Q. Why should I give to the Mission Illinois Offering? My church already gives to missions through the Cooperative Program. And we give to Annie and Lottie. Should I give to Mission Illinois too?

MIO: GiveA. Good question. The Mission Illinois Offering is the most direct channel Illinois Baptists have to support the missions in our state that are really important to us here. 

While Cooperative Program is the most balanced method of supporting national and international missions, planting churches in the US and Canada, and preparing missionaries and ministers, it is special offerings like Annie, Lottie, and Mission Illinois that encourage special mission work that touches our hearts.

The Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions helps the North American Mission Board (NAMB) focus on church planting, especially in the 32 metropolitan “SEND Cities” largely unreached with the gospel. And the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering gives International Mission Board (IMB) workers tools they need on foreign mission fields.

But it’s the Mission Illinois Offering that funds mission work close to home. Our denominational partners have their responsibilities, and we have ours. Illinois is our mission field. And Illinois’ 8 million (or more) lost and unreached people are our responsibility.

They’re our neighbors, and they need Jesus.

Through the Mission Illinois Offering, we are guaranteed that our giving to missions will reach our mission field with the gospel. As IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams has pointed out, there are many good missions works we can support, but through MIO, we can be certain that—

  • Mission Illinois encourages the work of local congregations. Through equipping and mobilization, IBSA is a partner with your church.
  • Mission Illinois carries the gospel with all its mission work. Not only is there the compassion ministry in downtrodden communities, children’s ministry, collegiate outreach, church planting among unreached people, and aid after disaster, Mission Illinois shares Christ in every setting where IBSA missionaries serve.
  • Mission Illinois is built on solid Baptist doctrine. We gladly work in the larger evangelical world, but we are Baptists and we hold to sound Baptist beliefs. Mission Illinois is the outward expression of our Baptistic commitment to the Great Commission, starting right here in Illinois.

Will you encourage your church to give generously to state missions through the Mission Illinois Offering? Our neighbors are counting on it.

DR vounteers at work in Sublette.

Disaster Relief Supervisor, Jamie Kincaid, works with 2 Texas volunteers to pull a loose branch out of damaged tree in Sublette.

NEWS | Morgan Jackson

When an “act of God” takes place and overwhelms a community with destruction, a genuine act of God is the response through Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Teams. When a DR call out is given, volunteers respond to offer physical labor, but more importantly, spiritual healing through sharing the gospel.

Two months ago, an F2 tornado struck the southern end of Woodhaven Lakes, the world’s largest privately owned camping resort located in Sublette, IL. Disaster Relief teams have been offering aid in the area ever since, the most recent group during the week of August 16-22.

120 individuals from Illinois, Missouri, and Texas traveled to Sublette to do mostly chainsaw work – cutting trees, taking care of hanging limbs, etc. Volunteers also cleaned up multiple properties and carried debris to designated spots where it could be properly disposed of.

Damage from an F2 tornado

The F2 tornado that struck Woodhaven Lakes 2 months ago left some camping facilities unscathed and others in ruins.

Woodhaven Lakes is for many either a weekend house or vacation spot. This made it difficult to get in touch with owners who weren’t there in the middle of the week. DR Supervisor from Springfield, Jamie Kincaid, said that a work order needs to be signed before anything is done to the property. “Without that, we can’t touch it.”

Despite this hurdle, by the end of the week the 120 volunteers completed a total of 146 job orders. Less people on the property, though, also meant fewer individuals to share Christ with. But God opened spiritual doors nonetheless.

Wendell Romans from Texas, a Disaster Relief volunteer of 23 years, said the DR chaplain had a chance to share the Gospel with a couple on Tuesday. He also explained that if a family is home, once the team is through working on their property, they sign a Bible, present it to the owners, and pray with them.

Unlike the majority of Disaster Relief trips, though, the group doing most of the witnessing this time was the laundry team. Woodhaven Lakes had a laundromat on the facility that they allowed volunteers to use for free. While pouring detergent and folding clothes, Ruth Ann Lusk had multiple opportunities to pray with people.

She said, “We’re actually the ones doing the talking this time. People come in, and we just start talking to them. Or they see our shirts and start talking to us first.” The number of spiritual conversations during the week were numerous, and so far there are two known salvation decisions.

To read another story from this Disaster Relief trip, check out the August 31 issue of the Illinois Baptist.

IMB President David Platt addresses staff and missionaries in a town hall meeting Thursday, August 27. Photo courtesy IMB

IMB President David Platt addresses staff and missionaries in a town hall meeting Thursday, August 27. Photo courtesy IMB

Richmond, Va. | The International Mission Board announced it will be eliminating 600-800 of its staff and missionaries in an effort to eliminate the board’s revenue shortfalls, which also includes a complete reset of the organization.

