Archives For Heartland

MindbendersBy Kayla Rinker

With its historical architecture and pristine interior design, Mark Clifton’s church was so lovely that for years its tagline was “Wornall Road Baptist Church: The church beautiful.”

“And it is very beautiful. It could be on the cover of a Hallmark card; I don’t deny that,” said Clifton, senior director of replanting at the North American Mission Board (NAMB). “But somewhere along the way the mission became maintaining it, instead of its true purpose. It was beautiful, but it was empty.”

Clifton was the keynote speaker for the 2019 Illinois Baptist Leadership Summit, held Jan. 22-23 in Springfield. Nearly 250 Illinois Baptist leaders and presenters gathered to “Reimagine” their ministries and gain a fresh perspective and vision for their churches going forward. Clifton (below) spoke from his 30-plus years of experience in both church planting and in pastoring a dying church that had dwindled to less than 20 mostly elderly members.

Like many Southern Baptist churches, Wornall Road needed revitalizing. But the concept can be hard to define, said IBSA’s Mark Emerson, because the term is used to describe a variety of different strategies.

Emerson said IBSA defines revitalization as when a church that is stagnant or dying seeks to enter a process to learn new strategies to replace current ones, in hopes that the new methods spur new growth.

If that kind of revitalization doesn’t happen in time, the next step could be replanting, when current leaders step aside so new leaders can restart the church in an existing building. Or, the church could decide to turn their assets over to an organization like the Baptist Foundation of Illinois, to be used for other Kingdom work.

Mark Clifton

Mark Clifton

“One Sunday I left there frustrated and ready to walk away,” Clifton said of his time at his Kansas City church. “I came to the end of myself and then I heard a clear message: ‘What about a dying church brings glory to God?’ What about a dying church says, ‘Our God is great and his gospel is powerful?’ When a church dies, it’s not just the church that’s at stake. His name is at stake.”

While that statement might seem to put pressure on pastors and leaders of aging congregations everywhere, Clifton said the good news—the gospel, actually—says otherwise. Christ died for his church. His church. Clifton referenced Revelation 1: “I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me. When I turned I saw seven lampstands, and among the lampstands was One like the Son of Man…” (Rev. 1:12-13a).

“The lampstands are the churches,” Clifton said. “Jesus is among every church. He’s not looking down on them; he’s among them. You do not have to pick it up and carry it on your shoulders.

“Don’t focus on what you don’t have, which in my case was 580 empty seats and nothing but an MP3 player for worship. Instead, focus on what you do have. The risen Lord is with your church. Church revitalization doesn’t begin with you or me or NAMB, it begins with the risen Lord.”

Drawing board

THE DRAWING BOARD – Jonathan Davis, pastor of Delta Church in Springfield, serves as scribe during brainstorming at one of 36 breakout sessions offered at the Illinois Leadership Summit.

What does it take?
Clifton began to focus his ministry on the spiritual growth of his existing congregation instead of their numerical growth. And God breathed new life into the church, he said. Members began to shift from making decisions based on personal preferences, toward making decisions based on serving the neighborhood. They became a beautiful church.

“No, it’s not as comfortable singing worship songs that you don’t know,” Clifton said. “But hey, if you hear a 27-year-old singing a song about Jesus you aren’t familiar with, and they are singing it with their whole heart and you can’t worship God in that—you’ve got a real problem.”

While revitalizing the church is not about doing whatever is necessary to fill seats every Sunday, Clifton said it is about making disciples. It’s about making disciples of people who have attended faithfully for decades, and it’s about making disciples of new people who are still deciding if church is relevant in their lives.

Collective Learning

COLLECTIVE LEARNING – Large-group sessions, called “collectives,” focused on revitalization and community engagement.

In a breakout session at the summit, he shared nine steps to a revitalized church, starting with a commitment to glorify God in everything and find joy in the gospel alone. Then, he said, pray without ceasing. There is spiritual warfare happening in a church being reborn or revitalized, Clifton said.

