Archives For Southern Baptist

The BriefingTrump admin. policy change on transgender students
The Trump administration signaled Feb. 10 that it was changing course on the previous administration’s efforts to expand transgender rights. The administration will no longer defend transgender students use of restrooms that do not match their anatomical gender identity. The move by the Justice Department does not change the situation for the nation’s public schools; a federal judge had already put a temporary hold on the guidance as a lawsuit by a dozen states moved through the courts.

Pregnancy resource centers sue Gov. Rauner
Eighteen Illinois women’s health organizations have sued Gov. Bruce Rauner over a law requiring pregnancy centers to tell patients about the benefits of abortion despite conscience-based objections. The measure requiring the dispensing of abortion information changed a 1977 law allowing health care professionals to refuse services they consider morally objectionable. The centers say the law violates the First Amendment.

Chicago restaurants’ Planned Parenthood bake sale
A baker’s dozen of Chicago’s upscale restaurants and bakeries are hosting a cookie sale to benefit Planned Parenthood. Supporters can purchase a box with one cookie each from the 13 restaurants for $75 with 100% of the proceeds directly benefit Planned Parenthood Illinois.

DeVos confirmation leaves Baptists hopeful
With the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as U.S. secretary of education, some Southern Baptists hope that emphases at the Department of Education will parallel themes expressed in Southern Baptist Convention resolutions on education adopted in 2014 and 2006. David Dykes, chairman of the 2014 SBC Resolutions Committee, noted he is “very encouraged by President Trump’s choice of people [for cabinet posts] who are outside the circle of politicians and the status quo for these positions. I think he really wants to shake things up, and I’m in favor of doing that.”

Strobel’s ‘The Case for Christ’ now a movie
Atheist-turned-Christian Lee Strobel’s 1998 best-selling book The Case for Christ heads to the screen April 7, with its first trailer revealed on usatoday.com. Mike Vogel plays Strobel as a Chicago Tribune investigative reporter in 1980, when Strobel begins to investigate Christianity, compelled by his wife Leslie’s (Erika Christensen) newfound faith.

 Sources: Washington Post, News Channel 20, Chicago Tribune, Baptist Press, USA Today

The Reformation at 500

ib2newseditor —  January 30, 2017
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Rose Parade Jan. 2, 2017

When the Protestant Reformation gets its own float in the Tournament of Roses Parade, something big must be happening. Not that we needed the Pasadena tableau to underscore the upcoming event, but we must admit it was surprising to hear NBC’s Al Roker announce the 500th anniversary of the Reformation as three flower-covered church bells tolling “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” cruised by at 10 mph.

Would Martin Luther—ex-communicated, jailed, and persecuted for his pursuit of biblical faith—have been shocked to see his life’s work trussed in rose petals and paraded before cheering crowds?

I was.

There, following the surfing dogs, the Rose Queen, and the Salvation Army Band, was the Wittenberg Door, covered in black beans and poppy seeds, commemorating that All Hallow’s Eve in 1517 when the angry priest Luther nailed his complaints against the Catholic Church on the front door. Inscribed on the giant bells was “Faith Alone,” “Grace Alone,” and “Scripture Alone,” the three-sola distillation of Reformation theology.

Also at the front of the float was a man dressed as Jesus, waving to the crowd on one side of Colorado Boulevard and then the other. We can’t fault the sponsors, Lutheran Layman’s League, for their exuberance, for Luther himself redirected the attention of the faithful worldwide to the finished work of Christ as the only means of salvation. Not obeisance to saints or Mary, time served in purgatory, the purchase of “indulgences” for others or ourselves—only God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ can save us. So commonplace today, this must have sounded radical to Luther’s first audiences. Yet, here we stand, benefactors of his brave actions, celebrating his Halloween escapade and all that resulted from it.

