Meredith Flynn

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FIRST-PERSON: Raising Generation C

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (BP) – Gen Z is now Gen C. Social scientists are using the term to describe the youngest children who are growing up during the COVID-19 pandemic. Generation C, the thinking goes, will be forever marked because of how the crisis is shaping their formative years.

Chicago church sues over stalled building purchase

CHICAGO (BP) -- Immanuel Baptist Church in Chicago has filed a federal lawsuit over the city's enforcement of a zoning ordinance that won't allow the congregation to purchase its building near the University of Illinois-Chicago campus. The church contends the ordinance is in conflict with the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. "Agonizing" is how Nathan Carter, the church's pastor, described the decision to either seek other meeting space or file the lawsuit.

Ill. pro-lifers fight publicly-funded abortions bill

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (BP) -- Pro-life advocates in Illinois are urging lawmakers to oppose legislation that would allow the use of public money to fund abortions. Illinois House Bill 40, currently awaiting a vote by the state's House of Representatives, would strike from state law a provision that says Illinois' medical assistance program cannot pay for abortions. The bill also would allow state workers' health insurance plans to include coverage for abortions. Illinois Right to Life is one of the pro-life organizations that opposes HB 40. Its ...

10 of 22 motions referred to SBC entities

ST. LOUIS (BP) -- Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention proposed 22 motions, the most since 2010. Ten motions were referred to convention entities for further study and for a report at the 2017 SBC meeting in Phoenix. The Committee on Order of Business automatically referred three motions to SBC entities and/or the Executive Committee:

Motion for persecuted church gets SBC prayer

BALTIMORE (BP) -- Messengers proposed 17 motions during the Southern Baptist Convention's June 10-11 annual meeting, six of which were referred to SBC entities for consideration.

Wife of slain pastor tells of peace & hope

MARYVILLE, Ill. (BP) -- Cindy Winters didn't set out to write a book. But as she journaled about her grief and pain after her husband Fred was killed in his Maryville, Ill., pulpit four years ago, she realized how healing the writing process could be. And she wanted to share that with others on a similar journey.

Parents refused to ‘interrupt’ Haley’s life

ANNA, Ill. (BP) -- Haley Willis has exceeded expectations her whole life. Diagnosed with a neural tube defect 21 weeks before she was born, doctors told her parents, Jeff and Lynel, that Haley wouldn't survive the pregnancy. When she was born on her due date, the Willises were told to take her home and enjoy her for as long as she survived –- two weeks, at most.

Ill. Baptists recognize strength in cooperation

DECATUR, Ill. (BP) — Messengers to the 106th annual meeting of the Illinois Baptist State Association heard an urgent plea: Go — to the places and people in the state with the greatest need and with a spirit of partnership and cooperation. “For Southern Baptists in particular, the strength has always been in cooperating,” IBSA […]

1% Challenge: Economy doesn’t deter church from giving

BRIDGEPORT, Ill. (BP) -- Pastor Wes Hahn didn't have to twist any arms when he proposed that Shiloh Baptist Church increase its Cooperative Program giving by 1 percentage point in 2012. During his four-year tenure at Shiloh in Bridgeport, Ill., Hahn has used every opportunity to promote CP, Southern Baptists' main method of cooperative giving. In Illinois, 43.25 percent of CP funds go to national and global Southern Baptist missions, while the remaining 56.75 percent helps support Illinois missions. Shiloh has a long history of Cooperative Program support, Hahn said, so when he suggested the church raise its giving from 14.5 to 15.5 percent of their undesignated offerings, the finance team and the rest of the congregation were ready to accept the 1% Challenge, a national initiative by the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee.

"The beauty of the Cooperative Program" is that Southern Baptists' 45,000-plus churches are "all working to fulfill the Great Commission," Hahn said. "... For every dollar we give to the CP, it's literally going around the world." Shiloh and other churches that have tackled the 1% Challenge are doing their part to combat a nationwide slide in Cooperative Program giving. Last year, national CP giving was 3.98 percent below the amount allocated to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America, despite a slight increase over the previous year. In Illinois, year-end Cooperative Program giving was 9 percent below budgeted giving and 2.6 percent lower than the previous year. "It's been a couple of tough years in a row for Cooperative Program missions, but here in Illinois, we're making the necessary adjustments and living within our means," said Nate Adams, executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. "We're all eager for the economy to improve and for Illinois Baptist families and churches to get past these current financial hardships. "The fact that these families and churches continue to give so faithfully to cooperative missions even during these challenging times, is a cause for great encouragement," Adams said. Shiloh is one example of a church giving despite a downward economy. The church's undesignated giving in 2011 was 6 to 7 percent lower than the previous year, Hahn said, but missions giving actually increased, including a record high contribution to the Illinois Mission Offering. "Even though there might be a little downturn in the economy, so the tithes and offerings are down, when it got to specific giving, they said, 'Well, that's the need; that's what we're going to do.'" Hahn recounted. Shiloh's missions giving mindset and growing missions sending strategy is based on knowing the important role the church plays in Kingdom ministries, Hahn said, noting that Jesus' challenge in Acts 1:8 to be witnesses all over the world isn't possible without cooperation.

Chicago pastor, 74, earns seminary doctoral degree

CHICAGO (BP) -- When Don Sharp received his doctoral degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 20 members of the congregation he leads attended the December commencement, applauding their 74-year-old pastor for his of academic achievement. [[email protected]@180="[The doctoral project] really reinforced the notion that the church has to address the issue of family."
-- Graduate and pastor
          Don Sharp]Sharp, pastor of Faith Tabernacle Baptist Church in Chicago, graduated with a doctor of educational ministry degree, calling it "the fulfillment of a lifelong dream." "Education has always been something that has been appealing to me," said Sharp, who, as the youngest of five children, was the first to finish elementary school. He later received degrees from DePaul University and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and started taking master's-level seminary courses at Southern's extension campus in Chicago 14 years ago. Sharp, who has twice served as president of the IBSA board of directors, was Faith Tabernacle's organizing pastor 47 years ago and has led the church ever since. Pursuing further education was "something I felt like, if nothing else, for the sake of the family, I needed to do," Sharp said. It also has had an impact on his congregation. "That has been the response I get from some of the folks: 'You really inspire me, I need to get back in school,' particularly from the young people in our congregation," Sharp said. "It becomes significant for us ... when [there is] such a high dropout rate among African American young people, especially boys." Sharp began pursuing his doctoral degree wholeheartedly five years ago, completing his coursework and beginning work on his doctoral project. His studies were sidelined by triple bypass surgery last year, but he credits his professors with graciously working with him so he could receive his degree during Southern's winter commencement in December in Louisville, Ky. Sharp's final project was titled "A Strategy to Strengthen African American Families at the Faith Tabernacle Baptist Church in Chicago, Illinois." For the research component of his project, he led a 12-week seminar exploring the concept of the African American family through history, including how the church has traditionally related to those families. His findings, based on pre- and post-seminar surveys, already are impacting how he leads his church. "As I began to work on my project and material for it, it really reinforced the notion that the church has to address the issue of family," Sharp said. "Now, of course, when we talk about family today, it's not the Cleaver family. You've got single-parent families, either divorced or never-married heads of household, multi-generational families where you have two or three generations living in the same household." His studies helped him identify issues facing his church as it relates to families, such as "How do we say to the single mom, 'There's a place here for you, and you also have worth, you also have value,'" Sharp said. "How can we as a church love you where you are, and help you in your struggle?"