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Going public

Lisa Misner —  April 16, 2018 — Leave a comment

Hundreds across Illinois take the baptism plunge on One GRAND Sunday

Net Church Staunton Group


Eleven people at NET Community Church in Staunton joined hundreds more that were baptized across the state on One GRAND Sunday April 8.

On Sunday, April 8, volunteers at NET Community Church carried a livestock feeding trough into the high school gymnasium where the church meets. The trough had a lofty purpose—11 people were baptized during the morning worship service. They wore shirts with the words “going public.”

“Their life stories were all very different, but their life conversion was the same,” said Pastor Derrick Taylor. “It was so exciting to witness each one going public with their new lives in Christ, thus declaring I’m not ashamed of the Lord Jesus Christ!”

Across Illinois, hundreds of people were baptized on the day dubbed “One GRAND Sunday.” IBSA’s Pat Pajak first shared the goal of 1,000
baptisms in one day last fall. As word came in of baptisms around the state, Pajak celebrated the 321 reported so far, and the renewed excitement about evangelism that seemed to characterize the day.

“The real purpose of One GRAND Sunday was to remind churches that our responsibility and privilege is to have gospel conversations outside the walls of the church,” said Pajak, associate executive director for evangelism. The day “was a reason to reignite our passion for the Great Commission and rejoice in both salvations and baptisms, which some of our churches had not seen for many years.”

Read a few of the many stories from a day focused on baptism, and on “going public” with faith in Jesus.

‘I’m serious about this’
Brittany Miller grew up going to church, but when she went away to college, it never became a priority, she says. Over the past year, she felt a pull to go back. When a co-worker told her about his new church, NET Community in Staunton, Brittany decided to check it out.

“The pastors were so, so dedicated and just really believed in what they were preaching,” she says. “And I liked how it was just taken right from the Bible.”

There was a disconnect, though. Everyone kept talking about salvation, an unfamiliar concept for Brittany.

Net Community Brittany Miller

Brittany Miller was baptized by her pastor, Derrick Taylor, on One GRAND Sunday.

“I kind of just kept it all to myself,” she remembers. “I didn’t want to ask too many questions, because I didn’t want anybody to think I was a non-believer. Because I believed.” A personal relationship with God, though, was something she didn’t have—yet.

At a small group Bible study one evening, Brittany got up the courage to ask her questions. The group’s leader, Nancy Taylor, pulled in associate pastor David Baker, and together, they walked Brittany through what it means to have saving faith in Christ.

“After hearing what salvation was, I knew that that was what I wanted,” she says. “I wanted that relationship with God; I wanted to deepen my knowledge of him. I wanted him to live through me.”

There was one hang-up, however. “I was so worried that I couldn’t do this because I was going to let God down. And I didn’t want to do that,” she says. “It took a while for the pastor to assure me that that is not how this works.”

After two hours of talking, she prayed to receive Christ. “It all makes sense now,” she says. “It was God pulling me, little by little, to that moment.”

Over the next days and weeks, Brittany started telling family and friends what had happened to her. They were supportive in some cases, and skeptical in others. In some cases, the news didn’t go over as well as she had hoped. Brittany says she’s leaning on her church family to deal with the relational difficulty. She also downloaded a Bible app on her phone, so encouragement is always nearby.

Her baptism April 8 was a way to publicly give God the glory for her faith, and a testimony to the people in her life, she says.

“I need to do this so these people know I’m serious about this.”

All in the family
Willow Krumbwiede decided to be baptized so she could share her decision to follow Christ with her church family, among others. Her public profession of faith April 8 also had a profound impact on her dad.

Willow’s father, Tim, came to Grace Fellowship Church in Amboy on that Sunday morning to support his daughter. The church planned baptisms for the end of their first worship service, Pastor Brian McWethy explained, so Tim sat through the entire service that day. Unbeknownst to him, Willow, her fiancé Andrew, and their pastor were actively praying for his salvation.

Throughout the sermon on biblical baptism where McWethy explained why each person must choose to be baptized for themselves, Willow’s father faced his own life decisions. McWethy said he could see the Holy Spirit was at work in Tim’s life during that sermon.