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But five centuries after the fact, this anniversary is an opportune time for Southern Baptists to ask a few serious questions:

How Reformed are we? What was started by Luther was picked up, refined, and defined by John Calvin and others. The line from Calvin (and other Reformers) to Southern Baptists isn’t as obvious as is the line from John Knox to the Presbyterians or Luther to the Lutherans, but the Reformers have certainly informed our Baptist theology.

Some Southern Baptists fully embrace Calvin’s doctrines of grace, the sovereignty of God, and election, considering themselves “five-point Calvinists.” Others, who defined their position as “traditional” Southern Baptist in the 2012 debate at the New Orleans convention, accept some of Calvin’s points, but rely more on the verses about God’s desire that all would be saved. Some would say they live in the tension between Calvinism and Arminianism, between the sovereignty of God in bringing people to salvation and the free will of man to accept or reject God’s offer.

This anniversary is a good opportunity for churches to study the principles of Reformed theology and ask, How Reformed are we?

What is the appeal of Reformed theology? For people who have grown up in an era of slushy theology and postmodern uncertainty, Reformed theology offers clear, clean delineation of belief. It’s faith with handles on it. That might explain the appeal to Christians who were described as “young, restless, and reformed” in Collin Hansen’s seminal work by that name in 2008. Hansen capsulized a phenomenon that had been in development for two decades by the time he wrote the book, and must be credited in large part, in SBC life, to Albert Mohler. From his position as president of Southern Seminary starting in 1993, Mohler has schooled a generation of young pastors, theologians, and now seminary presidents.

What is the long-term impact of rising Reformed theology on the SBC? Not everyone is enamored by the growth of Calvinism in Southern Baptist ranks. Some leaders have expressed concern about the possible impact on missions and evangelism.

Certainly our theological debate has been invigorated in recent decades. A denomination given to pragmatic, applicable theology through the Baby Boom years has more recently turned to serious consideration of the nature of the gospel. Can committed Calvinists, “traditional” Southern Baptists focused on evangelism, and the “somewhat Reformed” all coexist in the SBC tent, with a shared purpose that unites us, despite differences over finer points of theology? Or is another schism coming?

What will happen to evangelism? Our denomination’s baptism numbers continue to decline. Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson, a “traditionalist,” continues to express concern that rising Calvinism will naturally cool the fires of evangelism.

International Mission Board President David Platt might demonstrate a new kind of Reformed pastor, for whom evangelistic work by God’s people has high priority in God’s sovereignty. Will Platt’s zeal prove characteristic of the younger generation who are following his charge: “For the nations!” Or will the soul-winning Calvinist prove to be an anomaly?

Now, 500 years after Luther struck the first blows for Reformation, these are a few of the issues Southern Baptists must address—before the parade passes by.

– Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist.

Floyd calls Trump prexy ‘our moment’

National Prayer Service in Washington DC

SBC Pastors Ronnie Floyd (center left) and David Jeremiah (center right) exit the platform and prepare to greet President Trump at the conclusion of the National Prayer Service Jan. 21 at the National Cathedral in Washington DC. Fox Phoenix screen capture

“Right now we’ve got a shot to really make a difference,” Ronnie Floyd told his congregation on Sunday. “God has given us a moment. It’s time to pray more than we’ve ever prayed in our country…to pray more with stronger conviction that every life matters to God.”

Floyd was just one of the notable Southern Baptist pastors participating in inaugural ceremonies for incoming President, Donald Trump. The pastor of Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas was one of the evangelical advisors to Trump.

Noting the current discord in the nation, Floyd said, “This is not about Democrats and Republicans. It’s about spiritual warfare; right and wrong. It’s not about what it appears to be about, it’s not about flesh and blood.

“You don’t announce you’re going to put pro-life judges on the Supreme Court and expect the world to receive it,” Floyd said in a video posted at his website.

Southern Baptists were prominent at the National Prayer gathering on Saturday following the inauguration, both in their placement in the program and on the platform among the 26 religious leaders invited to participate in the event.

Floyd and David Jeremiah, pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif., sat on the dais of the National Cathedral, just behind the Episcopal celebrants who were leading the service and in front of the choir loft. Jeremiah read from Romans 5, the passage about character, endurance, patience, and hope. And Floyd read Psalm 23 from the King James Version.

