the responsibility; J.D. Greear takes the mantel as most Christ-like, and Southern Baptists leave St. Louis unified behind a single presidential candidate.

Greear’s action, withdrawing his name from the race after two ballots failed to produce a winner, was a first for longtime observers of the convention. Greear guaranteed two things: many of his supporters who are young and are new to SBC life are more likely stay engaged if they do not feel pushed out by the older, traditional constituency Gaines represents. And Greear guaranteed himself a place in SBC leadership for decades to come.

Would anyone be surprised if Greear ran unopposed in 2018? The 50% of SBC messengers who had backed Gaines could easily support in the next election the young man who did the very mature thing.

Deferring to the older candidate is indeed a mature move. And, in this case, it’s wise.

Both Greear and Gaines cited the need for unity in the denomination in this decision. “For the sake of our convention and our mission, we need to leave St. Louis united,” Greear said.

Gaines said he, too, had considered withdrawing. He quoted a close friend who said to him after the first day of the annual meeting, “We’re in a mess, aren’t we.” After two ballots, Gaines was still four votes short of a majority, because 108 ballots were disqualified by improper markings. Messengers at the best-attended convention in a decade or more were split right down the middle.

“It’s tricky,” Greear joked as he stepped to the podium to make his announcement, referring to a rap music video produced by a member of his church that some had construed as endorsements by several SBC-entity heads. The crowd laughed.

But it would be tricky to lead the denomination with the membership divided into two camps: established and traditional epitomized by Gaines, and younger and Reformed led by Greear.

For the sake of unity, Greear withdrew.

Gaines had offered to make the same move.

At 43, Greear will likely have another opportunity to be SBC president. Perhaps at 58, it is Gaines’s turn. With his mid-South megachurch platform, Gaines is likely to lead the convention in renewed evangelism, which Floyd and others have said is so vital.

And Greear has a little longer to bring his half of the SBC populace into leadership to form a new mainstream and identity, rather engage in a tug of war with the old guard over theology and tactics. “We are united by a gospel too great and a mission too urgent to let any lesser thing stand in our way,” Greear said.

The two men hugged on the platform, as Gaines was declared the winner by outgoing president Ronnie Floyd.

He could have as easily said, We all win.

– Eric Reed

Steve GainesFirst Baptist Church in O’Fallon had a guest pastor in its pulpit Sunday morning. Memphis pastor and candidate for Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines delivered the message at each of the church’s three morning worship services June 12.

The Bellevue Baptist Church pastor lamented Southern Baptist’s lack of focus on evangelism. “What’s happening in the Southern Baptist Convention is a tragedy,” Gaines declared. “We’re in a 17-year nose dive. This is unprecedented, we have more SBC churches, but fewer baptisms. If the people in those churches we’re planting aren’t evangelistic and soul-winning, we’re not going to reach this nation.”

His primary sermon text was taken from Acts 2:40-47. Gaines used Christ’s instructions for the church to exhort churches today to be more evangelistic.

He urged Southern Baptists to invite God back into their churches. “When God comes to church people start getting saved and baptized.” When people walk into a church “it doesn’t need to be dead. It ought to be alive with the power of God.”

Gaines stressed, “We should never plan a worship service to attract people. Instead, we should plan worship services that will attract the manifest presence of God – He will in turn will attract the people.”

Sharing Christ isn’t difficult he noted. “If you knew enough to get saved, you know enough to tell someone how to get saved.”

Prior to the sermon O’Fallon’s Pastor Doug Munton, who will be nominated to serve as the convention’s First Vice President at tomorrow afternoon’s meeting, introduced Gaines as his good friend. He then endorsed Gaines for Southern Baptist Convention President saying, “I’m biased, I believe Steve is the right guy, at the right place, at the right time.”

Gaines is one of three candidates who will be nominated for the job of SBC President tomorrow afternoon. David Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church, New Orleans, LA, and JD Greear, pastor of the The Summit Church in Raleigh, NC, are also candidates.

 

 

 

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SBC President Ronnie Floyd at the 2015 SBC Annual Meeting in Columbus, Ohio.

When Ronnie Floyd was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the denomination was coming to grips with the truth. After several years of describing many churches as “plateaued or declining,” leaders started speaking in frank terms about why, year after year, key measures like church membership, worship attendance, and baptisms were down denomination-wide.

“We are clearly losing our evangelistic effectiveness,” one Baptist leader said in 2014, the year Floyd was elected to his first term.

Things looked bleak, and for the first time in a while, the pressure wasn’t coming from outside opposition or controversy. Rather, the SBC seemed to be at an impasse.

