I would love to have the privilege of worshiping in every Illinois Baptist church. When I began with IBSA, I remember calculating that if I visited two churches a week, it would take about 10 years to get to all 1,000 churches. Visiting one new church per week is probably more realistic, but that would require 20 years, longer than any IBSA executive director has served.
But after seven years, I’ve learned it is more than time that limits the number of churches I can visit in a year. For one thing, I need to be in my home church at least occasionally, even if it’s only once a month. And then there are weeks when I must be out of the state, such as at the recent Southern Baptist Convention.
What would help me most of all to get acquainted with more churches, however, is simply an invitation. Sometimes people assume IBSA staff members are too busy to come to their church, or that their church is too small or too far away. That’s simply not true!
I absolutely love it when I receive an invitation to a church where I have never been before. The reality is that some churches tend to invite our staff to come over and over again, and of course we’re glad to do that too. But what really gets me pumped to drive on a Sunday morning is to know I’m going to meet some new people in a new place, even if I have to look up the town on a map to figure out where it is!
When I look at where I’ve been the past few years, I realize I could have been in a much higher percentage of IBSA churches. In fact, I would like to devote the next several months to worshiping in churches where I’ve never attended. If you pastor or attend one of those churches, please just invite me to come!
It doesn’t matter to me whether you need me to preach that day or not. I would enjoy worshiping with you and hearing a good sermon from an IBSA pastor just as much, if not more. Just invite me to church like I hope you do your neighbors every week!
That’s what I’ve been thinking recently as I’ve been “looking where I’ve been.” But let me also challenge you as a church to look where you’ve been as well.
When I get ready to visit a church for the first time, my assistant Sandy prints out for me the statistical history for that church, as well as the association it is in and directions, etc. These help me know a little about the setting into which I’m going.
Recently our director of information and support services, Drew Heironimus, has completed 20-year statistical summaries for every IBSA church. In other words, we can send you a brief report that shows your church’s worship and Sunday School attendance, baptisms, church program enrollments, missions giving, and more for the past 20 years. Recently my son Noah joined one of our church’s staff, and it’s the first thing he requested from IBSA. I guess he knew it’s easier to figure out where you need to go once you understand a little about where you’ve been.
Looking at where I’ve been these past few years makes me want to come to your church, especially if I’ve never been there before. Maybe looking at where you’ve been as a church over the past 20 years will give you some new insights, and new desires as well.
Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.