Archives For September 2016

 

9-12-16-ib-cover-art-part-2Editor’s note: This is part two of a round table discussion between four Illinois pastors. Read part one here.

Illinois Baptist: What kinds of sacrifices have you had to make over the years to reach across cultures?

John Yi: Part of Bethel SBC wanting to become a community church means we really have to become less Korean. In Korean churches, it is almost a universal practice to have a lunch fellowship after worship service and it is almost always Korean food. When I first proposed not doing Korean food anymore, there was an uproar. I’m like, “Why can’t we just do sandwiches or order pizza once in a while or do spaghetti and meatballs?” That’s how it was at the beginning, but now I can’t remember the last time we had a Korean meal at church. Our members have really taken to this idea that we have to make it more accessible. We want to get rid of all the barriers.

When you weigh the value of the gospel and the kingdom of God, I think sometimes those things that seemed so important to us start to lose their luster.

IB: What victories have you seen as you’ve navigated these issues?

Marvin Del Rios: We are a predominately or all Hispanic church in a community that has changed in the last seven to ten years; a lot of young professionals are moving in. They always saw us as a Hispanic church. But because we’ve asked the second-generation people we’re reaching to invest back into their first-generation parents and grandparents, we are now seeing where we can come out of our comfort zone in ministering to those young professionals.

We have tried to make our church a hub for the community. We are housing an AA meeting for families and a lot of contemporary culture kinds of programs. In a nutshell, they know that we are there to serve.

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Kevin Carrothers, Marvin Del Rios, John Yi, and Adron Robinson discuss cross-cultural ministry challenges and opportunities.

IB: Are there questions you ask yourself about particular ministries or outreaches to keep from trying to do everything all the time?

Kevin Carrothers: I think it’s okay to say we are a small church. As a small church, we can’t do what a megachurch does. That doesn’t mean we can’t still have influence. We have to say, and I think John used the word niche earlier, what is the niche? What are going to be the definable core values of the church?

Yi: We cannot be all things to all the needs. One response to that is that we pray for more laborers, but I think God really has given us more laborers in the field than we are recognizing. In Mt. Prospect, there are folks that speak 10 different Eastern European languages near us, a whole bunch of folks from various parts of India, Central and South America, Asians; we can’t learn all those languages to speak to them, but we know there are people in our community that do know those languages and are believers, and there are churches that have some of those people groups in their congregations already.

That’s one of the reasons we try to partner with our neighboring churches, even if they are not all Southern Baptist. We have to appreciate that those are Gospel-preaching brothers too, and we are going to spend a lot of time with them in the kingdom of God, so we better start doing it.

Del Rios: There’s the key word right there, kingdom. It’s God’s kingdom.

IB: Have you ever failed at a cross-cultural ministry attempt?

Yi: I can think of one particular failure that was really my preconceived notions about what would be okay or acceptable or most relevant for our community. We don’t see a lot of it in Illinois, but in the South there are a lot of churches that still have youth choirs. I remember the first youth choir that called us and wanted to come as a mission team to Maywood. I was really reluctant to even take them, because they really wanted to do a show in Maywood and they were from an affluent, white suburb. I’m thinking, “Well, okay, we need the help.” They arrived and did a show at Navy Pier one night. I went out there to check them out and one of the elements of their show was a rap. I’m thinking, “Oh, no. I hope they don’t do the rap in Maywood because we have serious rappers in our town and if they try to do it, they might get laughed out of there.”

I had this preconceived notion that it was going to totally fail. But they did it in public in a park with 300 people in the community out there, and everybody was going crazy. They just loved it. The failure was my preconceived notion that I know what black people want or what my neighbors want and this is not it, but they thought it was the most awesome thing they ever saw.

Carrothers (laughing): If you invited me to rap, they would laugh me out of there.

IB: What from your ministry experience would you say to encourage pastors and churches who are seeking to cross cultures for the sake of the gospel?

Yi: Now I love having youth choirs come because of the variety of things they do to be creative and it’s just fun. I’ve never had a youth choir that was a fail.

Del Rios: Food is a big link in the Hispanic community. And it is more that they want to show you, especially the first generation. They want to show you their culture. They want to show you their homemade food. That means fast all day and go over there, and then they will start making a plate for you to take home.  That’s one thing that has worked very well. I just go in there and let them show me everything, not just go in there and preach.