Prestonwood Baptist Church pastor Jack Graham was one of the speakers in the “prayers of the people,” reading a scripted prayer on behalf of “those who serve.” And a granddaughter of Billy Graham, Franklin’s daughter Cissie Graham Lynch, read a similar prayer in a procession that included a rabbi, representatives of several Protestant denominations, and several Eastern religions.

Ramiro Peña, pastor of Christ the King Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, wrapped up the litany of prayers with The Lord’s Prayer. In an unofficial count, Southern Baptists outnumbered other faiths among clergy participating in the inauguration and prayer service. The interfaith service held an an Anglical cathedral had distinctly evangelical touches. Melania Trump led a standing ovation for the solo singer of “How Great Thou Art,” and the service concluded with “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” which Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, sang from memory.

On Inauguration Day, Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist in Dallas, delivered the sermon at the private prayer service prior to the swearing-in ceremony. He titled the sermon, “When God Chooses a Leader,” taking the message from Nehemiah 1:11.

“When I think of you,” Jeffress said to Trump, “I am reminded of another great leader God chose thousands of years ago in Israel. The nation had been in bondage for decades, the infrastructure of the country was in shambles, and God raised up a powerful leader to restore the nation. And the man God chose was neither a politician nor a priest. Instead, God chose a builder whose name was Nehemiah.”

He noted the first step God instructed Nehemiah to take in rebuilding the nation was building a wall around Jerusalem to protect is citizens. “You see, God is not against building walls,” Jeffress shared. Jeffress recalled sitting with Trump on a jet, eating Wendy’s cheeseburgers, and talking about the challenges facing the USA. Jeffress was an early supporter of Trump.

He told the incoming President and Vice President to look to God for strength and guidance: “…the challenges facing our nation are so great that it will take more than natural ability to meet them. We need God’s supernatural power.

“The good news is that the same God who empowered Nehemiah nearly 2,500 years ago is available to every one of us today who is willing to humble himself and ask for His help.”

He instructed them, “God says in Psalm 50:15 ‘Call upon Me in the day of trouble I shall rescue you and you will honor Me.’”

– Staff Report, with info from Baptist Press, RonnieFloyd.com, FirstDallas.org, and C-SPAN.

The BriefingIllinois House urged to reject taxpayer-funded abortions
SpeakOut Illinois, a coalition of pro-life and pro-family organizations across the state,  urged lawmakers in the Illinois House to reject legislation allowing taxpayer money to be used for abortions. House Bill 4013 lifts the current prohibition on state workers’ health insurance plans from paying for elective abortions, as well as the prohibition on using public money to pay for elective abortions for Medicaid patients. The piece of legislation could be called up for a vote as early as this week.

How many Christians are in the new Congress?
Pew’s Religion & Public Life found that 90.7% of the 115th Congress identify as Christian, a statistic that has changed little in over a half century of keeping record. “The share of U.S. adults who describe themselves as Christians has been declining for decades, but the U.S. Congress is about as Christian today as it was in the early 1960s,” noted Pew. Of the 91% Christian majority, 31.4% are Catholic, 13.5% are Baptist, 8.5% are Methodist, 6.5% are Anglican or Episcopal, and another 6.5% are Presbyterian.

Multi-faith network rescuing women from Isis
A secret underground network operating in Iraq and Syria has reportedly freed more than 3,000 Yazidi women held captive in sexual slavery by Isis. Kurdish and Christian civilians make up the group, along with other ethnic minorities and families of the victims, NGO Yazda has claimed. Rescues are carried out through word of mouth, driven by Yazidis who have escaped capture or whose loved ones are still being held in Isis territory.

Gay couple to pastor historic DC Baptist church
Calvary Baptist Church, a progressive Baptist landmark in the heart of downtown Washington, has named a gay couple as co-pastors. Sally Sarratt and Maria Swearingen were presented to the congregation during worship services Jan. 8 and will begin their new jobs on Feb. 26. The 150-year-old church severed ties with the Southern Baptist Convention in 2012.

