Archives For IBSA Annual Meeting

Happy Birthday, Illinois!

Lisa Misner —  October 15, 2018

By Meredith Flynn

On our state’s bicentennial, the resolve of its early settlers has new meaning for Baptists.

Settlers arriving in the Illinois territory in the early 1800s didn’t know what to make of what they found. History tells us many of them moved north from areas that were heavily wooded. They trusted land that could support so many trees. The Illinois prairie offered no such reassurance.

“The prairies posed a new set of problems for farmers,” writes historian Pamela Riney-Kehrberg. “Below the land’s surface were tough, fibrous roots of tall prairie grasses, extending downward a foot or more. A simple wooden plow could hardly penetrate the surface.”

The pioneers made do by settling mostly in the southern part of the state, where ready access to water and trees made constructing their homes and farms more feasible. Some, though, eventually headed north, and found a way to work the hard prairie soil. It was richer than they thought, historians say. They just needed different tools. Steel, instead of wood.

Industrial pioneers John Deere and Cyrus McCormick developed tools for farming the prairie lands. And Illinois boomed. Its statehood population in 1818 was 35,000. By 1830, it had grown to 157,000, and would triple over the next decade. Still, tending the land was expensive. Families sacrificed much, Riney-Kehrberg notes, to run even a modest farm.

Two hundred years later, the challenges of tilling the soil in Illinois are different. But they still exist, especially in spiritual terms. More than 8 million people in Illinois do not know Christ. Many churches are struggling against the cultural tide to see real transformation in their communities.

Blue map copy

“I have often said that even though Illinois is the second flattest state in America, being Baptist here is an uphill climb,” said IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams. “Baptists have always been somewhat counter-cultural and a minority in Illinois, but that used to be because larger groups of people from different religious cultures had settled the state.

“Now it’s because the culture overall has become less and less religious, and arguably more hardened to the gospel message.”

Like Illinois’ early settlers found years ago, sometimes hard soil calls for new tools. Last year, IBSA presented four challenges to renew “pioneering spirit” among Baptists in Illinois. (Read more about the challenges at pioneeringspirit.org.)

These “new tools” are actually tried-and-true church practices: evangelism, church planting, sacrificial giving, and raising up new generations of leaders.

“The widespread and growing lostness of our state compels us to think in new ways. Maybe old ways,” said Van Kicklighter, IBSA’s associate executive director for the Church Planting Team. “The pioneers of Illinois and parts west came to those territories knowing that if they didn’t bring the gospel with them, it just would not be present. We need that same kind of spirit and thinking today.”

‘Time to do something’
After the 2017 IBSA Annual Meeting, David Starr led his church to tackle all four of the Pioneering Spirit challenges. His congregation, Community Southern Baptist Church in Clay City, is employing these new tools to make a difference in Illinois, especially in places where there is no IBSA church.

Starr approached Joe Lawson, director of missions for Louisville Baptist Association, about starting an association-wide prayer emphasis for the 10 counties in Illinois without an IBSA church. Community Southern, which averages around 70 in worship attendance, was assigned Carroll County in northwest Illinois. They started praying. Then, they took action.

“There’s a time to pray, and there’s a time to do something,” Starr said. He spoke with IBSA staff in Springfield and leaders in northwest Illinois, planning a mission trip that would be focused on assessing needs in the region. In July, Starr and his wife and another couple from their church traveled more than 300 miles along a diagonal line from Clay City to Savanna, Ill.

During their trip, they met with a church planter in Galena for a Monday night Bible study. Then, they knocked on doors. Starr said the small team visited 70% of the homes in the focus area, and found 21 people or families who wanted to commit themselves to seeing a Southern Baptist church planted there.

“We watch God,” Starr said. “He’s done everything.”

The team also saw physical need in Carroll County. The region has lost jobs in two big industries—railroad and lumber. There’s poverty and hunger. A woman who the team encountered ran into them later at a local store. “Don’t forget us,” she said.

Starr’s team went back home to Clay City, but they’ve continued to pray. There’s a map on the church bulletin board showing the streets they visited, and printed prayer reminders for the congregation.

Along with the challenge to go new places with the gospel, Community Southern is keeping up with the other Pioneering Spirit commitments. They increased missions giving through the Cooperative Program, are working to enlist new leaders, and celebrated one baptism on One GRAND Sunday, a statewide baptism emphasis in April.

“Here is a pastor and church that captured the pioneering spirit,” Kicklighter said. “They heard about a place where there was a compelling need, and they decided to do something about it.

“We need lots of Illinois Baptist churches with this kind of passion and willingness—a pioneering spirit.”

Starr said he’s never seen anything like it in his years of ministry. His church is investing willingly in other people and places. Like Illinois’ early settlers, they’re tilling the hard soil, and using less familiar tools to do so.

“We watch God,” Starr said. “He’s done everything.”

– Meredith Flynn, with info from History.com and “The Historical Development of Agriculture in Illinois” by Pamela Riney-Kehrberg

What really counts

Lisa Misner —  October 1, 2018

Pioneering-200-logo-layers-260x300By Nate Adams

Big birthdays have a way of getting our attention, as they should. Sometimes they even alarm us. Can my parents, or grandparents, really be 80? Am I really 50? Is my church really a hundred? Time really does seem to fly, whether you’re having fun or not.