“Joy is found in the risen Lord and, just as John sees Jesus in all his resurrected power and glory (Rev. 1), we are going to be glorified,” he said. “At Wornall’s worst—even as I was preaching and feeling like a failure—if that trumpet had sounded, we would have had a glorified church; a perfect bride ready to meet her groom.

“Don’t let Satan rob you of that joy. Those are his saints. God is under no obligation nor will he likely resource your plans for his church, but he will spare nothing from heaven to resource his plans for his church. He can raise a dead church.”

The remaining steps are practical ideas for pastors of revitalizing churches:

• Love and shepherd remaining members; don’t be more concerned and in love with the church you wish you had than with the church you have now.
• Serve the church’s unique community, never valuing your needs over the needs of the unreached.
• Use resources generously. How can the church building be repurposed and redeemed to serve the community?
• Simplify the strategy. Don’t value the process more than the outcome.
• Intentionally develop young men. Churches that die never passed meaningful leadership to the next generation. The goal is to get young men to connect and make them disciples, and then teach them to make disciples.
• Celebrate the legacy often. A church that transforms from dying to thriving is like a living sermon in its community. Celebrate that.

Clifton’s Wornall Road Baptist Church is a church revitalization success story. The church grew from 18 people when Clifton arrived, to about 120 when he left. It’s a thriving, multi-generational, neighborhood church. But it took revitalization to get there.

Currently, Clifton said, more than 900 Southern Baptist churches close each year and 65-75% of SBC churches are considered plateaued.

“Churches often begin the process too late,” Emerson said. “We recommend that church leaders study their growth trends and seek help when they discover that they are no longer growing and reaching people. IBSA can help churches assess their need and readiness for revitalization.”

For more information, contact IBSA’s Church Resources Team at (217) 391-3136.

Kayla Rinker is a freelance writer and pastor’s wife in Missouri.

Our neverending task

Lisa Misner —  March 4, 2019

By Nate Adams

In addition to a great faculty of Illinois pastors and church leaders, last month’s 2019 Illinois Leadership Summit welcomed Mark Clifton as its primary speaker. Mark has been a pastor, a church planter and replanter, and a director of missions for decades. He now serves churches through the North American Mission Board in the area of church replanting.

The theme of our conference was “Reimagine.” I was hoping that leaders in general, not just church replanters and revitalizers, would benefit from Mark’s teaching. I was not disappointed.

As Mark began describing churches that should consider replanting, he clarified that he was talking about churches that, presuming they remain on their current trajectories, would probably need to close their doors in the next three to five years. And yet as he described the characteristics and needs of those declining or dying churches, I saw many, many pastors and leaders in the room nodding in empathy and agreement. Their churches may not have been five years from closing, but it was clear they recognized some of the same danger signs in their own settings. In a sense, all pastors must be revitalizers or replanters.

Churches that die, Mark asserted, tend to value their own preferences over the needs of the unreached. They cease, perhaps gradually, to be part of the fabric of the community. In fact, what was once a community church often becomes a commuter church.

On today’s ministry landscape, all pastors must be ‘vitalizers.’

As the church declines, some members tend to resent the community for not responding the way they once did. They may work harder and harder on church programs or activities, but these tend to be for insiders, and have little impact on the unchurched, or little relevance to the community.

Dying churches, Mark observed, also seem to have an inability to pass meaningful leadership on to the next generation, and they can often confuse caring for the church building with caring for the church and community. Dying churches value the process of decision-making more than the outcomes of those decisions. And a few strong personalities tend to drive those decisions, while others remain silent or simply drift away.

Of course, it’s much easier to recognize those kinds of traits in churches other than your own. That’s why an outside perspective or consultant is often helpful. And as this experienced leader from outside Illinois described the churches with which he had worked over the years, it was as if he was holding up a mirror in which we could also see ourselves.