Grace Fellowship Amboy

Willow Krumbwiede’s baptism at Grace Fellowship Church in Amboy compelled her dad, Tim, to profess his faith in Christ and be baptized.

As the band played an invitation of “O Come to the Altar”, Willow’s father stood up. He stepped forward and grabbed McWethy by the arms, saying, “I just surrendered my life to Jesus Christ.” McWethy was thrilled at the news. Before he could say much, Tim also said that he was ready to be baptized. Today.

So, a few minutes later, Tim followed his daughter into the baptismal trough. After everyone celebrated with them, McWethy asked Willow, “Did you have any idea this would happen?” Incredulous, she smiled and replied, “No.”

The pastor gives all glory to God. “There is power in his word. There is power in the gospel.” One GRAND Sunday’s emphasis on baptism helped him and his church to focus not only on baptizing, but also evangelism, McWethy said.

“If I’m gonna baptize somebody, they’ve got to get saved.” McWethy has found a renewed focus in sharing Christ daily because he was given the charge to renew his commitment to baptizing believers. “If it did nothing else, it got our minds thinking about the lost.”

‘One happy Grandma’
McKenzie Boston and Kaitlyn Warren are 15-year-old cousins whose “carefree” lifestyle completely changed when McKenzie’s mother suddenly passed away February 8.

McKenzie and Kaitlyn were brought up rarely going to church despite their mothers’ Christian upbringing. But during their visits with their grandparents, John and Carol Warren, the church-going became more frequent.

“I had a burden for all my children and grandchildren,” Carol said. “But I had especially been praying for my daughters and granddaughters.”

Carol wasn’t satisfied with just praying, however, and put her prayer into action. She wanted her children and grandchildren to know where her faith stood. “Every time they visited, I would take them to church.” Carol’s influence paid off and her daughters began attending Emmanuel Baptist Church in Carlinville—the church where they had both been baptized.

Emmanuel Carlinville

Pastor Cliff Woodman of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Carlinville baptizes McKenzie Boston.

The death of McKenzie’s mom came as a shock to the family. The young cousins started thinking more seriously about their own faith and what happens after life on earth. Kaitlyn’s mom, Cheryl, began talking to both girls about Jesus and the salvation he offered from ultimate death.

“The girls were ready by this time to have a relationship with Christ,” Carol said. She laughed, “But they wanted to wait for their grandmother to talk to them.”

On Friday, April 6, Carol talked through the Romans Road with her granddaughters and prayed with them as they received Christ. “It was such an answer to prayer!” she said. “And such a relief for me to know the hope of their salvation.” After talking to their pastor, Cliff Woodman, they prepared to publicly proclaim their salvation to the church on April 8—One GRAND Sunday.

“It was a very emotional time for us all,” Carol said. “But perhaps most especially for me.”

Carol had led her own daughters to the Lord years earlier and had seen the two of them get baptized. Now, she was watching her own granddaughters, whom she had also led to Christ, get baptized in the same church.

“It was very special for me,” Carol said. “I’m just one happy grandma!”

-IB Team Report

Families take an all-in approach to community transformation

Rodriguez Family

In one of their city’s most dangerous neighborhoods, the Rodriguez family is advancing the gospel by building relationships and trusting God to work.

On a family prayer walk, Edgar Rodriguez helped his children see their neighborhood in a new light. The pastor of New City Fellowship in Chicago’s Humboldt Park asked his kids what they saw as they walked.

“Our oldest said, ‘I see children,’” Edgar said. His response: “This is your mission right here.”

In the second-deadliest neighborhood in Chicago, Edgar and his wife, Sonia, are raising their seven children to play an integral role in transforming their community by sharing—and living— the gospel.

They’ve heard the questions about living in a dangerous place, Edgar said. “Why don’t you move out of there?”

“We believe that we have the solution to change their hearts, which is Jesus. Everything else is going to fall short,” said the church planter who launched New City Fellowship three years ago.

“We can’t leave.”

Sonia says, “If I’m giving my children the gospel, and they can give the gospel to another child, why wouldn’t I train them up for other people in the neighborhood to possibly know Christ?”

