Editor’s note: This column is the third in a three-part series, interpreting IBSA’s 2013 state mission offering theme statement: Mission Illinois – Churches Together, Advancing the Gospel. Read Part 1 and Part 2 here.
When Beth and I were first married, she was a third grade teacher and I was director of marketing at a Christian magazine publisher. It was always easy for me to explain to others what my wife did for a living; everyone knows what a teacher does. But when people asked Beth what I did, exactly, at Christianity Today, she usually simplified my role quite a bit by saying “You know those annoying little cards that fall out of magazines when you open them? He makes those.”
Now to me, what I did for a living seemed much more important and complicated than that. But I had to admit that, in 20 words or less, Beth gave the average person a pretty clear picture of my job. It was to get subscribers to our magazines.
In fact, my task of creating those “blow-in cards” was very similar to the challenge Beth faced in quickly telling people what I did. In just a couple of square inches, we had to tell prospective subscribers why they should spend $20 or more on a magazine subscription. By the time you printed a picture of the magazine and gave the subscriber space to write their name and address, you only had a sentence or two to describe what the magazine could do for them. It’s not always easy to deliver an important or powerful message in just a few words.
As we looked for just a few words to describe what “Mission Illinois” is and why we should all support the Mission Illinois Offering, we chose the words “Churches Together, Advancing the Gospel.” In two previous columns I wrote about the significance of the words “churches” and “together.” Some churches tend to mind their own business and do their own thing. But Mission Illinois describes churches that believe the same core, biblical doctrines, and that choose to work together for both the fellowship and the effectiveness that cooperation brings. And the noble cause that our cooperation serves is the advancement of the Gospel, both here in Illinois and around the world.
There are lots of good phrases that could follow “Churches Together…” and that would be true heart cries of Illinois Baptists. With equal enthusiasm we could say, “Believing the Bible” or “Seeking the Kingdom” or “Making Disciples of Jesus” or “Growing Stronger and Multiplying.”
But in the phrase “Advancing the Gospel” we have identified, at least for now, the few words that best summarize why we as churches choose, even in our autonomy, to sacrificially work together. We want to see the good news of the Gospel delivered lovingly and effectively to every person in our home mission field of Illinois. We want to see Bible-believing, disciple-making congregations established in every community of our state. And we want devoted Christians from those churches to go boldly into all their Acts 1:8 mission fields. The “ripple effect” image of our third Mission Illinois icon symbolizes the advance of the Gospel from local churches, throughout Illinois, to the ends of the earth.
When we place “Mission Illinois” in front of that phrase, we declare who we are as an association of churches, and what we intend to do together. It is our five-word “blow-in card” to one another, and to the world. We are not independent churches; we are interdependent churches. We are not doing the Great Commission alone; we are doing it together. And even if we do a lot more than can be quickly communicated in a few words, we will seek to do these few words above all others.
We will advance the Gospel.
Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.