One thing I really appreciate about Mark’s background and experience is that he had invested 10 years in a Midwest, urban church that had declined to 18 people when he arrived and grew back to about 120 by the time he left. He spoke personally and lovingly, not of “small” churches, but of “normative” size churches, reminding us that 63% of SBC churches in America have less than 100 in worship, and 83% have less than 200. If we are going to penetrate the lostness of our nation, he reminded us, it will not just be through large churches, but through thousands of normative-size churches, both revitalized and newly planted.

My greatest personal takeaway from the conference was simply this. Especially in the normative-size churches of Illinois, the primary focus of a pastor or church leader must be to bring vitality to a church by leading it proactively out into its community. Replanting is only necessary when revitalization doesn’t happen in time. And revitalization is only necessary if we allow the church’s intended vitality to fade.

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

Sending hope

Lisa Misner —  February 28, 2019

Annual offering aids missionaries reaching the nations here at home

By North American Mission Board

AAEO

Church planter Philip Nache stands outside Hope of Nations Gospel Church in Minneapolis, the congregation he started and hopes will serve as a launching pad for more churches in his city and around the world.

Philip Nache could have given in to despair. Boko Haram, the jihadist militant group located in Nigeria, had threatened his life, martyred a convert to Christianity, and continued to intimidate Christians. But despite the danger, Nache expected to return and work among the people he’d served for nearly 20 years. He had come to the United States to attend Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, a moment of divine timing that coincided with Boko Haram’s first threats on his life.

As he contemplated whether and how to return to Nigeria, another divine appointment redirected his steps.

“At that time, God opened the door for me to come to Minneapolis,” Nache said. “When I was told about the need here in the Twin Cities, I was still thinking of Africa, but after praying, I felt convicted to go to Minnesota.”

So, he decided to plan a visit. When he arrived, he was surprised by what he saw.

“It’s like I was in Africa—the northern part of Africa. Because I [saw a] basket full of people—Africans,” Nache recalled. Seeing fellow Africans opened his mind and heart, and Nache’s disposition toward Minneapolis changed. He sensed God’s leading and prepared to go.

Nache saw how the nations had come to North America. This year he is a 2019 Week of Prayer missionary for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions.

When he moved his family to the Twin Cities, Nache discovered a hunger for new churches among the various African populations. They lacked the means to make it happen until Nache arrived with the support of Southern Baptists.

“One pastor came to me,” Nache recalled, “and said, ‘Oh, there are a lot of South Sudanese and Ethiopians and so many Africans that are there. I’ve tried even to start a church with them, but I couldn’t because of resources.’”

That believer asked Nache if he was willing to reach out to those populations even though many of them were Muslim. Nache’s response was simple. “Why not? This is [why] God has brought me.”

He joined a group of believers, started reaching out to neighbors, and began house-to-house fellowships. And that’s how God opened the door and established his church, Hope of Nations Gospel Church.

Hope of Nations has grown to two services, one for South Sudanese and another for northern Nigerians. Nache and many of his church members have a vision to reach not only their immediate neighbors but the whole world.

While in Nigeria, Nache pastored and planted churches, and now God continues to use his ministry in Minneapolis to reach the nations of Africa. In the Twin Cities, Nache said, “we are able to identify potential pastors who desire to go and reach out to their people and plant churches in their own countries.”

One such example is Khemis Artema, a refugee from South Sudan. Artema traveled through refugee camps, where he endured physical suffering and lack of medication, before arriving in the United States. Nache said that Artema remained faithful to the Lord through those trials, and now he disciples him so that he can return to South Sudan and plant a church.

Hope of Nations sent Artema on a short-term trip to South Sudan, which was the trip that solidified God’s calling for him to return. Nache continues to disciple and train future missionaries like Artema.

“Our desire is to keep multiplying and reaching out to more people groups, especially people from Africa,” said Nache. He sees donations to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering as a key part of that vision going forward.