Life together
Edgar didn’t want to go back to his old neighborhood to plant a church. He was frustrated with the people—“his own people,” he said. Humboldt Park is undergoing gentrification, meaning coffee shops are popping up, along with more expensive housing. And a new demographic—hipsters—are joining large African-American and Hispanic populations.

Spiritually, though, religious tradition still had more influence than culture-impacting gospel ministry. But the couple sensed God was moving them back to the neighborhood where they both spent at least part of their childhoods.

“God, forgive me for being like Jonah,” Edgar remembers praying.

“We knew the mess that existed, but through prayer and counsel and things of that nature, we just kept telling one another that it makes sense. If the darkness in this neighborhood is what it is, and we’re light, it’s actually kind of foolish and cowardice to leave it like it is.”

Three years ago, the Rodriguezes started New City Fellowship in their apartment. Once they outgrew the space, they moved into the Humboldt Park headquarters of the Chicago Metro Baptist Association.

Planting a church in a tough neighborhood has its challenges, especially when you open your own home like the Rodriguezes have tried to do. They’ve invited drug addicts and dealers to share meals at their table. When a former friend reached out for help and a place to stay, they let him live with them for a while. That particular encounter resulted in Edgar sustaining a blow to the head when the man threw his phone at him in anger.

Months later, Edgar saw the man again. He walked up to him and reached out his arms. “Who would I be if I would not extend to you what Jesus extended to me?” the pastor explains now.

As they engage their neighbors, the couple exercises wisdom when it comes to protecting their children, but they say total security is an unreachable goal. They move forward holding out the gospel, and trusting God to work.

“Even at my best as a husband, as a father, as a protector, I can’t bullet-proof my family,” Edgar says. “When you look at Scripture, God didn’t avoid putting his people in the world. He gave his son knowing what he was going to face.”

New City Fellowship meets on Sunday for worship, but the church also gathers several times during the week for Bible study and meals together. It’s an approach they call “life on life,” which Edgar admits sounds a little cliché, even to them. But it’s a way to describe how they’re trying to integrate gospel-centered community into the everyday rhythms of life—eating, shopping, laundry, etc. What can their small group of Christians do together, so that the gospel goes forward as they disciple each other?

Some people would say it’s too much, Edgar says, and it could be, if you’re going out of your way. But the things their church does together, they’re already doing.
“It’s not a burden for us, and it’s not too much for us. And other families are starting to realize, ‘I need this.’”

The Marshes

The Marshes of Macon are renovating an old church building to create a gathering space for their neighbors.

Opening their doors
Marsh church renovationIn a small community three hours from Humboldt Park, Alan and Marie Marsh are creating a permanent space to welcome their neighbors. When the Marshes moved to Macon, just south of Decatur, they didn’t settle in a traditional house. Instead, they purchased a century-old church building they plan to transform into a community center.

“We believe that wherever the Lord puts us is where we need to reach out,” said Marie, who, as a baker and artist, has big plans for the former Presbyterian church that sits in a neighborhood of quaint homes.

The Marshes live in an office/classroom wing that was added to the original sanctuary, and the family uses the sanctuary to host a “life group” of people from their church, Tabernacle Baptist in Decatur. Eventually, the space could include a library, coffee shop, and other spaces for people in Macon to come together and, as Marie put it, take a little break from their world.

“One thing that I feel like I’ve learned throughout the years is that there are hurting people everywhere,” she says. People might not want to walk into a church they’re new to, but her family can offer their neighbors a place to sit and read and relax. “I look at that as kind of our ministry,” Marie says. “They can walk in the door and they’re going to be loved.”

The Marshes share the space with daughters Grace, 12, and KatieAnn, 22, both of whom are invested in their parents’ outreach to the community. KatieAnn “is the one that goes all in when there’s an outreach that I’m a part of,” Marie says, “like helping with Grace or making, decorating, and packaging 600 cupcakes for our church’s Easter outreach. She has a giving heart that doesn’t stop.”

Sixth grader Grace also plays a key role in building relationships. She was the Marshes first foster child placement, and the couple adopted her when she was three. “To her, there’s no such thing as a stranger,” Marie says of her daughter.

Because the Marshes have fostered several children during her lifetime, Grace is accustomed to people coming and going. “And now when children come into her life, they’re her immediate friends. She welcomes them,” Marie says. “Her role is just to be herself.”

