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Pro-life organizations urge advocates to visit lawmakers this week
As Illinois lawmakers consider abortion legislation one lobbyist called “more extreme than New York’s,” pro-life advocates will be in Springfield Wednesday, March 20, for a “Lobby Day” and rally outside the Capitol.

Court finds in favor of ministers’ housing allowance
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit unanimously reversed an earlier lower court ruling that found the ministers’ housing allowance unconstitutional. The tax exemption permits “ministers of the gospel” to exclude for federal income tax purposes a portion or all of their gross income as a housing allowance. The Seventh Circuit’s decision rejected claims by the Freedom From Religion Foundation that the tax law grants a government benefit to a religious group.

Seminary answers Facebook’s questions
Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention responded to inquiries from Facebook about a post the school tried to boost on the social media site (Facebook refused). The post included this quote from President Jeff Iorg: “Holding the line on positions based on timeless biblical standards as an ultimate authority has been and always will be important.” Facebook asked questions about the seminary and Iorg, the president wrote later, “to establish we are a valid company, not a hate group or a foreign entity.”

Texas bill would protect churches that report sexual abuse
Southern Baptist pastors have proposed legislation in Texas that would allow churches to disclose allegations of sexual abuse without fear of civil liability. “I don’t think that it solves all of the problems related to abuse and sexual misconduct,” said Pastor Ben Wright, who helped initiate the bill. “But it does help churches and organizations know that if they pass on information that they believe to be true, that they have good reason to believe is true, it helps them know that they will be shielded from potential lawsuits.”

Most churches report little growth, few conversions
A new study by LifeWay Research found 6 in 10 Protestant churches are plateaued or declining in attendance and more than half saw fewer than 10 people become new Christians in the past 12 months.

-Illinois Baptist media, FactsandTrends.net, Baptist Press (2), LifeWay Research

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jaide Soppe, 8, makes a fleece blanket for a Springfield shelter on Children's Ministry Day March 15.

Jaide Soppe, 8, makes a fleece blanket for a Springfield shelter on Children’s Ministry Day March 15.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

For the fourth consecutive year, kids and their leaders served across Illinois  through Children’s Ministry Day, a one-day missions experience that culminates with a celebration service at each project site.

Created by national Woman’s Missionary Union, the day of service for kids has taken on a life of its own in Illinois. Nearly 1,100 children, leaders and volunteers representing 75 churches served at nine locations around the state on March 15.

This year’s theme, “Make a Splash,” came from Matthew 10:42, where Jesus says, “And whoever gives just a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple – I assure you: He will never lose his reward!”

Children’s Ministry Day is now IBSA’s most successful mission involvement activity, said Mark Emerson, who leads the organization’s missions team. The event has grown in number of locations and participants each year since 2011, when he organized the first set of projects in Springfield. Local associations began hosting the projects last year, and the service day expanded to nine cities in 2014, including first-time locations Bridgeport, Chicago, Decatur, Granite City and Peoria.

“I think more churches identify that this is a high impact project with an easy engagement possibility,” Emerson said. “The logistics of the day are already complete, so all the church has to do is to figure out how to get the kids enlisted, and get the kids to the event.”

Pastor David Brown has led kids from his church, Dow Southern Baptist, to Children’s Ministry Day each of the last four years. Standing outside an urban ministry center in Springfield, he recalled each of their projects: making baby blankets, baking cookies for police officers, visiting with nursing home residents, and this year, raking leaves and sorting donated supplies.

“This is one of the best events that we can do, because we’re starting at a foundational age,” Brown said. His fourth grade daughter, Cameryn, accompanied him to Springfield this year and has participated in every Children’s Ministry Day.

“And if they fall in love with serving when they’re kids,” Brown said, “they’re going to keep serving when they’re teens, and hopefully when they’re adults and grandparents. It’s foundational; it’s what the church is all about.” Read more here.

Other news:

Franklin Graham on Putin’s policies
America has “abdicated our moral leadership,” Franklin Graham wrote in this month’s issue of Decision Magazine. The son of evangelist Billy Graham said that converse to the current U.S. administration, Russian President Vladimir Putin is right to want to protect his country’s children from a homosexual agenda. (Graham’s comments came before Russia’s controversial action in Crimea.)

“To be clear, I am not endorsing President Putin,” Graham wrote. “…His enemies say he is ruthless. To some, he is a modern version of a czar. His personal life has its own controversies.

“Isn’t it sad, though, that America’s own morality has fallen so far that on this issue – protecting children from any homosexual agenda or propaganda – Russia’s standard is higher than our own?” Read the full story at BillyGraham.org.

KJV is king of translations
Americans read the King James Version of the Bible more often than any other version, according to a new national survey on “The Bible in American Life.” The research, from the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture, found just over half of Americans (50.2%) read Scripture in the past year, and 17% of those did so daily. The KJV was read most often by 55% of respondents, followed by the NIV at 19%. Read more findings here.

Bible Drill for the digital age
There’s an app for that – Scripture memorization, that is. The Georgia Baptist Convention has developed a Bible Drill app for smartphones and tablets designed to help kids learn verses and review Bible books. “We hope to have a whole new generation of children who will have a passion for studying God’s Word,” said GBC state missionary Maria Brannen. The app is available from iTunes for $0.99. Read the full story at BPNews.net.

Your mood in tweets
Twitter can tell us a lot about how people are feeling, according to data released by the social media giant this month. The network analyzed words used in tweets throughout 2013, noting when “feeling sad” occurs most often (December Sundays and October Mondays), as well as when users are “feeling happy” (Tuesdays in December or January).

