What is advocacy -- and why should Christians care?

A conversation with Stephen Reeves

Story and photo by John Pierce

DECATUR, Ga. — Stephen Reeves joined the staff of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship last fall to assume a new position as associate coordinator for advocacy and partnerships. An attorney and Baptist layman, Reeves … served as director of public policy with the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission….

Earlier he worked as a staff attorney with the Washington-based Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.…

Baptists Today editor John Pierce talked with Reeves about the Fellowship’s new emphasis on advocacy.

BT: What is your working definition of advocacy?

BT: How does advocacy fit within the overall mission of Christian churches and organizations of churches such as the Fellowship? And how is advocacy already at work in CBF life?

BT: On whose behalf do you — and others who embrace this mission — advocate? How is this different from so-called “special interest” lobbying?

BT: Can you say a little about how you navigate what some might call “getting into politics” or “being controversial” — as if those are necessarily things to avoid?

BT: Where — that is, at what levels of power — does advocacy take place?

BT: How important is collaboration — the building of coalitions — to the success of advocacy? What other factors should be considered when choosing the right issue to address and the best approach to take?

BT: What are four or five issues being addressed today — or that need to be addressed legislatively?

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News Headlines

Compiled by Bruce Gourley

April 21, 2014

  1. Black Baptist Churches Look to Youth for Leadership (Des Moines Register)
  2. Easter 2014: Amid Celebrations, Tension in Jerusalem, Prayers in Boston (CNN)
  3. Gospel Story of Jesus’ Resurrection a Source of Deep Rifts in Christian Religon (Washington Post)
  4. The Florida Church Whose Worshippers are All Tourists (National Public Radio)
  5. Car Hits Fort Myers Church During Easter Service, 21 Injured (News-Press)
  6. Woman Sues After ‘8THEIST’ Plate Denied, ‘BAPTIST’ Approved (ABC News)
  7. Only 8% of Republicans Say Contraceptive Use is ‘Morally Unacceptable’ (AmericaBlog)
  8. Pope Francis’s Challenge to the Evangelical-Catholic Coalition (The Atlantic)

April 18, 2014

  1. Oklahoma PTA Speaks Out Against Mustang High School Bible Class (KOCO)
  2. Chalk Jesus: Houston Church Goes for World Record Chalk Portrait (Click2Houston)
  3. Christian Broadcaster Dobson Wins Temporary ObamaCare Mandate Injunction (Fox News)
  4. Pressler Says SBC Controversy Started in Houston Church (Associated Baptist Press)
  5. Baptist Disaster Recovery Gears up for Summer (Associated Baptist Press)

April 17, 2014

  1. Christian Leaders Call for Ending Drug War, Mass Incarceration (Huffington Post)
  2. Va. College Changes ‘Free Speech Zone’ Rules After Evangelical Student Files Lawsuit (Christian Post)
  3. US Senate Candidate Mark Harris Became Leader in Church, North Carolina Marriage Fight (Charlotte Observer)
  4. Sex Scandal Rocks the Duggars’ Christian Patriarchy Movement (Daily Beast)
  5. Baptists See Fort Hood Shootings Through Lens of Easter (Associated Baptist Press)
  6. CBF, SBC Leaders Meet with President (Associated Baptist Press)
  7. Warrens Help Others One Year After Son’s Suicide (Biblical Recorder)

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Baptists Today News

Photo by Bruce GourleyIsrael trip fills; Montana experience still open

Nurturing Faith Experience: Israel, set for November, has reached capacity. To be put on a waiting list, please contact Baptists Today at (478) 301-5655 or info@baptiststoday.org.

However, for those looking for reflection, renewal and the exploration of fresh places and ideas, join us for NURTURING FAITH EXPERIENCE: MONTANA.   

This “experimental experience” in Big Sky Country, Aug. 18-23, will be a unique retreat opportunity. While addressing current issues, the group also will shape a model for future events in Montana.

Sponsors (to date) include Baptists Today, Baptist History and Heritage Society, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina and The Pittman Center of Gardner-Webb University. Other sponsor-participants will be warmly welcomed.

Programming will make use of the many talents within the group as well as leaders in Montana. Bruce Gourley, who lives in Bozeman and is owner of the popular web site Yellowstone.net, will be the well-informed guide.

Chromatic Pool: Photo by Bruce GourleyHere’s what the schedule looks like:

Monday, August 18

Arrive at the Bozeman, MT airport by 4 pm (earlier if possible). If someone’s flight is delayed, transportation will still be provided.

