Archives For August 2017

The Mission Illinois Offering and Week of Prayer is September 10-17, but there are plenty of opportunities for prayer ahead of that week. In fact, all of September is a good time to focus on God’s work through Baptists in Illinois.

Devote time to prayer every Sunday or Wednesday in September. Share mission facts and videos on the mission stories. Our main focus is evangelism and church planting in Illinois. Review the statistics about lostness in Illinois. These are not just numbers, they are people.

Pray for salvation. Check Wikipedia for the population of your county or town. According to the experts, more than two-thirds (say 65%) of those people do not know Jesus Christ. Do the math. Pray for their salvation. While you’re at it, make a list of people you know who need Jesus.

Pray for the missionaries by name. Use the daily devotions as brief prayer prompts in worship services and in personal prayer. They are in the MIO Prayer Guide/bulletin insert, online, and printed in the special Illinois Baptist wrapper on the outside of the Aug. 14 issue.

Schedule a special prayer meeting for state missions. Some churches use the Wednesday during the Week of Prayer, others use Sunday morning or Sunday night. Or pick another time, day or night.

Spread the responsibility. Ask Sunday school teachers and small group leaders to focus prayer on state missions during September. Ask the missions team or WMU or men’s group to pray for state missions in their September meeting.

Focus on Romans 10:14.
“How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher?” (CSB)

Pray each section of the verse:
• For the Holy Spirit to open hearts to believe;
• for the gospel to be shared; for the church planters;
• for gospel witnesses to respond to the call to
missions and evangelism, especially in Illinois.

We could plant so many more new churches and reach so many more lost people in Illinois if there were more future leaders in the pipeline.

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering at MissionIllinois.org.

Harvey-National-Guard-rescue

Texas National Guard soldiers rescue residents in heavily flooded areas of Houston after Hurricane Harvey on Aug. 27. National Guard photo by Lt. Zachary West

Trained disaster relief volunteers representing the Illinois Baptist State Association (IBSA) are preparing to respond to victims Hurricane Harvey. Disaster Relief volunteers are taking kitchen trailers where they can prepare between 10,000-20,000 meals a day to the Houston area.

Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief State Director Dwayne Doyle said, “While the rain is still falling, we are preparing to go, both for immediate response and to provide long term assistance to flood victims. The immediate needs for people in shelters are food service and child care. Southern Baptists prepare the meals that other national relief agencies distribute.”

Two teams of child care workers departed for Dallas Wednesday (Aug. 30) to care for children in shelters, which allows parents to work with FEMA and other agencies. “We provide the service so parents can work on getting their lives back together,” Doyle said.

Southern Baptists’ response to this unparalleled disaster will continue for months, perhaps years. “We have three central Illinois training sessions planned and we are arranging training sessions in Chicagoland and southern Illinois for volunteers who will stay long term and assist flood victims,” shared Doyle.

Illinois Baptists have 1,600 trained disaster relief volunteers belonging to 37 teams based around the state. The teams include mobile kitchen, child care, chaplaincy, chainsaw, flood recovery, laundry and shower units along with a disaster relief command and communications trailer, and a search and rescue unit. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is the third largest relief agency in the United States.

To learn more about disaster relief training opportunities, visit www.IBSA.org/DR.

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If you’d like more information or to schedule a phone or radio interview, contact: Lisa Sergent at (217) 391-3119 or LisaSergent@IBSA.org. Later, we should be able to provide onsite interviews with leaders in various parts of the state and a list of departure times for volunteer relief teams heading to Texas.

The Illinois Baptist State Association is comprised of nearly 1,000 member churches and 35 local associations. Headquartered in Springfield, it is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

John Mattingly

John Mattingly

Lost people matter to John Mattingly, especially those who live in the northwest quadrant of Illinois. John served as a pastor in Joy, Ill., then as director of missions for Sinnissippi Baptist Association, and now serves as IBSA’s church planting director for the region that includes Peoria, Rockford, and the Quad Cities. John takes his role as a strategist for church planting seriously. John and his wife, Jacki, sold their home so they could be unencumbered and mobile.