Twitter measured tardiness too: Users were most likely to tweet “late for work” on Wednesdays and Fridays in January, and Monday through Wednesday in July. Read more at Twitter’s blog.

While Tom Goble is on a six-month deployment with the U.S. Air Force, his wife, Jackie, and sons, Jacob and Evan, are buoyed by the support of Towerview Baptist Church in Shiloh.

While Tom Goble is on a six-month deployment with the U.S. Air Force, his wife, Jackie, and sons, Jacob and Evan, are buoyed by the support of Towerview Baptist Church in Shiloh.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Shiloh | By the time Jackie Goble’s husband, Tom, returns from a deployment in Africa, the couple’s one-year-old son will probably be able to string a few words together and have a little conversation with his dad.

Evan had already started walking and saying “Dad” when Tom, a captain in the U.S. Air Force, left in June. That first week, Jackie says Evan would toddle into their bedroom calling for his dad. But it will be almost six months until they’re reunited, and it’s up to Jackie to hold down the fort for Evan and his older brother Jacob until then.

“Dad’s gone and we’re trying to rely on God, and point to God,” she says, recounting how she encourages her boys, and herself. “God’s taking care of us, God’s taking care of Dad. When we’re sad and we miss him, we just need to turn to God and pray and ask for protection for both us and Daddy.”

It’s a heavy load, one shared by many military families in Illinois and around the country. The Gobles have found support, though, at Towerview Baptist Church, a church uniquely located to serve their family and many others going through a deployment or navigating the specific challenges of being a military family. Read more in the newest edition of the Illinois Baptist, online here.

Other news:

Disaster Relief volunteers serve during memorial service for Arizona firefighters
The spring and summer months have been busy for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers working across the country, from storm cleanup in Illinois, Oklahoma and Texas, to wildfire recovery in Colorado, and now caring for people in Prescott, Arizona, after the deaths of 19 firefighters last week. Disaster Relief chaplains in the state were called out to minister in Prescott last week, and a new message on the Arizona Disaster Relief website asks for trained volunteers to help serve during a memorial service today. Read more Disaster Relief updates at NAMB.net/DR.

 

Believers in Egypt look for opportunities to share hope
Christian workers in Egypt say political unrest in the country is an opportunity to share the hope of Jesus, reports the International Mission Board. “It’s not just riots and chaos, this is opportunity,” says one worker. “For the first time in hundreds of years people are questioning everything. This is the greatest opportunity we have had in a long time in a city that is promised to the Lord.” Read the full story here.

Survey: On Twitter, Christians are happier
A new study from the University of Illinois compares the Tweets of people who follow five religious leaders (Pope Benedict XVI, Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, Dinesh D’Souza and Joyce Meyer), with the messages posted by Twitter users who follow five atheist leaders. The results, CNN reports, indicate Christians use more positive words and express more happiness through the social media tool. Read more on CNN’s Belief blog.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Twenty-eight college students from 11 countries came to a rather unlikely place – Springfield, Ill. – the weekend before Thanksgiving, for a few rather unlikely reasons: a visit to the Abraham Lincoln museum and a home-cooked Thanksgiving meal. And, of course, the chance to get away from campus for a few days. But the biggest draw?

“Year after year, it’s the experience of being in an American home,” said Chase Abner, collegiate evangelism strategist for the Illinois Baptist State Association, which organizes the Midwest International Student Conference with the help of local churches and Baptist campus ministries. “That fascinates them and draws them to the conference.”

The vast majority – up to 80% – of international students will never set foot in an American home, giving Christians a great opportunity to showcase the Gospel by just sharing their lives, Abner said.

“We’re able to show within our homes how the Christian faith affects everything about us,” he said. “How we eat, how we manage our household, how we treat our family members…”

What do you think? Have you and your family been able to use the ministry of hospitality to share the Gospel?

Other news:

Tweets from the Vatican
CNN reports Pope Benedict XVI will open a personal Twitter account next week under the account @Pontifex. His first Tweet, slated for Wednesday, Dec. 12, will answer a question about religion submitted via the hashtag #askpontifex. “The Pope’s presence on Twitter is a concrete expression of his conviction that the Church must be present in the digital arena,” the church said in a written statement to reporters, according to CNN’s religion news blog. Read the full story here.

Anonymous author embraces obscurity, humility
The author of the new book “Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God’s Everything,” released by B&H Publishing Group, chose to publish under the name “Anonymous” and to maintain nearly complete anonymity. Only one B&H editor and a couple of executives at LifeWay Christian Resources know the identity of Anonymous – reportedly a well-established author – who communicates via a specially created email address. “This book is a call to stop imitating the world’s formula for success and instead follow the model of our humble King,” Anonymous said in quotes provided by B&H. Read more at BPNews.net.

Abortion rate drops 5%
The Centers for Disease Control reported in late November that the abortion rate in the United States is down 5%, according to a story in the Los Angeles Times. The decrease is reflected in data for the year 2009, the most recent information available. It represents the largest single-year decline in abortions in the last decade, The Times reported, adding that 18% of pregnancies in the U.S. end in abortion. Read more.

Survey: Most Americans back contraception mandate
Nearly two-thirds of adults in America believe businesses and organizations, even those with conflicting religious principles, should be required to provide coverage of contraception and birth control for their employees, according to a new survey by LifeWay Research. In considering whether nonprofits should be required to provide the coverage, 56 percent of adults agree and 32 percent disagree they should be required to follow the Obama Administration’s contraception mandate, even if it goes against their religious beliefs. For more findings, go to BPNews.net.