“I must say that without the help of the Annie Armstrong support that we are getting from the North American Mission Board,” said Nache, “honestly speaking, I don’t think this work will be possible…So, I seriously appreciate and thank God for this offering. Thank God for the churches all over North America that are helping to support this work.”

Gifts made to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering go directly to support and resource North American missionaries in the field. To learn more, visit anniearmstrong.com.

Intercessors spend a day lifting up the needs of the city

By Andrew Woodrow

Hillcrest-departing

“A bus tour is a good way to see the neighborhoods we’ll be praying for,” said Cheryl Dorsey, prayer coordinator for the Chicago Metro Baptist Association. “As we travel between churches, we will review the social and spiritual profile of the neighborhoods, praying en route for those communities.”

This was the fifth year Dorsey and fellow intercessor Phil Miglioratti have drawn together a band of people to pray for Chicagoland, but this was the first time the prayer meeting was mobile.

The group of 20 who braved sub-zero temperatures on January 26 visited four church locations scattered across the metro area. Throughout the trip, pastors shared concerns for their churches and communities while Dorsey and Miglioratti lead prayer using a Chicago neighborhood prayer guide by John Fuder.

Stop #1
Hillcrest Baptist Church
Country Club Hills

“We are praying for you and with you as you go out and pray for your brothers and sisters across the Chicagoland area,” Pastor Adron Robinson told the prayer team as they met at Hillcrest to start the day-long journey. “Pray for us as a church,” he said, to fulfill the Great  Commission. “And pray for Country Clubs Hills. There are about 16,000 people in our suburb and many who do not know the Lord,” he added.

As they boarded the bus, Dorsey encouraged the team to sit next to a prayer partner and to be “sensitive to allow whatever site you see along the way to prompt a prayer”—whether it’s a school building, house, store, or a family in a passing car.

Stop #2
Advent Church
South Loop

Gathered in the eleventh floor community room of a South Loop condo building, the prayer team learned about the up-and-coming community Dennis Conner serves as well as the barriers he faces planting a church in a high-rise. Conner called it a “very different mission field,” where “money and gatekeepers render door-to-door evangelism ineffective.”

The goal of Advent Church is to reach the working professionals in the city. “Pray for fruits for our labor,” he said, “because this is a place that until someone has credibility, gives you their credibility, you don’t have it.”

Stop #3
Chicagoland Community Church
North Side

Nestled in a tight squeeze of low-rise townhouses and multi-unit complexes is Chicagoland Community Church. Here, Pastor Jon Pennington of the Lakeview Community church asked prayer for the church’s success in sharing the gospel.

“We’re passionate to teach people in this neighborhood how to be Jesus-followers,” he said, “But what we really want to see happen in these next two years is 200 first-time visitors at our worship services who are curious about the gospel or our mission—and that at least 20 of them will become new members of the church.”

Stop #4
Iglesia Bautista Erie
West Side

Heading into West Town, snow began falling as the bus reached its last stop, where Marvin Del Rios serves as pastor. “Pray for our community,” he said. “The last several years our community has been going through a process of gentrification. Young professionals are moving back into the city while the working poor to middle class are moving out, changing our outreach strategy.

“The spiritual soil is tough at the moment,” Del Rios said. He hopes as these young professionals have families, “that might be the door to use for us to share the gospel – through their children.”

“Chicago is still a very divided city rooted in a history of prejudice,” Miglioratti said. “And the church of Chicago needs prayer because the church is also divided. So, as we pray for a greater unity in the church, that prayer will produce greater outreach which will lead to many more people becoming part of the family of God.”

Eight hours later, Dorsey described the excitement through prayer she encountered  “as though the Holy Spirit was tailoring our prayer to suit the needs in (each) location,” she said. “It opened our eyes that we pray without prejudice and bias. And being equal partakers of the inheritance of Christ Jesus is not going to happen if people don’t pray into the Kingdom. And that is what we are doing.”