“A pastor’s got to come and be part of the community,” Mattingly said. Currently, that’s in Sterling, where the couple has helped restart a faltering congregation.

“John and Jacki are just a unique couple,” said Van Kicklighter, IBSA’s associate executive director of church planting. “I think part of their passion for people in northwestern Illinois comes from a deep sense that God has planted them (there).”

Mattingly is one of eight IBSA church planting catalysts working with more than 80 church planters across Illinois. Last year, IBSA and ministry partners started 16 new churches. IBSA has identified more than 200 places and people groups in Illinois that need a church. (Their work is supported, in part, by the Mission Illinois Offering.)

New churches are needed because in some places, there simply aren’t enough. Of 102 Illinois counties, 10 counties have no Southern Baptist church, and another 12 have only one. There are large sections of the state with little evangelical witness, especially in northwest Illinois and in the cities. And new churches are needed in other places too, because new congregations are effective at reaching unchurched people.

“If we are going to reach northwest Illinois, I really believe that we’re going to have to develop an appetite for risk,” Mattingly said. “Risk means that we don’t know what’s going to happen.” And that makes the northwest corner “a frontier area.” Part of his job is finding church planters who will come to this mix of cities and rural communities.

“People in northwest Illinois deserve every opportunity to hear the good news of Jesus just like someone on the other side of theglobe,” Kicklighter said of the area where factories once booming have closed, and churches once common have dwindled.

“Our communities are open to the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Mattingly concurred. “All we need are some people who will come and take some risks.”

The Mission Illinois Offering and Week of Prayer is September 10-17. Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering.

Proposal2v.jpg

There was one point during the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Phoenix when three thoughts of mine collided:

• How can this many people make a well-informed and well-reasoned decision?

• In the social media era, how can we make it possible for even more people to participate on a level that young adults have come to expect?

• And, then, how can we continue this very expensive system of having fewer and fewer people travel halfway or more across the country to attend?

The collision came late on Tuesday, when young messengers were pleading for the crowd in the hall to consider the weight of public opinion (read: Twitter) in their debate over alt-right racism. (“What will the people out there think of us?”) In my head, I could hear old people saying, “Who cares? This is not their decision, it’s ours—Southern Baptists—and in particular the ones who paid to travel to Phoenix to speak up and to vote.” (Maybe it was just me, speaking on behalf of old people.)

But to the young messengers pleading on behalf of the masses, it was important, because they are used to the hearing from the masses on every issue: like, heart, thumbs up, smiley face, colon/capital P tongue-sticking-out. (Yes, my emoticon reference is dated.)

Executive Committee President Frank Page told the messengers, proudly, that the Convention is an anomaly: “This is a deliberative body, the largest openly deliberative body that still exists,” Page said. “But know that the Executive Committee also deliberates carefully at multiple levels dealing with each of the issues before they’re ever presented to you, from small groups to medium-size [groups] to the large plenary sessions. Our Executive Committee members are not rubber-stampers. They ask questions, they deliberate, they discuss and sometimes disagree. So know that we hold your trust carefully and we count it to be precious.”

That’s an uneasy balance for Baptists whose theology makes us accustomed to voting on almost everything—even changing the light bulbs.

The first national Baptist body in the U.S. was the Triennial Convention, founded in Philadelphia in 1814. They met every three years. When Southern Baptists broke off in 1845, they chose to meet every year, and to include as many people as possible by sending messengers rather than electing representatives. (It is a small but important distinction.)

But technology and airline costs are pressing on our expectations: Remembering conventions with 15,000 and more regularly in attendance, we want more participants than the 5,000 who flew to Phoenix. And technology would make that possible. Yet, we do not want our denomination making knee-jerk statements at every cultural twist and turn. Theology doesn’t demand an annual meeting cycle or populist group-think.

I know these impulses seem to be in conflict: more participation, and more-reasoned debate. But watching the clock tick as debate on an unexpected resolution took time from discussion on the decline in baptisms and a renewed call to evangelism, it became clear that a relatively few people in a distant city can make reactionary decisions. Next time, the outcome might not be so positive.

