COMMENTARY | As a state association of almost a thousand churches, we challenge one another every year to give a special offering in support of the Great Commission task we share here in Illinois. While September is the focused time for emphasizing the Mission Illinois Offering, churches or individuals can give at any time during the year.
But if you’re like me, someone appeals to you every month, perhaps every day, to give to a different need or cause. How do you decide what to prioritize in your giving? What deserves your most loyal and generous support? Let me share what I try to communicate consistently about why I give generously to the Mission Illinois Offering, and why I urge others to do the same.
- First, I want my giving to be focused on delivering the Gospel.
- Second, I want my giving to prioritize the work of local churches.
- Third, I want my giving to partner with those who believe and teach Baptist doctrine.
- Fourth, I want my giving to be entrusted to people and organizations that are both effective and accountable.
Frankly, the Mission Illinois Offering gives me one of the best, most trustworthy channels available for meeting all four of those criteria. Here’s why I prioritize it in my own personal stewardship:
The MIO is focused on delivering the Gospel. Each year, more than 300 IBSA churches receive customized training in evangelism, and many others receive resources or financial assistance with evangelistic events. In addition, more than 80 evangelistic church plants are currently underway in Illinois, about 25 being started each year, each one pressing the Gospel into urban neighborhoods or unreached communities and seeing new people come to faith in Christ. Our shared missionary efforts on college campuses or through urban ministries like the Christian Activity Center all deliver the Gospel as their top priority.
The MIO prioritizes the work of local churches. There are many good parachurch organizations and charities that are doing many good things, and I personally support some of those. But I believe that God’s primary, enduring channel for delivering the Gospel and making disciples is the body of Christ expressed in local, New Testament churches. The MIO helps deliver direct assistance and encouragement to local churches through training, consultation, conflict resolution, and countless other resources designed to strengthen local churches into greater effectiveness.
The MIO partners with those who believe and teach Baptist doctrine. In addition to parachurch groups, I believe there are many other churches, especially evangelicals, who are also advancing the Gospel and making disciples. If resources were unlimited, I would probably support them all! But I want to reserve my most generous missions giving for the efforts of missionaries and church planters and pastors and churches who understand and teach the Bible and at least its broad doctrines consistently with Southern Baptists around the world and across the generations.
And finally, the MIO is entrusted to those who are both effective and accountable. Every year Illinois Baptist churches elect boards and committees that oversee the work of IBSA. Devoted staff members are employed to work hard at the above priorities, and to deliver detailed, public reports of the results, the finances, and the continued needs of our cooperative work advancing the Gospel. I can always know how my MIO dollar is invested and what results it is producing.
Illinois is a flat state geographically, but the task of advancing the Gospel and establishing effective Baptist churches here is often a steep, uphill climb. It’s only possible through the sacrificial, cooperative giving of Baptist people in Baptist churches. I hope the above answers to the question, “Why Mission Illinois?” will give you the same strong motivation I have again this year to give generously through the Mission Illinois Offering.
(If your church does not collect a formal Mission Illinois Offering, you can still contribute directly by going to www.ibsa.org and clicking on the “donate” tab. Or mail your gift labeled “MIO” directly to IBSA at 3085 Stevenson Dr., Springfield, IL 62703.)
Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond to his column at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.