Adron Robinson: Whatever culture you’re going to engage, it’s going to begin with relationships. Start a relationship with a pastor in a different culture. Talk to him about how to engage his culture. Also, it has to be done in love. You have to lead in love. Everybody wants love and needs love. Going back to John 13:35, when people see love, it will break down barriers.

There’s nothing that can’t be reconciled at the cross. You don’t have to agree on everything as long as we agree that the gospel comes first.

Read the Illinois Baptist online ibonline.IBSA.org.

pastors_conference_2016As IBSA messengers, committee members, and officers ready for the IBSA Annual Meeting, preparation is busily underway for another meeting that takes place just prior to it. The IBSA Pastors’ Conference begins Tuesday, November 1, at 1 p.m. at Broadview Missionary Baptist Church in Broadview, the site of the Annual Meeting. It finishes Wednesday morning, November 2, before noon and the start of the Annual Meeting later that afternoon.

The Pastors’ Conference is a time for pastors to recharge by listening to inspiring preaching, to learn from their peers, and to renew old friendships as well as start new ones. The president of this year’s conference is David Sutton, pastor of Bread of Life Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago. Other officers are Brian Smith, vice president, pastor of Second Baptist Church, Granite City, and Bob Stillwell, treasurer, pastor of First Baptist Church, Paxton.

The theme for this year’s meeting is “CROSSROADS: Our pathway to reconciliation,” taken from 2 Corinthians 5:14-21.

Conference speakers include H.B. Charles, Jr., pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla.; Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans and past president of the Southern Baptist Convention; Scott Nichols, pastor of Crossroads Community Church in Carol Stream, Ill.; and Jonathan Peters, pastor of First Baptist Church of Columbia, Ill.

Learn more about the Pastors’ Conference

Breakout sessions to cross cultures
Conference speakers will also lead eight breakout sessions, including:

IBSA staff members and former International Mission Board missionaries Dwayne Doyle and Mike Young will teach “On Mission in Another Culture,” offering basic principles to increase effectiveness while sharing Christ in another culture.

In his session, “Coming Together at the Crossroads,” Fred Luter will discuss the need for racial reconciliation and share practical ways pastors can lead their congregations toward biblical reconciliation.

“Crossing Cultures and Building Partnerships,” led by IBSA’s Dale Davenport, will help pastors learn how they can establish a partnership with an IBSA church in a different culture. Pastors can begin to form such partnerships at the conference.

IBSA’s Mark Emerson will lead “Develop Fresh Evangelism Strategy for Today’s Changing Culture.” Participants will learn how to develop an overall evangelism strategy for their churches using practical evangelism tools.

Vision tours of ministry opportunities
In addition to the breakout sessions, attenders can take a “Vision Tour” of ministry opportunities in Chicagoland on Tuesday from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The tour includes dinner. Choose from Northside, Southside, Westside, or suburban routes.

A fifth tour on Thursday, starting at noon, will offer a “Chicago sampling.” Lunch is included.

Register for the tours online at IBSAannualmeeting.org. Look under the “Vision Tours” tab at the top of the homepage.

Food and fellowship
A meal will be served Tuesday evening, so attenders can stay on the Broadview campus and not lose their parking spaces. Chicago’s famous Giordano’s will cater deep-dish pizza for $10 per person. Seating is limited. Tickets may be purchased at IBSAannualmeeting.org. Look under the “Quick Links” tab for “meal tickets.”


Pastors’ Conference Speaker Bios

H.B. Charles, Jr. is the lead pastor and preacher at Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville and Orange Park, Florida. He has served there since the fall of 2008 and is responsible for the areas of preaching-teaching, vision casting, and leadership development. Prior to his call to Shiloh Church, H.B. led Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles for almost 18 years, succeeding his late father. Pastor Charles regularly speaks at churches, conferences, and conventions around the country, and has authored or been a contributing author of several books.

Fred Luter has served as senior pastor at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans since 1986. Luter received his Doctor of Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and was elected the Southern Baptist Convention’s first African American President on June 19, 2012—holding the position for two years until June of 2014. In 2015, Dr. Luter was named national African American ambassador for the North American Mission Board. His role includes involving more African American churches in the SBC and in church planting.