S. Baptists lead Congressional Prayer Caucus
Rep. Mark Walker, R.-N.C., will be the new House of Representatives co-chairman of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, it was announced Jan. 9. Sen. James Lankford, R.-Okla., the other co-chairman of the prayer caucus, and former Rep. Randy Forbes, R.-Va., made the announcement. All three are members of Southern Baptist churches.

Sources: Illinois Family Institute, Christian Post, Independent, Religion News Service, Baptist Press

Baseball and Baptists

ib2newseditor —  August 10, 2016

Busch Stadium

I’m a St. Louis Cardinals fan and have been ever since I can remember. Growing up almost everyone I knew rooted for the Cardinals with the exception of a few odd Kansas City Royals fan.

I grew up watching their games on TV and listening to them on the radio in the family car. My parents would take us to Cardinal games to cheer our team on. When I moved to Illinois I stayed loyal to my team. I was even blessed to marry a fellow Cardinals fan and we continue the tradition of watching, listening, and going to games together.

We may be fans of different teams and squabble like siblings among ourselves, but we’ll always be a part of something greater in our Southern Baptist family through Christ.

I wouldn’t dream of supporting any other team. I am a member of Cardinals Nation, which feels like being part of a family. The atmosphere of camaraderie at the games is exciting. After games, we’ve spent the night at hotels near Busch Stadium and have gone down to breakfast to find the Cardinal mascot Fredbird the Redbird greeting people and posing for pictures with hungry fans.

At one time we even had Cardinal vanity plates on our car. I can remember being stopped at a red light a few times and having the person in the car next to us motion for the window to be rolled down. When we complied they would ask, “What’s the score?” Trips to games on I-55 often include pulling into a rest stop or restaurant. Fans decked out in Cardinal red apparel, who are perfect strangers, strike up conversations with each other about the team and the game they are on way to see.

I can relate this feeling and experience with being a Southern Baptist. My mother started attending our local Baptist church when I was just a few years old. She faithfully took all three of us kids for years until my father became a Christian when I was 12. Then church truly became a family affair. We all were part of a loving church family that worshiped, laughed, cried, and grew together.

Our own church family was part of a larger family of churches in our association, state convention, and national SBC. When we visit other churches and gather for annual meetings and conventions, we feel that same kinship as Christians and as Southern Baptists.

There is much more involved in my being a Southern Baptist than there is my being a Cardinal fan. The beliefs of my Baptist family and its commitment to the Lord are at the core of my being. In my life I’ve studied other denominations and visited their houses of worship, but none have the same belief in God and seek to follow him the way Southern Baptists do.

I suspect the same is true of many of you who are fans of the Cubs, White Sox, and other teams. We may be fans of different teams and squabble like siblings among ourselves, but we’ll always be a part of something greater in our Southern Baptist family through Christ.

-Lisa Sergent

Ready for Rio

ib2newseditor —  August 5, 2016

Rio_2016_crop.jpgWith the Olympic Games set to kick off Aug. 5, Southern Baptist volunteers will be in South America to share the gospel both with local residents and with the thousands of visitors from across the globe.

“There exists no greater opportunity to reach people from over 200 nations in 30 days than the Olympic Games,” said John Crocker, a missions pastor from Alabama who is leading a mission team to Rio. Crocker’s team will engage Rio residents with the gospel through evangelistic block parties and Olympic pin trading.

“There is an openness by people to talk with one another and to talk about spiritual things,” said Sid Hopkins a retired director of missions from Georgia who ministers at the Games by distributing pins made especially for the Olympics that tell the story of Jesus.

“We have seen many people who come to the Olympic Games open to listen to the gospel because the atmosphere created is one of friendship on a global level. Ministry during the Olympics is simply electric.”