(Editor’s Note: Modest Proposal 1 on merging the mission boards can be read here.)

-Eric Reed

The Briefing

Iceland Down syndrome abortions called ‘a tragedy’
Southern Baptists involved with special needs ministry are lamenting a report that virtually 100% of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in Iceland are aborted. According to CBS News, Iceland “has on average just one or two children born with Down syndrome per year” out of a population of 330,000. The reason for the lack of Down syndrome births is that genetic testing leads nearly all mothers whose children are expected to have Down syndrome to opt for abortion.

Illinois town shuts down VFW raffle over gambling
A drawing for a VFW raffle with a prize topping $1 million was called off hours before a winner was due to be picked, with organizers citing a legal snag. The VFW hall in the small town of Morris, Ill., said they “did not get shut down” and will resume ticket sales and the drawing “as soon as possible.”

Banned from Farmer’s Market for stance on marriage
The Tennes family joins a growing list of florists, photographers, filmmakers, and cake bakers who have lost a portion of their livelihood for upholding a Biblical definition of marriage. Last May, Alliance Defending Freedom filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the Tenneses, stating their religious views have no bearing on their involvement in the East Lansing Farmer’s Market and the city violated their constitutional rights.

New president on bringing back Baylor
Linda Livingstone, the newly minted president of Baylor University, inherited more than just the world’s largest Baptist university and its 16,000-plus students when she took the helm in June. A few weeks earlier, a former Baylor volleyball player filed what was then the latest in a long string of Title IX lawsuits against the university alleging she was gang-raped by members of the football team. A previous lawsuit alleged that 31 football players for the Waco, Texas, university were involved in as many as 52 acts of sexual assault against fellow students.

Muslim divorce law in India ‘unconstitutional’
For hundreds of years, Muslim men in India could divorce their wives by repeating the word “talaq,” Arabic for divorce, three times. Now, the Supreme Court declared the practice unconstitutional. A five-judge bench moved to block instant divorce for six months, pending a law banning the practice to be debated in parliament.

Sources: Baptist Press, Chicago Tribune, World Magazine, Christianity Today, Washington Post

Eclipse through glasses

As eclipse-watchers turned their eyes to the skies Monday, Aug. 21, much of the attention in Illinois was focused on the southern part of the state, where several communities laid in the eclipse’s “path of totality.” In Carbondale, just north of the point of longest duration for the total eclipse, churches worked together to share the gospel with thousands of people who traveled to the region for the event.

“As we see this amazing event today that God has made, let’s point people to see the Son who paid for our sin so that we can have eternal life!” Pastor Scott Foshie posted on Facebook. Foshie, pastor of Steeleville Baptist Church and an IBSA zone consultant in southern Illinois, helped facilitate an area-wide evangelistic effort to hand out 50,000 eclipse-themed gospel tracts.

The churches of Nine Mile Baptist Association, working in partnership with IBSA, had the tracts printed and mobilized volunteers to get them into the hands of eclipse-viewers in a multi-day outreach effort. The tract was designed to serve as a souvenir of the eclipse experience. “This is going to be the easiest thing you’ve ever passed out in your life,” Lakeland Baptist Church Pastor Phil Nelson said in a video promoting the outreach.

“They’re coming to see this eclipse, but God wants them to meet his son Jesus…I can’t think of an easier way to tell somebody about Jesus,” Foshie said. “All you’ve got to do is smile, walk up to them, and say, ‘Would you like to have this souvenir? God bless you.’ I mean, it’s that simple, and then we’ve planted a gospel seed.”

In addition to the tracts, pray-ers were stationed at four points in Carbondale—Lakeland, Murdale Baptist Church, FBC Elkville, and the Baptist Student Center at Southern Illinois University. The volunteers, standing next to six-foot crosses, prayed for cars as they entered the city. It was estimated around 90,000 people would be in Carbondale for the eclipse.