Baptism 1

Church of the Beloved in Chicago
celebrated baptisms in Lake Michigan last August.

‘One GRAND’ emphasis returns this spring, plus a new one-on-one evangelism strategy

By Meredith Flynn

When Pastor Kenyatta Smith’s church moved into their new building, an important piece was missing. The former Catholic church had no baptistry.

Another Chance Church, which Smith planted in 2012, got around it by bringing in an inflatable pool when someone was ready to be baptized. Last year, that was often. The church baptized 52 people.

The Chicago church’s increase in baptisms (up from 22 in 2017) mirrors statewide growth. In 2018, IBSA churches reported 3,676 baptisms, an increase of almost 7% over the previous year. The One GRAND Sunday emphasis last April resulted in 671 baptisms in churches intentionally focused on training people to share their faith, and inviting people to respond to the gospel.

At Smith’s church, the key to more baptisms was staying the course, the pastor said. “It wasn’t a planned thing; it was more [that] we just kept working and sharing the gospel, and it just kind of happened.”

Baptisms generate excitement and are a “big boost for evangelism,” Smith said. Another Chance does a lot of evangelism training to ensure that sharing the gospel is in the church’s DNA.

Across the Southern Baptist Convention, churches are being called to make a similar commitment to evangelism, with an emphasis on keeping things simple. In January, SBC President J.D. Greear introduced “Who’s Your One?” a convention-wide effort to pray for people who don’t know Christ, and intentionally look for ways to share the gospel with them.

The challenge comes at a time when membership and baptism numbers in SBC churches continue to decline. LifeWay Research acknowledges the decline in baptisms nationwide is due in part to non-reporting churches. But even when the numbers are adjusted, churches are baptizing fewer people per member than they did in 1950, for example.

When Greear shared “Who’s Your One?” with Baptist association leaders Jan. 31, he referenced obstacles churches face in a post-Christian culture. “These are some challenging days for the Southern Baptist Convention,” said Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham. “They’re challenging days for the church in general in the United States, but is God perhaps setting us up for one of the greatest evangelism explosions that we’ve ever seen?”

As Southern Baptists across the country and in Illinois look for effective ways to communicate spiritual truth with their neighbors, “gospel conversations” are key. A conversational approach to the gospel—sharing Jesus in the context of relationship—is the basis of many recent evangelism initiatives and training guides. And once Christians catch on, said IBSA’s Pat Pajak, and see how receptive others are to hear, the believer is encouraged to look for more opportunities to speak truth.

“But it all starts with just one conversati0n with one person,” said Pajak, associate executive director for evangelism. “We’re asking, ‘Who’s your one?’”

Baptism 2

Pastor Michael Nave (right) baptizes Nathan Morgan at Cornerstone Church in Marion. The church celebrates baptism every third Sunday, and invites “spontaneous baptisms” when the worship service is focused primarily on salvation.

More than numbers
At Cornerstone Community Church in Marion, evangelism training is built into the church membership process. The final step in a four-pronged process is “Go.” In other words, said Pastor Michael Nave, how do you as a Christian bring other people with you?
Talking about the gospel “ought to be as natural as talking about the weather,” Nave said. Christians shouldn’t have to switch into evangelism mode; rather, the gospel should permeate the conversations and relationships we already have.

Even when evangelism is a natural outgrowth of a Christian’s spiritual development, church leaders still credit intentionality as a major factor in overall effectiveness. In 2018, Cornerstone celebrated 57 baptisms, up from 22 the previous year. The church saw the increase after implementing some intentional strategies around baptism, Nave said.

“First, we set a baptism weekend, the third weekend of each month,” he said. “We will gladly baptize someone on other weekends, but this gives us an opportunity to keep it in front of our people.” Explaining the importance of baptism is also a part of Cornerstone’s membership process. And, the church stays open to how God might work.