Pre-event publicity for the Olympics has been largely negative, due to concerns over the Zika virus, Brazil’s economic struggles, the fitness of Rio’s water supply, the Russian doping scandal, and other issues. But Brazil’s hosting of the 2014 World Cup proved to be successful, and Olympic organizers are banking on a repeat of that success in Rio.

Journalist Tim Ellsworth, former editor of the Illinois Baptist, will cover the Games for Baptist Press, focusing largely on Christian athletes who are competing, including diver David Boudia. He won gold in the 10-meter platform competition in 2012 and is looking to add to his medal count in both that event and the men’s 10-meter synchro competition with his partner Steele Johnson. Both men gave strong testimonies of their faith in Christ following the Olympic trials this summer.

“This is not what my identity is going to be in the rest of my life,” Johnson said. “Yeah, I’m Steele Johnson the Olympian, but at the same time, I’m here to love and serve Christ. My identity is rooted in Christ and not in the flips we’re doing.”

The Illinois Baptist blog, iB2news.org, will have more stories from Rio during the Olympic Games.

– From Baptist Press

It’s time to speak up

ib2newseditor —  August 3, 2016

Adron RobinsonThe week of July 4, 2016, was a very dark week in America. It began with my wife and me celebrating Independence Day with our family and watching the local fireworks display. But there would be a different type of fireworks in the days to come.

On July 5, a Baton Rouge police officer pinned down Alton Sterling and shot him several times while he was on the ground, killing him in front of witnesses.

The very next day in Minnesota, Philando Castile was pulled over in a routine traffic stop and shot multiple times by a police officer. Castile’s girlfriend videotaped the aftermath of the shooting and broadcast it live on Facebook for the world to see.

If those incidents weren’t enough, on July 7, at the end of a peaceful protest of these killings, an armed gunman ambushed Dallas police officers, killing five and wounding seven others.

How can the church remain silent when the sin of racism is screaming so loudly?

It truly was a dark week in America. As I sat at my desk praying about how to process these events and address these issues with my congregation, God led me to Matthew 5:13-16.

We live in a dark and decaying world, and the darker the world gets, the more it needs the church to be salt and light. Light shines brightest in darkness, and God has providentially placed the local church in the community to shine the light of the gospel to a world that desperately needs that light.

The killings of African Americans at the hands of police officers, and the denial of justice to the families of those slain, reveal the high level of personal and institutional racism in America.

The truth of the matter is that an encounter with the police is a life or death matter for many people of color in America. We pull over praying. Praying that the officer who stops us will uphold the law and not manipulate it to cover up his own racial prejudice. Praying that we will be treated the same way every other citizen of this country is treated. But most of all, we are praying that we are not killed by the very people our taxes pay to serve and protect us.

This is not the experience of my non-minority brothers and sisters. And it should not be the experience of anyone created in the image of God.

My question is, how can the church remain silent, when the sin of racism is screaming so loudly? How can we stand by as injustice continues against those we say are our brothers and sisters in Christ?

We cannot remain silent. In order for there to be change in our culture, the church must stop being silent and step up and be the church. In Matthew 5:13-16, Jesus calls us to be counter-cultural Christians. This means the church is called to influence our culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Christians and only Christians are the salt of the earth. Christians and only Christians are the light of the world. Christians and Christians alone are responsible for stopping corruption and slowing down the decay of this world.

Notice Jesus did not say “you and the government,” “you and the police department,” or “you and the Supreme Court.” There is only one hope for this world, and that hope is in people of God preventing decay and penetrating darkness.

We need to stop making excuses, stop being divided, stop being deceived by the darkness of this culture, and begin shining the light of righteousness and loving our neighbor as ourselves. We will never overcome a hateful world unless we learn to love one another.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” If we love our neighbor as ourselves, we cannot remain silent as our neighbors are being slain in the streets. And we must address the racism in our world, even if it is in our own hearts.

In Acts 10:34, Peter says, “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality.”

I pray that soon and very soon, the church would do the same.

– Adron Robinson is senior pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills and vice president of IBSA.