Scott Nichols is senior pastor at Crossroads Community Church in Carol Stream, Illinois—a congregation he planted almost 15 years ago in October of 2001. Nichols holds a Bachelor’s degree in theology from Southwest Baptist University, a Master of Arts in ministry from Moody Bible Institute Graduate School, and is also currently working towards his Doctor of Ministry degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His loves in ministry include preaching, leadership development, and evangelism. Nichols says his joy will be to finish strong and honor God with all he is and does in life.

Jonathan Peters has served as the senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Columbia, Illinois, since 1998. A native of Chicago, Jonathan came to Christ as a student at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, and then went on to graduate from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth Texas. Peters recently led his church in a multi-million dollar relocation project.

Charlotte churches pray for peace
“Now is the time for heartfelt and sincere prayers, not political and personal-agenda driven rhetoric,” Pastor Phillip R.J. Davis posted on his church’s website in the wake of violence and protests in Charlotte, N.C.

His Southern Baptist congregation, Nations Ford Community Church, and others in the community held prayer meetings as their city continued to feel the aftermath of the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, and subsequent protests that turned violent, resulting in the death of another man, Justin Carr.

Film recounts race to save missionaries
Samaritan’s Purse and Executive Producer Franklin Graham will release “Facing Darkness” next spring, a documentary recounting the race to save missionaries Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol after they contracted the Ebola virus during a 2014 epidemic that killed 11,000 people. The film, which includes interviews with those on the frontlines of fighting the virus, will be shown in select cities for one night only on Thursday, March 30, 2017.

Most not hopeful about election outcome
With the presidential election just over a month away, only a small percentage of Americans say Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton would make a “great” or “good” president, according to new polling from Gallup.

Up from the grave
Christian in Southeast Asia witnessed a seemingly miraculous event when a village leader believed to be dead came back to life as they prayed over him. International Mission Board President David Platt recently recounted the story to Southern Baptist Convention leaders, adding that God’s work in the region has continued, as people have come to know Christ and have burned their idols.

Creature comfort
Mourners at a New York funeral home receive an extra measure of comfort from Lulu, a therapy dog who “prays” with grievers by putting her paws on them and tilting her head down. The goldendoodle is an “added source of comfort” and “a calming presence” to people who are grieving, says her owner, Matthew Fiorillo.

Bringing down walls

ib2newseditor —  September 26, 2016

Four pastors discuss what it means to be ‘one in Christ’ today

Jesus issues a clear directive in Acts 1:8 to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. His command seems simple enough: Go and tell everyone about me. But when the ends of the earth move in next door, differences in language, religion, customs, and culture can quickly build walls between people who have the gospel and people who need to hear it.

The 2016 IBSA Annual Meeting will explore issues surrounding cross-cultural ministry, including real-life stories of pastors and churches who have sacrificed their own cultural comfort for the sake of the gospel.

The Illinois Baptist sat down with four such leaders for a special roundtable discussion about the cultural idols we all have, why the church seems to be last to change, and how to be a good neighbor. The following interview was edited for space.

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Around the table: (left to right)
– Kevin Carrothers, pastor of Rochester First Baptist Church and president of IBSA
– Marvin Del Rios, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Erie in Chicago and a leader in the movement to reach second- and third-generation Hispanic peoples
– John Yi, IBSA’s second-generation church planting catalyst in Chicago, founder of a community ministry in Maywood, and a leader  at Bethel SBC, a church plant in Mt. Prospect
– Adron Robinson, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills and vice president of IBSA

Illinois Baptist: Let’s start by defining the big topic. When we talk about ministering cross-culturally for the sake of the gospel, what does that mean to you?

Adron Robinson: In Ephesians 2, when Paul says that we are all one body of Christ, he is telling believers that we are all one new culture, and it is about tearing down our cultural idols in order to be that body of Christ.
We all have inherent cultural idols. We all come from culture and we all come with that assumption that the way we grew up is the way everybody should grow up. The gospel shows us that there is a new normal.