Macon is a small community, and quiet—except on the school bus Marie drives, she jokes. When the Marshes moved to Illinois, she homeschooled Grace. Once she enrolled in public school last fall, Marie got her bus license and a job as a route driver. The job has given her an opportunity to meet families in town.

It’s Marie’s own history as a child in need of a home that motivates her and her family to reach out to others with similar needs.

“I looked at it as people opening up their home for me,” she says of her years as a foster kid, “so opening up my home to someone else is a way for me to give back to God.” Her voice breaks when she acknowledges, “You can’t repay, except to do unto others as it was done unto you in that sense.”

The Marshes are taking the long view of renovating their new home and future community gathering place. They envision family movie nights, craft sessions, and maybe a place for a church to hold a worship service again. For now, their mission is to be open to the possibilities.

“We invest in people’s lives,” Marie says. “And how we do that is just by opening up our lives and our doors to them.”

-Meredith Flynn

Thank you

ib2newseditor —  April 2, 2018

Cooperative ProgramRecently I attended a meeting of state Baptist executive directors, like myself, from across the country. The format of the meeting included several panel discussions on topics ranging from missions giving to working with local associations, and from disaster relief ministry to ways Baptist state conventions can help one another.

One of the panels was comprised of four experienced leaders, and they were asked the question, “What have you discovered that encourages generous missions giving from churches through the Cooperative Program?”

It was a question that certainly got my attention. While Cooperative Program giving is up in Illinois so far this year, last year it dipped below the $6 million mark for the first time since 1998. Many churches understand and appreciate Cooperative Program missions and ministries, and are giving sacrificially. But many are giving nominally, or at a rate lower than in the past. That affects missions and ministries not only in Illinois, but throughout America and around the world.

Your missions giving is making a difference here in Illinois and around the world.

By the way, if you want to know how strong your church’s CP missions giving is, simply divide the amount your church gave through the Cooperative Program last year by the number of church members. Across all IBSA churches, that average is about $50 per member. The top 100 CP missions giving churches in Illinois give at least $100 per member. My home church here in Springfield isn’t large, but it gave about $200 per member last year. This “per capita” giving is really the most accurate way to compare churches of all sizes.

Anyway, so when I heard the panel discussion question about CP missions giving, I sat up straight and poised myself to take notes on whatever my colleagues might say about this important need. The first to speak was one of the most experienced and respected of all the executive directors.

“The first and most important thing is this,” he began. “Whenever I am in a church, whenever our staff is in a church, in fact whenever I have an opportunity to speak or write to pastors or churches in any setting, I always start with thank you. Thank you for prioritizing the Cooperative Program in your missions giving.”

I didn’t bother writing anything down. “I can remember that,” I thought. “What else will he suggest?” But he kept talking about gratitude.

“We all need to remember that churches, like church members, have a lot of demands on their resources. There are lots of ways they could spend their church’s offerings at home. Whatever they choose to send beyond their church field to the mission field and ministries of our state, nation, and world, deserves our humble gratitude. I always focus on saying thank you.”

Then, one by one, each of the experienced panelists began their remarks by affirming this foundational principle. “I agree, the most important thing you can do is say thank you.” “Yes, we must always remember to say thank you.” “We can never take a church’s missions giving for granted.”

Whatever else my colleagues said that morning, I came away with this note in my head. “The next time you write to Illinois Baptists, say thank you for their giving to Baptist missions and ministries through the Cooperative Program.”

So, thank you. Whatever your church is giving, it is making a difference here in Illinois and around the world, and it is deeply appreciated. In fact, I would love to come to your church and thank you personally, if you will invite me. Whether I deliver the morning message, or just share a brief word about Cooperative Program missions, you can be assured that my first words will be thank you.

Cooperative Program (CP) Sunday is April 8. Downloadable CP materials are available at IBSA.org/CP.

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

Engaging the lost requires a new level of commitment

At a recent evangelism workshop, one Southern Baptist pastor articulated a major struggle in many churches.

“I hear so many pastors say, ‘You’ve got to love the lost, you’ve got to win the lost.’ People in the pew think, ‘I should but I don’t know how.’”