“From time to time, when the sermon is specifically about salvation and baptism, we offer ‘spontaneous baptism,’” Nave said. They don’t practice it frequently, he said, and are sure to give a full explanation of what baptism means. “We have simply found that some people need the opportunity to do it now!”

He recounted Peter’s Pentecost sermon in Acts 2, which stirred people to immediately respond by asking, “What shall we do?” Peter’s answer: repent and be baptized. The two acts went hand-in-hand, Nave said. “That water didn’t save them, but their public profession of faith came very quickly and naturally.”

Last year’s One GRAND Sunday initiative highlighted the links between hearing the gospel, responding, and following up that decision with baptism. As people shared their stories—on video or from the baptistry or afterward over e-mail—many talked about the journey they had taken to get to the point of baptism that day.

For some, the road was long. Others took a shorter route, like the father in Amboy who came to church for his daughter’s baptism, heard the gospel, responded, and was baptized that very day.

Counting baptisms is one way to measure health and growth, but Pajak said after last year’s One GRAND Sunday that the day was about more than numbers. As IBSA churches prepare for another One GRAND emphasis this spring, his position on last year’s statewide success is an important guiding principle.

“The great thing is that it sparked a fresh passion for evangelism across the state.”

– With additional reporting from Baptist Press

 

By Heath Tibbetts

I was supposed to die on a Tuesday in 1977. My 15-year-old mother had been scheduled to have an abortion despite her objections, leading her into the high school counselor’s office the Monday before that dreaded appointment. After hearing my mother’s story, Mr. Sheets called her mother attempting some mediation away from abortion, but to no avail. He hung up the phone and asked my mom two questions.

“You plan to keep this baby, correct? You know you may not be going home tonight?”
To both questions the brave 15-year-old responded, “Whatever it takes.”

Mom lived in a few foster homes around town for the next several months before and after my birth. She continued to go to school and wrestled with the idea of adoption. As the due date drew closer, she had decided to keep her baby and to be able to support herself within a year, which she did. Many people claimed my arrival would ruin her future, but she couldn’t bring herself to end an innocent life to correct a previous mistake. My mom wasn’t a Christian then, but she had no difficulty recognizing her unborn child as a life.

Leading on life
Moses concluded his leadership of Israel by giving them a final call to pursue God diligently. He gives the people two choices: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live” (Deut. 30:19). As leader to the people, he called them to choose life for their sake and the sake of future generations.

Our leadership today pales in comparison on the issue of life. In our state and across the country, officials work toward the expansion of abortion rights, like the law passed recently in New York that allows abortion up until birth. What leads people to applaud such a law? They have forgotten the value of human life.

America has long struggled to properly apply that wonderful statement from our Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” If this truth was self-evident, how did we refuse rights to the thousands of black slaves already spread throughout the colonies? The short answer is convenience. It was more convenient to exclude any mention of slavery from the Declaration, and later the Constitution, in order to unite the various states in one nation.

Issues of convenience continue to devalue life today. Abortion advocates regularly declare their concern for the health of the mother, but the top reasons for abortion in 2013 (as published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information) were “not financially prepared” and “bad timing.” Abortion is too often a procedure of convenience.

But the emotional scars carried by men and women who make this choice are anything but convenient. For years I couldn’t understand why I was my grandmother’s favorite grandchild. I’m not being a narcissist; everyone knew it was true. Only later did I learn Mom’s story and my grandmother’s role in it. My grandmother dealt with the guilt of even suggesting an abortion for decades after I was born, trying to make it up to me my whole childhood. Being able to tell her as an adult that I forgave her was probably the best gift she’s ever received from me.

“Pro-life” is being rebranded by opponents as “anti-choice,” but nothing could be further from the truth. I support every women’s right to choose avoiding sex if she’s not ready for a child. Children are rarely convenient. Even the married couple intentionally trying to bring children into their family quickly finds the dynamics of life and relationship have changed. Yet any parent will tell you these little lives are worth it.

