HEARTLAND | Nate Adams
A few years ago I transitioned from a publishing career in the Chicago suburbs to a new role at the North American Mission Board near Atlanta. For our young family, the move required a number of minor adjustments, from snowy winters to no winters, from bluegrass to Bermuda grass, and from bad traffic to worse. Other transitions were far more significant, like the transition from smaller churches to much larger churches, and from the realities of the evangelical Christian publishing world to those of the Southern Baptist denominational world.
In many of those new arenas, I found that I looked at things differently than my new friends and coworkers. I had different life experiences than most of them. As a result, I often found myself expressing a minority opinion.
Of course this may have been partly because I was initially the only non-Southerner on our executive team. After a few months, Randy from New York joined us. It was then that the rest of the guys started affectionately calling both of us the
The nice thing about our new team, though, was that we respected each other enough to patiently listen to one another’s different perspectives. “That’s not how megachurch pastors think,” one of my new colleagues would say, and I would have to admit I didn’t have a lot of experience in that world. But then later I would hear myself saying something like, “That may work in the Bible belt, but it wouldn’t make any sense in Chicago.”
Somehow, in the midst of that verbal sparring, we saw the “wisdom of many counselors” emerge. Our multiple perspectives gave us a more complete view of reality, and of the diversity of the SBC churches we served. As a result, I think we made better decisions, and became better leaders.
It’s the wonderful value and synergy that can come from multiple perspectives that leads me to challenge all of us that possibly can to travel to Columbus, Ohio, for the Southern Baptist Convention next month. The Southern Baptist Convention needs Midwest perspective.
Many of the folks that attend the SBC each year are from the larger and more numerous churches in the South. We need that perspective. Many are there because they serve at a national SBC entity or on an SBC board or committee. We need those perspectives too.
But there is something unique about being Southern Baptists in the North, and in the Midwest, that makes our perspective equally needed, and valuable. Many important insights come from average people, in average churches.
Last January, when we hosted more than a thousand leaders from 10 Baptist state conventions here in Springfield, I heard over and over from national SBC conference leaders how impressed they were with our people. “Your folks are so devoted to ministry, and so eager to learn. We don’t see this kind of enthusiasm and dedication everywhere. We are so encouraged by what we see here in the Midwest.”
I’m encouraged by what I see in the Midwest too, and by our unique perspective on ministry and Great Commission causes. We have a lot to offer to the national SBC dialogue. In fact, I think a stronger Midwest perspective might have led to some different, perhaps better, decisions over the past few years. And with the 2015 SBC in Columbus and the 2016 SBC in St. Louis, we now have two years in a row when our strong participation can be more practical and affordable.
IBSA will be hosting a reception for Illinois Baptists at the Columbus SBC on Tuesday night, June 16, following the evening session. Watch for details on IBSA.org and in the Illinois Baptist newspaper.
I hope to see you there. The Southern Baptist Convention needs our Midwest perspective.
Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.