One GRAND Sunday boxIBSA’s Pat Pajak equips pastors across Illinois to help the people in their pews answer that question: How do we share the gospel with the people around us? Pajak is leading an effort to see 1,000 baptisms in IBSA churches on April 8, the Sunday after Easter. In addition to the numerical goal, One GRAND Sunday is designed to help people begin thinking intentionally about evangelism.

“Who do they know that needs to hear the gospel?” asked Pajak, associate executive director for evangelism.

“Are they willing to step out of their comfort zone and share their faith with others?”

The call to renewed evangelistic commitment comes amid declining baptisms in IBSA churches—and the Southern Baptist Convention. In 2017, IBSA churches baptized 3,441 people, a 13% decrease from the previous year’s total of 3,953. And 352 churches reported zero baptisms. The national numbers for 2017 will be released this summer, but in 2016, baptisms in SBC churches declined nearly 5%. Despite the lower numbers, Pajak often notes there is much reason to rejoice when one person comes to faith in Christ.

Cliff Woodman is preparing his church for One GRAND Sunday with a strategy they’ve used before to boost personal evangelism. Woodman, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Carlinville, asked church members to commit to share their faith with one person by the Sunday before Easter. They were invited to make their commitment public by placing a commitment card on the church altar.

Woodman prays daily for the people in his church who filled out the cards and will follow up with them after March 25 as a way to remind them of the commitment, and to hear their stories.

The pastor shared the idea with other churches in his association and with the IBSA Pastors’ Evangelism Network that Pajak facilitates. Nine other congregations are using the commitment strategy along with Emmanuel.

Gospel conversations
At an Engage 24 workshop in Las Vegas in February, a panel of Southern Baptist leaders shared real-life stories of how churches are reaching people with the gospel. The training session was one of a series of workshops sponsored by the North American Mission Board and designed to give leaders practical ways they can create and foster a culture of evangelism in their churches.

Speaking at the workshop, SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page encouraged pastors to intentionally cross borders, risk negativity, and create a loving environment without compromising truth.

Referencing Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan Woman in John 4, Page spoke about the responsibility and call of the church to be leaders in building and maintaining relationships with those who are currently a part of a congregation, as well as those who are not. He noted this requires proactive engagement and responding to the responsibility of the church.

“Christ was the great example of reaching across ethnic and gender boundaries, and so if we’re going to follow Christ, we have to be his hands and feet in doing that in the world,” Page said. “And what other organization is it? Is it education? Is it government? Who is it that should be leading the way? It ought to be the church, not following, not pulling up the rear, but leading in this.

“The church is duty-bound because of our allegiance to Christ to be like him in this world,” he said, “and that’s reaching across these barriers like Jesus did with the woman at the well.”

At Immanuel Baptist Church in Benton, people are learning specific tools to help overcome the barriers Page referenced. Every year, said Pastor Sammy Simmons, he and his staff focus on a tool people can use to share Christ. This year, they’re learning to share the gospel using their hand—a method they employ on mission trips to Africa.

Every Sunday between now and Easter, Simmons will explain the gospel-sharing strategy from the pulpit. He’s also using four consecutive Wednesday evening sessions to teach on gospel conversations, which he differentiates from religious conversations.

“A gospel conversation is when I am explicitly talking about the life of Christ, his death for our sins, his resurrection, and giving an invitation for them to turn from their sins and for Christ to be their savior,” Simmons said.

Church members are sharing about their gospel conversations in 60-second videos. One such testimony was from a stay-at-home mom who threw a Valentine’s Day party and connected it to God’s love, sharing the gospel with her friends.

IBSA and the North American Mission Board also are encouraging churches to focus on gospel conversations this year, with a goal of recording one million of them by the Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas this June. At gcchallenge.com, gospel-sharers can view 60-second videos on real-life gospel conversations, and upload their own.

With at least 8 million people in Illinois who don’t know Christ, the time for talking about Jesus is now, Pajak said. “We need to pray for lost people by name, train people in how to share their faith, and commit to witness to at least one person between now and Easter Sunday.”