Marvin Del Rios: I go to the book of Acts, chapter 6, what we see between the Hellenistic Jews and the Hebrews. That is something we are living within the Hispanic and Latino churches right now. Unfortunately, the first generation can get stuck in a certain way of preaching, a certain way of leading worship, a certain way of doing church. What is happening is that there is an exodus of the second and third generations from the church. My thing with cross-cultural ministry is that even though I am called to go and preach to the nations, I have a burning desire to go and reach my second- and third-generation Latino culture.

IB: Do you as pastors feel the pressure to lead in that way, to help your churches to move beyond those inherent cultural biases?

Kevin Carrothers: I will certainly agree that that is our responsibility. I was talking to Pastor Adron earlier about Jeremiah 29 and how God spoke through Jeremiah about the exile. The verse that sticks out in my mind is Jeremiah 29:7. It says, “Seek the welfare of the city I have deported you to; pray to the Lord on its behalf for when it has prosperity, you will prosper.”

Sometimes we feel like we are living in exile wherever we are. But we are called to wherever we are. God has planted us there, and we need to have transformational ministry in our communities. That does mean crossing all kinds of cultural divides.

Robinson: The other side of that, of God telling them to seek the welfare of the city, is them overcoming their nationalism.

Carrothers: That’s right.

Robinson: For them, Jerusalem was the pinnacle. God says, “Well, now you are in Babylon and you are to make Babylon a better place. You have been planted there sovereignly for a purpose.” Part of that is laying down our love for our old culture and doing what God has called us to do in a new context.

IB: We know that communities change over the years—your churches have experienced those shifting demographics in their neighborhoods. How does community change affect a church’s ability to reach across cultures?

Robinson: Hillcrest started as an Anglo church in an Anglo community. As the community transitioned to a more blended community, the church is always the last thing to change. The community was predominately African-American and the church was still predominately Anglo. They become known in the community as “that” church, not “our” church.

When they called me as pastor, the first thing we started to do is to try to reach our neighbors. Our first priority was to get out and meet the community and build relationships so that we could have conversations about faith going forward. We connected with a high school across the street. We connected with City Hall. We started to look for ways to be incarnational. How can we take the gospel out to other places?

IB: You mentioned the church is always the last thing to change. Do you think that’s true of most churches?

Robinson: Yes, I think that’s most churches. I think we downplay how big of an idol comfort really is to us. As communities transition, churches can easily fall into the “us versus them” mentality. This is our church, we have always been here. Yeah, but the purpose of the church is to reach the community with the gospel. So if the neighborhood changes, you have new neighbors to reach.

Del Rios: We don’t change fast enough and then when we do decide to change, we are already five to ten years behind. Then we are doing the catch-up game, and I think that’s where we as leaders get tired. We feel like we are in the hamster wheel running around doing nothing.

Yi: I think the big secret that we need to bring out into the open is that every church is “that” church, it’s just a matter of which “that” you are going to be. I still remember when you talked about a church, it was, “That’s the Catholic church, that’s the Baptist church, that’s a Methodist church.” But it’s not like that anymore. I think that churches can be more proactive about helping the community define what they are.

Working around church planters, one of the things we see is leaders being very proactive about what they want their church to be known as, what their niche is. Of course, in churches, we are not supposed to be public relations people, but I think we do have to be concerned, not just with what do the people outside the church think of us, but also what do our own members think of us. What kind of church are we? I think there is a lot we can do to help shape that. We do not have millions of dollars to create that public image, but we do have a currency and that’s the way we do our ministry. The way we engage our neighbors.

Robinson: I think John touched on something important: Every church is going to be that something. People are going to say that’s the church that does this or that church does that. You need to get out front in defining what your church is going to be known for. John 13:35 comes to mind. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Carrothers: Probably where our church has struggled the most is that we have to give away without expecting anything in return. We have done a fall festival for nine years, but it hasn’t brought a single member into the church. People have asked me why we keep doing this if we are not seeing people come into the church. My response is, if you can come up with something else where we can speak into 300-500 people’s lives in our community, then I’m all ears. Well, nobody has taken me up on that yet because we are speaking to 80 people on Sunday morning.

IB: Is expecting something in return one of those cultural idols we talked about?