The rest of the story
My mom was able to introduce me to her former high school counselor, Mr. Sheets, in 2002. I found myself imagining how his Monday changed when Mom walked into his office. What if he had been out sick that day or had decided not to get involved in a messy family situation? Mr. Sheets was the advocate that encouraged her to choose life, a life that became the first in my mother’s family to go to college, partnered to create the three coolest kids ever and has been used to impact lives, souls, and churches.

I often thank God for allowing me to escape the abortionist that Tuesday in 1977. My hope is to be an advocate for every unborn life in some way, attempting to convince people that every pregnancy is a creation of the Creator. I was not a choice. I am a life and every life matters.

Heath Tibbetts pastors First Baptist Church, Machesney Park.

By IBSA Staff

Illinois Baptist churches celebrated 3,676 baptisms in 2018, an increase of 6.8% over the previous year. The increase is one highlight of the Annual Church Profile (ACP) reports completed by 97% of IBSA churches, a new record high.

Other indicators measured by the ACP reports are leading IBSA staff to focus increasingly on church revitalization and next generation ministry strategies, alongside the priorities of evangelism and leadership development, said IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams.

“We are clearly in a time and a culture, especially here in Illinois, where just having church services is not enough to sustain a church’s health, much less reach the lost,” Adams said. “Churches that survive and thrive in these days are intentionally looking for ways to reengage their neighborhoods, and to provide relevant ministries that can lead to gospel conversations, and invitations into a loving, local community of believers.”

Church plant statsIn 2018, IBSA churches engaged a statewide strategy focused on evangelism and baptism. One GRAND Sunday resulted in hundreds of reported baptisms during the Easter season. (Churches are invited to participate in One GRAND Month later this spring) One of the four Pioneering Spirit challenges, issued in 2017 and adopted by churches last year, also called for a new commitment to evangelism.

“We were encouraged to see baptisms increase by almost 7% in 2018, after four years of gradual decline,” Adams said. “I sense a renewed passion for evangelism among many churches, as evidenced by the 223 churches that committed to “Engage New People” as part of the Pioneering Spirit challenge, and by the 671 baptisms reported during last Easter season’s One GRAND Sunday.”

Missions giving was another area of growth in 2018. IBSA churches gave $5,991,634 through the Cooperative Program (CP), the Southern Baptist Convention’s main channel for financial support of missions and ministry. However, the Mission Illinois Offering, collected annually to support missionaries and ministries in the state, fell by 4.1% to $349,507.

Adams pointed out that while CP giving increased by 1%, 2018 missions giving was still about 10% below its peak levels back in 2009. With that increase, per capita missions giving in churches is actually higher, even though other key indicators, including worship attendance and Bible study participation, were lower last year.

“There simply aren’t as many attenders or givers in church as there were 10 years ago,” Adams said. “Many churches are now finding a need to focus on intentional revitalization strategies, and our IBSA staff is eager to help with those efforts.”

IBSA hosted more than 200 ministry leaders at the Illinois Leadership Summit Jan. 22-23, featuring teaching from experienced church revitalization veteran Mark Clifton. A second summit will be held March 15-16 in Chicagoland, with large-group sessions led by former Chicagoland pastor Jonathan Hayashi and J.J. Washington, a pastor and church revitalizer in Atlanta.

“Holding the Illinois Leadership Summit in Chicagoland allows us to design our conference to match the context of our churches,” said Mark Emerson, IBSA’s associate executive director for the Church Resources Team. “Our guest speakers are two men who have had success developing leaders and growing churches in an urban context like Chicago.”

The Chicagoland meeting is at Brainard Avenue Baptist Church in Countryside and will also include breakout sessions designed to help leaders reach the next level of leadership potential. For more information or to register, go to IBSA.org/Summit.