– Meredith Flynn, with additional reporting from Baptist Press

New Places

By Van Kicklighter, Church Planting Team

Pioneering Spirit logoSo, you’ve made a “Go New Places” commitment. We believe that the Lord will honor this commitment in amazing ways. What comes next? If you already know what your commitment might be, great! If it is to Pray for a church planting need or for a church planter who is already at work, I encourage you to pray regularly. Include this in your weekly bulletin and newsletter. Have someone lead in prayer during your Sunday morning worship service. Call your church members to regular and focused prayer. If your commitment was to Partner, consider new and creative ways of partnering with a church planter. Send him an occasional gift card, send volunteers to help this new church carry out an evangelistic or ministry project, or baby sit their kids so he and his wife can have a date night. Gather your church family and make a Facetime or Skype call to pray for and encourage your church planter.

If you made a Go New Places Commitment and don’t know what to do next, here are some suggestions to help you take the next step.

Pray – We have 200 places around Illinois where we need a new church to be planted and that begins with prayer. We can help you in picking a place. If your church would rather connect with an existing church planter, contact us and we will help you connect. E-mail VanKicklighter@IBSA.org for a list of the 200 places in Illinois where a church needs to be planted.

Partner – We have church planters who would be blessed by the partnership of your church. Rural, urban, Anglo or ethnic, we can help you partner with a church planter. Learn how you can encourage a church planter.

Plant – We need churches that will give leadership to a new church planting project. Contact us and we will be glad to work with you in planting a new church. Learn more about becoming a church planter.

PA-33C-3

By Mark Emerson, Church Resources Team

Pioneering Spirit logoMore than 80 churches have committed to be more intentional at developing leaders as a part of the Pioneering Spirit Challenge. The leadership portion of this initiative has caused us to rethink and retool how we assist churches in developing future pastors, planters, and missionaries.

We are noticing that not every church is at the same level in regard to this process. Some of our churches have effective processes in place that are identifying, training, and sending leaders into various ministries, while others are starting these strategies from scratch. We are committed to resource every church no matter where they are in the process.

Try the webinar: One new resource that we have developed is a monthly webinar specifically for the churches that have made the commitment to develop leaders as part of the Pioneering Spirit Challenge. We will introduce you to an Illinois Baptist Pastor who is currently experiencing some success in developing missional leaders. He will share a few transferable principles that can be helpful to other churches. As a bonus, participants in the webinar will also be offered a free resource that can help develop leaders in their churches.

Our first webinar is Wednesday, March 21, at 10 a.m. Please register at IBSA.org/Church_Health. If you are unable to participate in the live broadcast, you will have the opportunity to watch a recording of the webinar at a later date.

We are excited about what God is doing in and through the churches that are making a commitment in the Pioneering Spirit challenge.

PSC Webinar2

PA-33C-3

By Eric Reed, Church Communication Team

Pioneering Spirit logoThank you for accepting the Pioneering Spirit challenge to “Make New Sacrifices.” This commitment is about doing whatever it takes to advance the gospel through missions. Specifically, it’s a commitment to increase missions giving through the Cooperative Program.

After signing up, one Illinois pastor shared the challenge with his church. In recent years the church had faced some financial difficulties, and the result had been cuts in CP giving. When he shared the challenge with them, the church agreed to double their CP giving from 3% of undesignated offerings to 6%, with a pledge to raise it by 1% each year until they reach 10%.

For churches on tight budgets (and aren’t we all!), that represents sacrifice. But when the pastor made need known, the church rose to the call.

April 8 is Cooperative Program Sunday. That Sunday, or any Sunday in April, will be a good time to start making the need known: 8 million or more people in Illinois do not know Jesus, 5 billion worldwide are lost. And Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program is the most effective channel for sending missionaries and sharing Christ.

Encouragers: As you get started “making new sacrifices,” consider these ways to encourage your church:

  • Awareness of the need
  • Ability to make a difference
  • Actual stories through personal testimony and videos
  • Aspiration to greater service.

We’ll cover these topics in future newsletters. In the meantime, please think about how you will bring the need for sacrificial giving through CP before your church monthly, starting in April. Call on me, if we can help.

And if your church hasn’t made this commitment, please pray about it. God blesses those who support missions (Phil. 4:19).

Downloadable resources:

Meet Southern Baptists

Mission Illinois Bulletin Insert

Annual Report video

CP Rant video 2