In just a few weeks, thousands of church messengers will gather in Phoenix for the annual Southern Baptist Convention and its many related events and opportunities. Last year’s St. Louis convention drew 533 messengers from Illinois, our state’s largest representation since 2002. Only host state Missouri and nearby Tennessee sent more messengers, and I believe Illinois Baptists’ strong showing gave us a stronger than usual voice in the national convention.
It would be great to have as many Illinois messengers as possible in Phoenix, but if history is any indicator, distance and travel expense will reduce our numbers significantly. Even if you can’t travel that far west this year, let me share a couple of ways you can stay engaged with the larger SBC from right here in Illinois.
First, the convention itself and some related events will be live streamed via the Internet, providing a front row seat from your computer screen. Our IBSA communications staff will also be there, uploading the latest happenings to IBSA.org and giving you an Illinois perspective on news coming out of the convention.
You and your church can also participate in the evangelistic efforts that surround this year’s Southern Baptist Convention, and in a way that reaches out not only to Phoenix, but to your community as well. This year the SBC is partnering with evangelist Greg Laurie to bring the Harvest America Crusade to the University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday evening, June 11.
In Phoenix or from Illinois, you can help share the gospel with half a million people.
While an estimated 65,000 people will gather in the stadium that night, the Harvest Crusade hopes to invite as many as 500,000 viewers through multiple simulcast locations, such as our churches and homes right here in Illinois. In a similar Harvest America Crusade in Texas last year, more than 24,000 people made professions of faith in Christ, many of them at the remote simulcast sites.
Might this Harvest America Crusade be something that your church would consider hosting on June 11, as a way of inviting your community to hear the gospel message, and participate in potentially one of the largest evangelistic events in American history? Or perhaps you would consider hosting a small group in your home, and using it as a conversation starter with friends for whom you have been praying.
Pat Pajak, IBSA’s associate executive director of evangelism, is already in communication with dozens of pastors and evangelism leaders across Illinois, asking them to consider hosting a simulcast location. If you would like information on being a host site on June 11, you can contact Pat directly at PatPajak@IBSA.org or (217) 391-3129.
It’s amazing to me that technology and a little planning and cooperation among Christians and churches can make it possible for a half million people to hear the gospel message at the same time. It also reminds me that we could do so much more to spread the good news about Jesus if we would leverage these same things more consistently in our churches.
For example, does your church have young people that could help you use social media more effectively in reaching your community, and beyond? Are there tech-savvy folks sitting in the back rows of your auditorium that could be invited to the front rows of service?
We can stay here in Illinois and yet engage the larger Baptist family as it gathers in Phoenix. We can stay in our churches or homes and yet be part of sharing the gospel with a half million people at once. And we can stay at our computer screens and help our church reach people in new ways through technology. Aren’t these amazing days, when God has given us the ability to go, even when we stay?
Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.