Robinson: The corporate model, which is an idol from the world. One of the budget shifts Hillcrest made as far as reaching the community was to stop doing events for how much we can get back. We are doing whatever it is to extend the gospel to our community, which means that we are going to have to spend some money and sacrifice in order to reach our neighbors with the love of Christ. It’s not all going to come right back. You’re not going to have an event today and 50 new neighbors come in next week.

Yi: If you can get your congregation to think that way, that the church really is a non-profit organization, that we are not doing ministry for profit, that’s a success too. Just getting that shift in thinking.

Robinson: Getting the membership to embrace discipleship.

Carrothers: Absolutely. That’s a kingdom value.

Del Rios: We established a Halloween outreach at the church three years ago. We open the doors and the kids come in with their families. We have a little table for kids’ activities, something very simple, and they get candy and they can leave. Then, as they are leaving, the parents are there and we have adults there to have simple conversations. Some lead to gospel conversations.

Now, how many have joined the church out of the last three or four years during that process? None. But this Saturday there was a block party in our neighborhood and I went to visit and just talk to a couple of folks I know. The people I talked to introduced me to other folks, and the other folks said, “You’re the church with the Halloween stuff going on. You’re the church that gave us hot chocolate and that Spanish coffee that was delicious.” Yes, we are the church. Are they coming in? They are not, but they associate us with the church on Halloween that had the great Spanish coffee and they came in and they listened to a gospel conversation. Not a Bible-banging conversation, but a gospel conversation.

Carrothers: Isn’t it interesting that one of the things Paul talks about in Romans 12 is hospitality?

Del Rios: Yes.

Carrothers: Isn’t the heart of hospitality giving away without expecting anything in return?

Robinson: In Acts 2, we see the church breaking bread together going house to house. It’s relationships when you read the Gospels. Jesus shares his life with 12 people. He teaches them by example what it looks like to have a relationship with God and they go out and spread the gospel with more people. They are living together, eating together, hanging out together all day long. Our churches are so “Sunday meeting, Wednesday meeting.” See you next Sunday, see you next Wednesday. We started to incorporate intentional hospitality to the life of the church.

Watch for Part 2 on this blog Thursday, September 29, 2016

– Meredith Flynn, editorial contributor

Election 2016Since the big June meeting between Donald Trump and about 1,000 evangelical leaders, including a handful of Southern Baptist pastors, the political conversation involving conservative Christians has dropped off noticeably. Christians have grown quiet on politics. Even the Twitterverse is quiet right now.

One exception: an op/ed piece in USA Today by Hobby Lobby CEO David Green pointing to the pivotal nature of the U.S. Supreme Court. “Make no mistake, the vacancy left by Justice Scalia and the subsequent appointment to fill his seat makes this presidential election one of the most significant in modern times.”

Green’s company was at the center of a 2014 judgment that allowed his corporation to refuse to pay for abortion-inducing drugs as part of its health insurance plan because of religious objections, despite requirements under the Obama Affordable Health Care Act. The high court’s ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby was 5-4. “It’s frightening to me to think that we—and all Americans—were just one vote away from losing our religious freedom,” Green wrote.

That’s the reason he gives for supporting Donald Trump. “(Hillary) Clinton has made no secret she believes government interests supersede the protection of religious liberty.”

Green’s concern for religious liberty is understandable and even commendable, but his essay serves to show that evangelicals are no longer a one-issue people.

Beginning with the emergence of the Moral Majority, evangelicals became a force and a voting bloc. Their anti-abortion theology drove evangelicals to candidates who were expressly pro-life. Fortunately, those candidates were often in agreement with conservative Christians on many other issues as well, so supporting them advanced a whole bundle of issues. It worked for 30 years.

Not so today.

Green’s commentary underscores that evangelicals are not all in agreement on the importance of any one issue any more than they support any one candidate. The world is too complex for a single-issue approach.

In this head-scratcher of election cycles, some evangelicals are valuing other issues as highly as pro-life and religious freedom: What about a candidate’s trustworthiness, honesty, temperament, and character? What is his or her history of relations with dangerous nations, prudence in peacetime or courage in war? What about the prospect of handling the nuclear codes?

Maybe many in the Christian community are relatively quiet on this presidential election because they’re still thinking about it.

And scratching their heads.