Many churches in the region partnered together for the outreach, Foshie said. “It was encouraging to see so many jump in and respond to our call to partner with us to share the gospel. This kind of partnership to reach the lost is what led Southern Baptists to join together in cooperation, and it is what keeps our ties strong.”

Foshie had heard of a young woman in Goreville who gave her life to Christ after receiving the tract, and reported volunteers had also handed them out to crowds that gathered in Carbondale, Pinckneyville, Chester, Ellis Grove, Steeleville, and other places in southern Illinois.

“It has been so encouraging to see so many churches and pastors pull together to plant gospel seeds in this way. I think God has used this ministry to bring us closer together. No doubt, he will continue to use this increased cooperation and closeness to reach the lost for Christ in more ways in the future.”

-Meredith Flynn

Sharing Jesus everywhere

ib2newseditor —  August 21, 2017

Pat Pajak praying

Pat Pajak will make you cry. Why? Because he cries.

Whenever there’s talk about how many people in Illinois don’t know Jesus, you can count on Pat to get choked up. And whenever Pat tells how he had the privilege of sharing the gospel with someone—and that someone accepted Jesus as Savior—tears will flow. His shoulders shake up and down. His voice cracks. And for a moment, the story stops. But he catches a breath, and continues.

And invariably, the person he’s witnessing to agrees that they need Jesus, and prays to receive him as Savior.

The biker. The nurse. The couple at the gas station on the way to North Carolina. “I believe in witnessing opportunities wherever you’re at,” Pajak said.

Pat Pajak has a gift. Some would say his gift is evangelism, but that’s only part of it. Pat makes lostness in Illinois—vast, unfathomable, and seemingly almost too big to tackle—become real, and personal, and up-close.

“Lostness” is people, and Pat knows them personally. Even if he doesn’t, he’ll sidle up to them and ask if they go to church anywhere. And that leads to real conversation about knowing—and believing in—Jesus Christ.

Whether it’s 8 million people in a state of 13 million, or the nurse at the Decatur hospital where he had heart surgery, lost people matter to Pat, because they matter to God.

After three decades as a pastor of growing evangelistic churches, and another leading church strengthening in Illinois, Pat today serves as associate executive director of evangelism for IBSA.

Winning Illinois, one by one
For some people, simply walking across the room to start a conversation feels like taking a risk. Taking the next step—turning a conversation toward the gospel—may feel even riskier. But that’s what we’re all called to do. Share the gospel.

And for many IBSA churches and their members, that’s where Pat Pajak comes in.
Pat will train more than 200 churches in soul-winning this year. And through IBSA’s Pastor’s Evangelism Network, Pat will help mentor more than 100 pastors. Encouraging pastors who encourage their churches in faith-sharing is Pat’s specialty.

“The easiest way, I think, to impact lostness in Illinois, is to build friendships with people where they begin to trust you,” he said.

For Pat and his wife, Joyce, that level of trust was established in a crisis more than 30 years ago, when a house fire claimed their infant son and a pastor soon led them to Jesus. Not every conversion comes after crisis, but Pat finds opportunity to share Christ in tough times, even his own.

“After Memorial Day last year, I had a heart attack…and quadruple bypass surgery,” he said. And since he believes in sharing Christ wherever you happen to be, that included the ICU and later the cardiac rehab unit. Eventually, he led eight nurses to faith in Jesus Christ in a three-month period.

“I said, ‘Will you allow me to pray with you?’” he recalled from an encounter with Gina. “So I shared the Romans Road with her and asked if that made sense to her. She said yes, and she prayed and asked Jesus Christ to come into her heart.”

Pat wells up when he tells the story. “I saw her today and she hugged me and said, ‘I love you.’”

From complete stranger to sister in Christ.

“What a difference it would make if our church (members) decided, ‘I have the responsibility of sharing Christ, not just my pastor,’” he said.

With support from the Mission Illinois Offering and Week of Prayer, IBSA is equipping pastors, church members, and church planters to share the gospel. “Now is the moment,” Pajak said, because people in Illinois need Jesus Christ. “We just need to capture that.”

In other words, now more than ever.

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering at MissionIllinois.org.