By Meredith Flynn
We call it the most chaotic three minutes of the year. It’s the part of the IBSA Annual Meeting when churches that are affiliating with IBSA come down front to receive their certificates and take a photo together. We documented it in this space a couple of years ago, celebrating the warmth of the moment and the fun of meeting new IBSA family members, and bemoaning the fact that it is never a very good photo.
This year was no different. But we had heard it might be. Of the 11 churches joining IBSA at this year’s Annual Meeting, only about half were able to send representatives to Maryville. This will be a small group, we thought. We’ll fit on a single row.
But when the first church was called, the back few rows of the left side of the sanctuary emptied and Collinsville Community Church made their way down the aisle. Usually, only a pastor or a couple of church leaders come down front. But church planter David Seaton brought many members of his young congregation with him to Maryville.
As they kept coming, and were joined by representatives from other churches, I could almost hear the wheels turning as those of us on IBSA’s Church Communication Team considered how to get dozens of people into an artful arrangement across the front of the sanctuary. The photo you see here is the result of our stewing.
Like that picture from two years ago, it’s a bit chaotic. It will win no awards. But the subject matter is perfect. The churches in this photo represent different brands of the “pioneering spirit” that was focus of the Annual Meeting. Some, like Collinsville Community Church, are relatively new churches driving hard at the work of transforming their towns and cities with the gospel. They’re reaching people that didn’t have any interest in church before.
And some, like First Baptist in Orion, have established a longstanding, faithful presence in their communities. FBC Orion just celebrated its 175th anniversary. The congregation and others like it show their pioneering spirit when they seek out new ways to partner with other churches, so that the gospel might advance across Illinois.
What unites the churches is this shared testimony: Partnership for the sake of the gospel is valuable, and worth scooting over to make room for each other. Facing the challenge of Illinois’ challenging mission field is easier when we do it together.