– DER

The BriefingCivil Rights report attacks religious freedom
According to Chairman Martin Castro of the United States Commission on Civil Rights, phrases such as ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ should now be considered “code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any other form of intolerance.” Those remarks are found in a new report that presents claims for religious exemptions from nondiscrimination laws as a significant threat to civil liberties.

Pence shares faith at FBC Jacksonville
Staunch Christian and Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence, who proudly declared in June that his identity as a Christian comes before his politics, confessed Sunday that he once walked away from the faith to which he clings so dearly now.

NCAA, ACC cancel N. Carolina events
After the NCAA announced it was withdrawing seven championship events from North Carolina over the state’s anti-discrimination law, the Atlantic Coast Conference followed suit. The ACC stated it would move all neutral-site championships for the coming academic year out of North Carolina, including the football conference championship game in December.

Hungary to favor Christian refugees
This week, Hungary, which has during the past year come under pressure for its handling of Europe’s mass migration crisis, has become the first government to open an office specifically to address the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and Europe. The move sets a precedent on the international stage.

Controversial appointee earns praise
David Saperstein, the ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, is earning praise from across the political spectrum. At a time when violence against religious minorities has proliferated around the globe, Saperstein has shown himself diligent in confronting religious persecution. Because he held liberal views on LGBT issues and abortion, some conservatives objected to the nomination.

Sources: ERLC, Christian Post, Baptist Press, Christianity Today, World Magazine

Great Partners

ib2newseditor —  September 19, 2016

Recently my wife, Beth, left town for a few days to visit our sons in the Chicago area and to attend a bridal shower for our soon-to-be daughter-in-law Alyssa. I had a couple of local commitments, and so I agreed to take care of the home front while she was gone. I thought to myself, “This won’t be that hard. I’ll just do all the things she normally does, plus my stuff. There should be plenty of time left over to relax as well.”

How wrong I was. After a few days of preparing my own meals, doing the laundry, tending to the dog, and a dozen other surprisingly time-consuming duties, I realized the lawn needed mowing. Now before you judge me, let me point out that my wife says she likes to mow the lawn. She loves being outside, considers it good exercise, says it gives her a sense of accomplishment, and even uses it as prayer time. So I let her mow.

Our missionaries and staff couldn’t do what we do without the partnership of IBSA churches and the generous gifts of Illinois Baptists, especially through the Mission Illinois Offering.

Beth chose to be absent, however, on one of the hottest and most humid Saturdays of the summer. On top of that, our self-propelling mower recently stopped self-propelling. Its handle is held together by little plastic ties. And at least two of its wheels wobble badly. As I forced it up the hills and around the curves of our yard, I seemed to remember Beth saying something about perhaps needing a new one.

During the many times I stopped to wipe the perspiration off my brow and out of my eyes, I found myself thinking how much I missed not just my wife, but my life partner. I pictured trying to do both of our jobs all the time, plus parenting and serving in the church, and all the other responsibilities that we share. And I realized again that I can only do what I do because of what she does.

The following Sunday I was scheduled to speak at one of our state’s most generous missions-giving churches, though they are far from the largest. In 2015, this faithful church gave by far the state’s largest Mission Illinois Offering.

They are between pastors right now, and I had already planned to try and encourage them from Philippians 1, where Paul says, “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you I always pray with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”

As I introduced the text, I found myself telling them about the unsustainable few days I had just spent without my wife. I told them those days had really made me appreciate the value of a good partner. And then I thanked them sincerely, from my heart, for their partnership in the gospel, not just this year, but for so many years.

Without the partnership of local IBSA churches, we could not have planted 23 new congregations last year, or delivered 20,000 trainings to pastors and church leaders, or mobilized more than 24,000 missions volunteers.

Across the state this month, hundreds of IBSA churches will receive the Mission Illinois Offering, focused on reaching more than 8 million lost people here in our state. Some offerings will total a few hundred dollars, and some several thousand. But together, they help form a powerful partnership in the gospel that gives my prayers joy as well.

Beth is back, and this week we bought a new lawnmower. It’s one small way I can thank my wife for being a great partner. Our missionaries and staff couldn’t do what we do without the partnership of IBSA churches and the generous gifts of Illinois Baptists, especially through the Mission Illinois Offering. Thanks for being great partners.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.