The plan was announced at an Aug. 27 town hall meeting that included senior leadership and missionaries and staff. Missionaries and non-field staff joined the meeting via digital media. Trustees were briefed on the plan at their Aug. 25-26 board meeting.

“With a really heavy heart, I announced to the staff this morning that the only viable way forward involves a great reduction of personnel and staff,” shared IMB Executive Director David Platt in a press conference following the town hall meeting. “We need a major adjustment in the number of personnel, to reduce the total number by 600-800 people.”

“These are not just figures. These are faces, brothers and sisters, who have spent their lives spreading the gospel to those who’ve never heard it,” he continued. The IMB currently has approximately 4,800 missionaries in the field and 450 staff which together equal 80 percent of its budget. The reduction represents up to 15% of the organization’s staff.

While giving through the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering has increased in the last few years, the IMB projects it will fall $21 million dollars short of its current budget this year. This follows several consecutive years of budget shortfalls and six years of expenditures totaling $210 million dollars more than has been given to the IMB.

In recent years, the organization has covered budget shortfalls through cash reserves and selling property. These measures along with plans set in place by previous leaders to reduce its staff and missionary size through attrition are “no longer viable in light of current reality,” stated Platt.

“We praise God for the reserves and property sales that made this possible and for leadership which chose to spend these resources for the spread of the gospel,” he said. “But we cannot continue to overspend. For the sake of short-term financial responsibility and long-term organizational stability we must act.”

Phase one of the plan is the voluntary retirement or resignation of missionaries and staff. Platt stressed no one would be pressured to leave during this first phase.

Phase two is the conclusion of the reset where decisions will be made to work through how missionaries will be used. “We must hold each other accountable in higher standards in our work…We can’t employ everyone who wants to work for the International Mission Board,” said Platt. The goal is to finish the reset by early 2016.

Platt encouraged everyone to boldly ask God where he was calling them to move. “God is not sidelining anyone in this process,” he said, noting opportunities for Christians to move overseas for their professions, education and retirement while they can also share Christ and plant churches.

“These realities, while they are financial, are ultimately spiritual,” Platt said. “God is ultimately orchestrating everything for his glory.”

The reset will be completed on knowledge IMB senior personnel will gain in coming days and months, as they evaluate what is needed around the world in various fields. “I certainly don’t have a forecast for what all that looks like,” said Platt. In all this the IMB is “trusting God to lead and re-direct 600-800 people in the days to come.”

The goal of the reset is to “get to a healthy place in the present in order to be in a healthy position for the future,” Platt said. “We want to move forward with innovative vision, wise stewardship, and high accountability to the churches we serve, the peoples we reach, and the God we worship.”

The IMB has provided a FAQ sheet related to its organizational reset that is available on the IMB website.

The 170-year-old organization is the primary international missions sending agency of the Southern Baptist Convention.

By Lisa Sergent with additional reporting by Morgan Jackson.

The BriefingTHE BRIEFING | More than 65,000 protesters gathered outside Planned Parenthood Clinics across the U.S. August 22. The protesters demanded the halt of government funding for the organization which performs abortions, provides birth control medications, and other women’s health services.

The protests follow the release of several videos produced by the Center for Medical Progress which show Planned Parenthood employees bargaining over the sale of aborted infants’ body parts to research facilities.

The reported 342 demonstrations were organized by the Pro-Life Action League.


Gov. Rauner signs gay-conversion therapy ban into law

With little to no fanfare, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has signed a bill into law which bans therapists from trying to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of anyone younger than 18.

Providers who don’t comply could face disciplinary action which could include losing their license to practice in Illinois.

California, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia already have such bans in place. Read more in the next issue of the Illinois Baptist newspaper on Aug. 31.


Chick-fil-A blocked from Denver airport

A committee of the Denver City Council has stalled what was expected to be routine approval of a Chick-fil-A restaurant at the Denver International Airport after at least four council members expressed disapproval of the company’s alleged opposition to same-sex marriage.

During an Aug. 18 hearing, council member Robin Kniech said she was concerned about a local franchise generating “corporate profits used to fund and fuel discrimination,” The Denver Post reported. Councilman Paul Lopez compared the pro-family stances of some Chick-fil-A leaders to presidential candidate Donald Trump’s comments about immigration and other issues, calling opposition to the airport restaurant “really, truly a moral issue.” Read more at BPnews.net


Critics ask president to abolish faith-based hiring bias

A coalition of 130 groups have petitioned President Obama to eliminate what they believe to be a faith-based hiring bias for organizations receiving federal funding.

The groups cite a “flawed” 2007 Justice Department memo which said the Religious Freedom Restoration Act provides for an override of nondiscrimination laws for government-funded religious organizations. They request the president direct a review of the memo by Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

Signatories include Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.


