HEARTLAND | Nate Adams
Opportunities for our entire Illinois Baptist family of churches to be together at once are all too rare. But the IBSA Annual Meeting each November is one of those precious opportunities. This year the meeting returns to the downtown Springfield Hilton for the first time since our 100th anniversary meeting in 2007. I hope to see you there November 13-14, or perhaps earlier at the Pastors Conference or one of the other related gatherings.
But in case you can’t come, let me preview some highlights of the information that I plan to share during that meeting.
I want you to know that Illinois Baptists are going into their Acts 1:8 mission fields in dramatically increased numbers. After several years of our churches reporting around 20,000 missions volunteers, last year churches reported more than 27,000 volunteers, a 34% increase! And there is no indication of that rate slowing down this year.
I want you to know that 28 new churches were planted across our state last year, and through August of this year at least 19 more have been planted. During our Wednesday night worship session at the Annual Meeting we will be hearing from seven of those creative and hard-working planters, and you will be able to meet them and others in person during a dessert reception following the session.
Dr. Gary Frost of the North American Mission Board will bring a challenging message that evening, and you will also meet Dr. Gene Crume, Judson University’s new president, and hear about an exciting new church planting partnership we are working on together in Chicagoland.
I want you to know that our dedicated staff continues to crisscross the state helping churches, and that through September they have already delivered 17,000 trainings in strategic ministry and mission skills to IBSA church leaders and workers. Baptisms in IBSA churches were up over 2% last year, and the continued momentum of evangelism strategies like “Choose 2” give us hope of another increase when all the 2013 Annual Church Profiles are tabulated.
Finally, in case you can’t come to the annual meeting, I want you to know that the IBSA Board is exploring the option of acquiring a new property in Springfield, a retreat-like facility devoted to leadership development and pastoral renewal. You can read more about that possibility in this issue of the Illinois Baptist, and there will be additional information on http://www.IBSA.org.
Last year when the IBSA Board was exploring this possibility, I invited feedback, both positive and cautionary, from IBSA churches. The responses were relatively few, but were favorable toward the idea by about a two-to-one margin.
The cautionary and even negative responses were just as helpful as the supportive and enthusiastic ones, however. They helped lead me to recommend to the IBSA Board that we not make an offer on the property unless or until we had the cash in hand to acquire it, even though that probably meant missing the opportunity. And they helped me discover some concerns about developing our camp properties that I felt could be addressed in time.
To my surprise, the potential leadership center property we looked at last year is still available, now at a further reduced price. That doesn’t necessarily mean we should acquire it. In fact, I’ve been praying that someone else would, if it’s not God’s best for IBSA churches. But the IBSA Board and I believe it’s in our best interest to at least explore the option again, because leadership development and renewal among pastors and church leaders is such a strategic need, and we think this property might play a role in meeting that need.
So please let me hear from you again, certainly if you support the idea, because often we leave positive feedback unexpressed. But if you have cautions about the idea, please patiently express them as well. Either way, I want you to know I’m listening. And I hope to see you soon.
Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.