Now is the time of year when most Illinois Baptist churches are preparing to promote and receive the annual “Mission Illinois Offering,” which is devoted to advancing the gospel among more than eight million lost people, right here in our state.
Most of the time when we describe our mission priorities here in Illinois, we talk about the desperate need for new churches, especially in northern Illinois, and in large, lost cities like Chicago. And indeed, the MIO is helping start about 25 new churches every year.
And many times we talk about the vast and strategic mission field of Illinois college campuses, where thousands and thousands of tomorrow’s American and international leaders are being trained, often with little or no exposure to the gospel. The MIO supports collegiate ministries too, on more than two dozen campuses.
MIO supports our greatest missionary asset: the local church.
Your gift through the Mission Illinois Offering also helps support the Christian Activity Center in East St. Louis, and human need ministries like disaster and hunger relief, and IBSA-coordinated mission trips from Illinois to the ends of the earth.
But I received a promotional e-mail the other day that reminded me we often don’t talk enough about one of the most important ministries that the MIO makes possible—the ongoing investment of our missionaries and staff in the health and evangelistic growth of IBSA churches. Local churches are our greatest missionary asset as Illinois Baptists, and our investment in their health, growth, and leaders is as important as planting new churches, reaching college campuses, or meeting human and spiritual needs.
The e-mail was from a church consulting firm. It offered training over a 3-day period on topics like church health models, conflict resolution, overcoming barriers to church growth, and individual church leader development. I thought to myself, ‘That’s what our staff does all the time!”
IBSA carefully measures our staff’s time investment in training and consulting with local churches. Consistently we have had direct consultation with 750-800 churches each year. Considering that ministry is delivered primarily by about 20 traveling staff, that means each staff member is serving an average of 40 churches, all year long!
But what really caught my attention about the church consulting firm’s letter was the cost of its 3-day training—$950 per student, with a minimum of 15 students. That would be over $14,000 for three days of help. To do that for 800 churches would cost more than $11 million. Our Mission Illinois Offering goal this year is $475,000.
I realize that’s not a precise apples-to-apples comparison, since Cooperative Program giving also funds our state mission work, and since IBSA does far more than training and consulting. But I hope it makes the point for you that it made for me. Every IBSA church has a staff of church health and growth consultants at its disposal, and their help is valuable! Your church’s gifts through the MIO and CP enable that staff to be available for your and hundreds of other IBSA churches—week in and week out.
Sometimes it’s awkward to ask for financial support. And maybe it’s a little easier to ask churches to support church planting and missions than to point to the “return on investment” that churches also receive through training and consulting. But if you stop and think about the value of what your church both receives and provides for other churches through your state missions giving, I hope it will make you want to give a truly generous gift through the Mission Illinois Offering this year.
Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.