Injunction extended while GuideStone awaits appeal

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Aug. 21 it would keep in place the preliminary injunction won by GuideStone earlier at the District Court level while GuideStone’s appeals it case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The preliminary injunction, which protects certain ministries from providing abortion-causing drugs or devices in their health plan, or face crippling fines, was first issued by a federal judge in December 2013. Upon the government’s appeal, a three-judge panel of the Tenth Circuit of Appeals ruled 2-1 to end the injunction. GuideStone, along with its co-plaintiffs appealed the Tenth Circuit’s ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court in July.

Churches and integrated auxiliaries of churches, including GuideStone, are exempt from the mandate and its penalties as religious employers. The current litigation was sought to protect other ministries it serves, such as children’s homes, colleges and other ministries not controlled by a church or association of churches, from the mandate and its penalties.

Mission Illinois Offering: ServeHEARTLAND | The Mission Illinois Offering helps IBSA help churches…and together we advance the gospel across our state in many ways.

The 2015 MIO video “Together, In Concert” tells several stories about the work Illinois Baptists support through prayer and giving. Evangelism is “the point of the plow” in all our work, whether it’s mission trips or mission projects, children’s camps or VBS training, or equipping church leaders: the overarching goal is to help churches make disciples.

IBSA offers training in evangelism, discipleship, and missions. More than 20,000 times each year leaders are equipped for ministry. More than 25,000 Illinois Baptists are mobilized for missions.

Mark Emerson, Associate Executive Director of the Church Resources Team, recalls an IBSA church that learned the importance and necessity of missions through its children:

A few years ago they participated in Children’s Ministry Day where their children’s group drove to Springfield. They built a bookshelf for a shelter for battered women. The kids carried this bookshelf up to the door. One of the little girls knocked and then proudly proclaimed to the director when it was opened, “We’re missionaries!”

Now it’s not just the kids, the whole church gets it. Over 70% of their congregation has participated in some form of mission project. They all know they’re missionaries, serving and working together.

Meredith Flynn, Illinois Baptist managing editor shares in the video how she met a teenager whose experience at an IBSA camp, one of many offered each year, changed her life forever:

Hannah Batista arrived at Super Summer knowing hardly anyone. She admits she really didn’t want to attend the annual event held at Greenville College, but the family she was living with encouraged her. That she knew no one in the groups she was assigned to “was a really good thing, because it meant that I wasn’t distracted,” she said. “I could listen to the message that everyone all my life had been trying to give me, but I was finally listening now to it.”

On the last night of the week, in the quiet of her dorm room, she accepted Christ. “I remember I was crying, just so happy and so glad that I knew that Jesus would accept me despite my sin, and I could become a child of Christ,” Hannah said. “I don’t ever want to go back to the life I lived before I came to know Christ.”

She calls the week “an event like no other that I’ve experienced in my life.”

And it was possible because 85 Illinois Baptist missionaries and ministry support staff are able to serve—and many thousands more volunteer each year—through the Mission Illinois Offering.

Will you encourage your church to support the service of IBSA missionaries and ministry staff?

Will you show the video “Together, In Concert” in a worship service Sept. 13?

COMMENTARY | Having watched the videos depicting the barbarism of taxpayer-funded abortion in America, my stomach churned as I watched a scene that belongs in an MA-rated horror movie.

A full-grown human hand approaches a glass dish from the right side of the frame, tweezers positioned between the fingers where chopsticks would go. The tweezers pinch a pink fleshy limb, captured clearly by the camera. It is a hand, a wrist and an arm; no shoulder is attached. In the dish below the tiny arm, I see a leg. Eyeballs and lungs are among the other baby parts identified in the video.

Horrifyingly, some admit they watched these videos but remain unfazed. More than once, Scripture refers to this as people who have “eyes to see but do not see, ears to hear but do not hear” (Ezekiel 12:2).

You and I elected to Congress many with these unseeing eyes. On Aug. 3, when the members of the Senate had a chance to pass a game-changing, life-saving bill to defund Planned Parenthood, they didn’t.

Be assured, however, this spiritual-physical battle is not over. As long as you and I are breathing, we must fight for those whose first breath is under siege — for the boy who cannot scream from within the womb when a metal instrument approaches to dismember him and for the girl who cannot run from her med-school-trained attacker.

Until we have made abortion unimaginable for every sane American, we follow the apostle Paul’s directions: “… let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). We don’t have the option of apathy or making excuses, of which there have been plenty: “I’m not political.” “I’m busy.” “The videos are gross.” “It’s not my business.”

Oh, but it is your business. Humans must not let other humans do this to each other.

So, while those with power, money and influence line up against us like a fifth-year senior linebacker set in his stance across from a string-bean freshman with porcelain bones, we press on.