Before his presidency, Floyd was already established as someone who could provide direction. As the pastor of a Southern megachurch, he led his congregation to a regional, multi-campus strategy and a new name—from First Baptist, Springdale, to Cross Church of Northwest Arkansas.

That is perhaps Floyd’s greatest legacy: He has reminded us that revival starts with prayer, and prayer starts with humility.

As chairman of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, Floyd helped lead Baptists to renewed commitment to a unified purpose—albeit with some difficult adjustments and plenty of debate over proposed funding changes between national agencies and state conventions.

But when Floyd was elected as SBC president, he looked not to drastic measures or sweeping changes—but to prayer. Unified, solidified, corporate prayer. Prayer that asked Baptists of all stripes to set aside differences for something greater than themselves: pleading with God for a great spiritual awakening.

Putting greater emphasis on the SBC annual meeting, Floyd called Baptists to Columbus, Ohio, in June of 2015 for a special prayer meeting to together confess sin—like racism and evangelism apathy—and to move forward as a humbled Convention that prioritized the work and mission of God.

In advance of the prayer meeting, which will happen again this summer in St. Louis, Floyd kept everyone in the loop through regular blog posts and columns distributed via Baptist Press and state Baptist newspapers. Throughout his presidency, he hasn’t hesitated to use the power of the pen (and keyboard) to inform, encourage, and challenge Baptists about the state of the SBC and our desperate need for spiritual awakening.

At the Southern Baptist Convention next weeek in St. Louis, the Tuesday evening session of the meeting will again be devoted to prayer. That is perhaps Floyd’s greatest legacy: He has reminded us that revival starts with prayer, and prayer starts with humility. For calling us together for that purpose, he deserves our thanks.

My history attending the annual Southern Baptist Convention is not as long or as deep as many. Occasionally I meet someone who will tell me, “This is my 40th SBC,” or “I haven’t missed a convention in 25 years.”

Though my father was a pastor and then director of missions, I didn’t attend my first SBC until 1992. That year the convention came to Indianapolis, as close as it had been in many years to the Chicago suburbs where we lived. A friend from church suggested going, “because it’s rarely so close.” Indeed, the SBC would not come within 500 miles of Chicago for another 10 years. So we went and took my dad along with us.

Little did I know that only five years later I would be flying to only my second SBC in Dallas, to be voted on as a vice president with the newly formed North American Mission Board. I haven’t missed an annual SBC meeting since then. This year, Lord willing, will be 20 in a row.

If you haven’t been to the convention before, or can’t go often, this is the year.

I share this personal history to say that I really do understand why the average person may not regularly attend the annual SBC. Unless there’s a controversy or crisis of some kind, the SBC is often left primarily to professionals who have travel budgets, and pastors who may direct part of their family vacation time there. Perhaps that’s why attendance at the SBC has only topped 10,000 three times in the last 15 years. Peak attendance during the conservative resurgence of the mid-1980’s was over 40,000.

But now, let me challenge you to attend the June 14-15 SBC in St. Louis this year. As my friend said, it will be years before it’s this close to Illinois churches again. If you haven’t been before, or can’t go often, this is the year.

More importantly, this year’s elections and other actions will be significant. It was announced just last week that Illinois’ own Doug Munton, pastor of First Baptist, O’Fallon, will be nominated as First Vice President. I’m really excited about that. I hope hundreds and hundreds of Illinois Baptists will be there to support this outstanding Illinois pastor for this national role.

The election for president this year also presents a significant choice between pastors with notable differences, not just in ministry experience, but in the areas of doctrinal conviction and missions cooperation. Illinois messengers will want to study these in advance of the convention, and arrive prepared to support the nominee who best represents not only their own churches’ practices and convictions, but also the direction that they feel is best for our Great Commission cooperation as Baptist churches in the future.

Normally Illinois ranks about 15th of 42 state conventions in the number of messengers it sends to the national SBC. But the last time the convention was in St. Louis (2002), Illinois ranked 5th, with 611 messengers from 193 churches. And in 1987, the previous time the SBC was in St. Louis, Illinois churches sent 1,373 messengers. Yet last year only 139 messengers from Illinois churches attended the SBC in nearby Columbus.

To encourage messengers to turn out in record numbers this year, IBSA will be hosting a reception for Illinois Baptists at the St. Louis convention center, on the Monday night following the Pastors’ Conference and just prior to the convention’s start on Tuesday morning.

Whether this year is your 40th SBC, or your very first, I hope you will make the SBC in nearby St. Louis a priority this year. What happens at the SBC is really up to folks like you and me.

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