Churches take up five gospel challenges for the coming year
What are the building blocks of an effective ministry, one that reaches people who are far from God? And how can churches play their role in building God’s kingdom here on earth, and in Illinois?
Surrounded by large Lego-style building blocks, IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams said the answers to those questions are largely familiar.
“The problem is not that we don’t know what to do, the problem is that we’re not doing it,” Adams said during the Wednesday evening session of the IBSA Annual Meeting. The worship service was all about five keys to effective, redemptive ministry: Expanded VBS, Witness Training, Outreach Events, New Groups, and Evangelistic Prayer.
At the close of the service, meeting attenders were invited to commit to one or more of the ministry challenges, and pinpoint on a map of Illinois where they want to see God build his kingdom.
Adams introduced each building block, and an Illinois pastor told how his church had seen God work through that specific ministry. Here are their stories:
Build a better VBS
Scott Foshie, Steeleville Baptist
“VBS is one of the most effective evangelistic tools in our church life,” Foshie said, introducing the first building block. “It reaches kids, parents and grandparents.”
In their 2015 Vacation Bible School, Steeleville church members shared the gospel in many different settings, including small and large groups, and saw 32 professions of faith. “As we followed up with families, we’ve had 10 baptisms,” said Foshie.
Research shows 30% of Christians accept Christ before age 13, and 70% do so by age 18. These statistics demonstrate the need for child evangelism. The most proven way to do this is through Vacation Bible School. Yet, last year 45% of IBSA churches did not host a VBS.
Adams implored churches to help one another with VBS. “If you’re doing one yourself can you help someone else do one? Can we come alongside and help you?” he asked.
Foshie said it’s important to start planning early and to come together in evangelistic prayer. When you do this, “people come to know Jesus,” he said.
“VBS is the low hanging fruit,” said Adams. “If your church is going to do one thing this year—do VBS.”
Go tell the Good News
Sammy Simmons, Immanuel, Benton
Immanuel Baptist holds an attractional evangelistic event every year—alternating a living nativity with a summer block party.
“There are 26,000 lost people in our county,” Simmons said. “Evangelistic events allow us to do all hands on deck. They allow our people opportunities to serve…all weekend or sometimes a week-long event. Our people love to serve.”
Six weeks before this summer’s block party, Simmons began a sermon series on sharing the gospel. He asked every Sunday school class to get involved as well.
One of the ways church members learned to share the gospel was using the “Three Circles” method, a strategy for starting spiritual conversations. Using that method at the block party, Simmons said, “One of our deacons led a cop to Christ.”
Church members followed up with attendees who had completed cards stating they do not attend church. “Over the next four weeks we saw eight individuals come to know Christ,” Simmons said.
After the pastor finished sharing his church’s story, Adams noted, “The church ought to be a place where we teach one another and learn from one another how to share our faith….The hardest thing is starting a spiritual conversation, the second hardest thing is sharing a spiritual conversation.”
Start a new group
Carlton Binkley, FBC, Woodlawn
On a typical Sunday morning, 85-90 people show up for worship at FBC Woodlawn, but the church regularly saw only eight people coming to its weekly prayer meeting. There was no step in place to assimilate new people into the body of Christ, Binkley said.
The pastor became convicted that they needed to be imitating the church in Acts 2, “[meeting] from house to house…breaking bread together, fellowshipping with one another, being in community.”
So they traded in their Wednesday night prayer service in order to start in-home Bible studies across the county.
It began with three groups the first semester, then grew to seven; now they’re about to launch their ninth group and average almost 90 people each week.
With 100% of the congregation involved in a small group, the outcomes are evident: They’ve had eight baptisms in the last year, people are learning ministry skills through discipleship, and the hope is for these groups to lead to church planting efforts.
“We just want to see Jefferson County come to Christ,” Binkley said, “and we think [God] is going to do it through small group ministry.”
Roger Teal, Grace Fellowship, Benton
The theme “Build Your Kingdom Here” is an evangelistic prayer in and of itself, Adams said. Pastor Roger Teal’s church has watched God work through their commitment to pray for people who don’t yet know Christ.
Teal explained how his church recently moved locations. Claiming the passages in Ezra 3 where the Israelites built an altar for their church before the actual building, he decided, “We’re going to do that.”
So the congregation cut down a tree, went to the exact spot where the altar would be in their new church, and “started writing names down of people they knew they wanted to see come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior,” Teal said.
Although the building is still not complete, the altar is finished. And the names written on it are seen every Sunday as people walk past. A young man named Garret Mahan, whose name is on the altar, came to know Christ and was baptized by his grandfather, Rick Webb (pictured below). Garrett has since answered a call to ministry.
The altar has served to keep the names of lost people in front of the congregation where they cannot be forgotten or ignored.
When someone at Grace comes to know the Lord, his or her name gets circled. With three so far, Teal said they have a lot more to go. “But, we’ve got three names that are circled.”
Dots on a map
At the end of the worship service, Adams asked everyone in the sanctuary to consider which of the five ministry challenges they’ll take up in the coming year. He invited them to walk down the aisle and place a commitment card near a large map of Illinois, and then to use a post-it note to indicate where in the state they are praying God will build his kingdom.
As the service concluded and people slowly made their way out of the sanctuary, the map remained as a reminder of that prayer.
Build Your Kingdom.
– Team report by Illinois Baptist staff