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” we read in Romans 8:31. And one thing is certain: If God is for us, we dare not be against ourselves. Do not acquiesce to the temptation of putting a trendy spin on this “issue” for the sake of, well, anything at all. It may be cool in your circle to be self-deprecating and to apologize for everything under the sun in order to appear relatable.

But please, don’t apologize for me. This “issue” is zero percent about the thought process of those who find abortion acceptable. It is 100 percent about saving the lives of the babies who will be aborted today. And tomorrow. And this weekend.

Ponder this: If someone pointed a gun barrel to your forehead, would you take the time to tell the person that you empathize with what may have led them to think about killing you? Would you apologize for not understanding where they’re coming from?

I wouldn’t. I’d be crying, hyperventilating and sweating from every pore in my skin. Frantically, I’d beg for my life. And my begging wouldn’t necessarily convey anger, but desperation. Perhaps later I would be angry, and I bet you’d be willing to understand that. After all, it was unjust that someone held a gun to my forehead, causing me to be rightly angry.

There is such a thing: “Be angry, and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26). By no means is this an easy task, but children’s lives are certainly worth our trudging through the muck and maneuvering this tight rope to defend them.

I implore you: Beg in desperation for these lives as fervently as you would your own life. Philippians 2 tells us to think of others as better than ourselves and to look out for the needs of others before our own. This is one way we live out that passage.

This is not merely an “issue of our times,” a platform on which to campaign, a hot-button blog topic or a re-tweetable hashtag.

This is laying down our lives for our unborn brothers and sisters — something Christ did perfectly when He died on the cross for me and for you. When any of us turn from our wicked ways, Christ will redeem us (1 John 1:9).

We have a duty to fight for the earthly lives of the unborn and the eternal lives of those who are convinced that the choice of one should trump the chance of another. “Open your mouth for the speechless, in the cause of all who are appointed to die,” we read in Psalm 31:8-9. “Open your mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.”

Resolve that we will be the generation that roars, “No!”

No, we will not let you kill innocent life. We won’t pay for it with our money, and we will push back with everything on the line. You may call us names, say we’re ignorant, blast our reputation or threaten us to pieces, but we will stand firm. We will stand for life. We won’t passively allow this to continue in our nation while we go on with the comforts of life, stick our heads in the sand and make weekend plans.

We, the servants of the Lord, will not stand down until our commander calls us home.

Sharayah Colter is a newswriter for the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

The_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | On the evening before she and her family had planned to return overseas, Kyra Lynn Karr, a Southern Baptist missionary to Italy, was killed in a traffic accident, Aug. 13.

“Kyra is a shining example of a life well lived: as wife, as mom and, most importantly, as follower of Christ committed to proclaiming His gospel in dark places and among difficult to reach people,” said IMB President David Platt. Learn more about Kyra’s life and her family at IMB.org.


Views on divorce divide Americans

Pastors believe not all divorces are created equal, but for many Americans any reason is as good as another according to new research from LifeWay Research.

The study found 39 percent say divorce is a sin when an individual’s spouse commits adultery; 38 percent when the couple no longer loves one another; 38 percent when a spouse abandons the other; 37 percent when a spouse is abused; and 35 percent when a spouse is addicted to pornography. Close to the same (37 percent) say divorce is not a sin in any of these.


IRS promise to Christians met with praise, caution

The Internal Revenue Service will not revoke the tax-exempt status of religious organizations that object to same-sex marriage, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has promised at least twice in recent weeks.

But some tax code experts say the commissioner’s commitments are not a guarantee of tax shelter for organizations. “Leaders of religious organizations must also keep in mind that federal income tax exemption is only one front with respect to this issue,” CPA Michael Batts noted. “State and local tax exemptions of various types, as well as other areas of law like housing, zoning and land use are administered by countless agencies all over the country. Federal, state and local officials administering these other areas of law are not bound by the comments of the IRS commissioner or, for the most part, by federal tax law.”


Study: Gay teens have higher pregnancy rates

A Minnesota study that found lesbian teens four times more likely to become pregnant than their heterosexual peers has been called a predictable reflection of the homosexual community’s apparent emphasis on sexual activity.

Evan Lenow, assistant professor of ethics at Southwestern Baptist Seminary, said the new study confirms previous studies. “Individuals who identify as lesbian and gay are much more likely to experiment with sex and have many more sexual partners than their heterosexual counterparts. Some of these teens who identify as lesbian and gay may be simply experimenting with all types of sexual partnerships and thinking less about the ramifications of such experimentation.” Read more of the study’s findings at BPnews.net.


CCCU loses Union University

Last week, Union University informed the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) that it will withdraw from the coalition in the wake of two member schools changing their hiring policies to include same-sex couples.

The move comes after Mennonite-affiliated Goshen College, a CCCU member, announced that it would extend benefits to the spouses of legally married same-sex couples.