Western dinner and lodging in Bozeman / Get-acquainted time and overview of plans

Tuesday, August 19

Early breakfast in Bozeman and drive to Yellowstone National Park

Personalized tour by Bruce Gourley

Lodging in the park

Wednesday, August 20

Breakfast buffet at Old Faithful Inn

Second day of touring Yellowstone

Check in and dinner at Parade Rest Guest Ranch

Evening session

Thursday, August 21

All meals, meetings and activities at the ranch with a possible side trip

Friday, August 22

All meals, meetings and activities at the ranch with a possible side trip

Saturday, August 23

Breakfast and depart ranch for Bozeman

(Please make departing flights for noon or later.)


Cost is $1,200 (based on double occupancy) and includes:

Ground transportation from time of airport arrival in Bozeman (Aug. 18) until airport departure from Bozeman (Aug. 23)

Lodging and meals from Monday dinner through Saturday breakfast

Two-day private tour in Yellowstone National Park

The wonderful activities at Parade Rest Guest Ranch near West Yellowstone

Additional information:

Housing at the ranch and Yellowstone Park varies. These are cabins and lodges, not the Ritz. For anyone insisting on a private room throughout the week, please add $250.

Each person is responsible for his or her own travel to and from Bozeman. Reservations should be made as soon as possible.

Much time will be spent in the great outdoors with a variety of optional activities.

To secure a spot, please send a $400 deposit to Baptists Today, P.O. Box 6318, Macon, GA 31208-6318 marked as “NF Montana.” The balance ($800) will be due June 15.

Questions?  Email editor@baptiststoday.org.




Daily RNS News

‘Blood moon’ sets off apocalyptic debate among some Christians


© 2014 Religion News Service

Could a series of “blood moon” events be connected to Jesus’ return? Some Christians think so.

In the wee hours of Tuesday (April 15) morning, the moon slid into Earth’s shadow, casting a reddish hue on the moon. There are about two lunar eclipses per year, according to NASA, but what’s unusual this time around is that there will be four blood moons within 18 months — astronomers call that a tetrad — and all of them occur during Jewish holidays.

A string of books have been published surrounding the event, with authors referring to a Bible passage that refers to the moon turning into blood. “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord,” Joel 2:31 says.

In the New Testament, Acts 2:20 echoes the same doom: “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord.”

Recent books capitalizing on the event include “Blood Moons: Decoding the Imminent Heavenly Signs” by Washington state author Mark Biltz; “Blood Moons Rising: Bible Prophecy, Israel, and the Four Blood Moons” by Oklahoma pastor Mark Hitchcock; and ”Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change” by Texas megachurch pastor John Hagee.

Hagee’s book is drawing the most attention, with his book now No. 4 on The New York Times best-seller list in the advice/how to section, and No. 80 on USA Today’s best-seller list. The book by the controversial 74-year-old founder of San Antonio’s Cornerstone Church has also spent 152 days in Amazon’s top 100 books.

In his book, Hagee says something will happen to the nation of Israel due to the tetrad. The four eclipses occur on April 15 and Oct. 8, 2014, and April 4 and Sept. 28 next year. The ones in April occur during Passover, and the ones in October occur during the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles.

Jewish holy days revolve around a lunar calendar with Passover beginning on the first full moon after the beginning of spring, and the Feast of Tabernacles occurring on the first full moon after the beginning of fall. Hagee writes that every time a tetrad occurs on Jewish feast days, something traumatic and “world-changing” happens to Israel.

In 1492, the Jews were expelled from Spain and Christopher Columbus discovered America, giving the Jews a place to go. In 1948, the modern state of Israel was born, and in 1967, Israel won the Six-Day War and recaptured Jerusalem.

During the 300-year interval from 1600 to 1900, there were no tetrads at all, according to NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak.

This time, Hagee suggests that a Rapture will occur where Christians will be taken to heaven, Israel will go to war in a great battle called Armageddon, and Jesus will return to earth. Hagee planned a special televised event on Tuesday (April 15) on the Global Evangelism Television channel.

But NASA does not consider tetrads as especially rare, saying in a statement that there will be eight sets of tetrads before the year 2100. The most unique thing about the upcoming tetrad is that they are visible from all or parts of the United States, NASA stated.

A publicist for Hagee said the pastor was not available for an interview.

“When you see these signs, the Bible says, lift up your head and rejoice, your redemption draweth nigh,” Hagee said in a sermon, according to the San Antonio Express-News. “I believe that the Heavens are God’s billboard, that He has been sending signals to Planet Earth but we just have not been picking them up.”
Greg Boyd, a pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minn., called the predictions a waste of time, maybe even bordering on astrology.
“You have an entire population buying into this stuff so no congregation is immune to this,” Boyd said. “It can strike fear into people, which is so unnecessary and wrong.”

The Jewish holy days carry less theological significance than Jesus’ resurrection for many Christians, said Sam Storms, a pastor of Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City. Any connection between the two events should carry less weight, he said.

“We need to stop giving into some of these sensationalist speculations,” he said. “Maybe Christians are more gullible. One has to twist the data to make it appear as if these are the fulfillment of some biblical prophecy.”