And so maybe it snuck up on you that our home state turns 200 this year. One verse from the Illinois state song reminds us, “Eighteen-eighteen saw your founding, Illinois, Illinois.” Don’t worry, though, there’s still time to buy a gift. While the official seal of Illinois bears the date August 26, 1818, that was when the first state constitution was ratified. It wasn’t until December 3 that the U.S. government formally made Illinois the 21st state of the union.

And while the Illinois bicentennial may be receiving less fanfare than the national one back in 1976, this big birthday should still be getting our attention. There were only about 35,000 people in Illinois in 1818, but today there are at least 8.2 million who do not claim to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. These two hundred years have brought a lot of people into our state mission field, and our Great Commission challenge as churches here is now bigger than ever.

That’s why we are embracing the Illinois bicentennial in our theme for this year’s IBSA Annual Meeting, “Pioneering Spirit – 200 and Counting.” As we now count two hundred years of statehood, we are also asking “what should we be counting?” and “what should really count?” today, if we are to have the same pioneering spirit as our Baptist forebears.

Beginning with last year’s annual meeting, IBSA has been challenging Illinois Baptist churches and leaders to join together and “count to 200” in four strategic, missional ways:

First, we have identified 200 places or people groups in Illinois where a new church is desperately needed. We are inviting churches to adopt one or more of those 200 by praying for them, or partnering with resources or volunteers, or actually sponsoring the plant as the mother church.

Second, we are praying for at least 200 churches that will seek to become more frequently baptizing churches, by setting annual baptism goals and equipping their members to intentionally have gospel conversations and participate in evangelistic events and mission trips. We are praying for churches that will set their sights on baptizing at least once a month, or more than their previous 3-year average.

Third, we are praying for at least 200 churches that will commit a specific percentage of their annual budgets to Cooperative Program missions, and then seek to increase that percentage annually toward 10% or more.

And finally, we are praying for at least 200 churches that will commit to intentional leadership development processes—not only for the pastor and current leaders, but also for tomorrow’s pastors, church planters, and missionaries.

You can learn more about these commitments, and register your church’s pledge to them, by visiting pioneeringspirit.org, or by calling John Carruthers at (217) 391-3110. There are currently 166 churches that have registered a commitment, and we are hoping to celebrate 200, in more ways than one, when we gather at First Baptist Maryville for the IBSA Annual Meeting.

Of course, some churches are fulfilling one or more of these challenges already. But for the overwhelming majority of IBSA churches, these challenges will be a major stretch. In fact, as our Annual Meeting theme suggests, moving beyond our status quo into these types of commitments will take a true “pioneering spirit.” It’s the kind of spirit that brought Baptist pioneers to Illinois more than 200 years ago.

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

Cabin churn side

Step into 1818: Log cabin houses early Baptist history

The urgent need to get the gospel to more people was a driving theme of the 111th Annual Meeting of the Illinois Baptist State Association (IBSA). Churches were challenged to make four “Pioneering Spirit” commitments in the areas of church planting, evangelism, giving, and leadership development.

The Pioneering Spirit theme also coincides with 200th anniversary to be celebrated in 1818. In keeping with the state’s bicentennial, IBSA is asking 200 or more churches to make each of the four commitments.

Moving from our current “flatland” to new heights in those areas will require a steep uphill climb, IBSA leaders said, but it’s the only option.

“We can’t be satisfied with the status quo, because the status quo is decline,” said Kevin Carrothers during his president’s message. Preaching from the book of Numbers, Carrothers, director of missions for Salem South Baptist Association, said no one remembers the names of the nay-saying Israelites who didn’t want to go into the Promised Land. Instead, the real legacy of pioneering spirit was left by Joshua and Caleb, the two spies who trusted God to provide.

Kevin Carrothers

Kevin Carrothers

“They recognized the will of God was more important to obey than the whims and the desires of men, even if the majority won,” Carrothers said.

In the meeting’s final session Thursday morning, Pastor Sammy Simmons offered an annual sermon full of encouragement for those weary from a difficult season of life and ministry. Rely on the Lord, said the pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Benton, Ill. And keep taking bold steps for the sake of the gospel.

“The conditions are too rough, the lostness is too great for us to continue to do business as normal,” Simmons preached. “The cause of the gospel causes us to make bold sacrifices for King Jesus.

“I’m all in for this pioneering spirit. Oh, how much our church needs it. Oh, how much I need it. Oh, how much our state needs it.”

New challenges
During his report, IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams gave messengers a progress report on IBSA’s four key goals:

  • Develop leaders: So far in 2017 more than 500 pastors and leaders have participated in IBSA-sponsored leadership development events, Adams said. About half that number are engaged in more in-depth leadership cohorts.
  • Inspire cooperation: Adams reported that giving through the Cooperative Program and the Mission Illinois Offering is up slightly from last year, and through October, IBSA staff has had direct connection or consultation with 70% of all IBSA churches.
  • Stimulating church health and growth: So far in 2017, IBSA staff has trained over 5,800 participants from 527 churches. Children’s camp offerings have grown from three weeks to seven, Adams said, and IBSA has made major capital investments in both IBSA camps. The 75th anniversary of Lake Sallateeska Baptist Camp was celebrated with a special video presentation during the Thursday morning session.
  • Catalyzing evangelistic church planting and missions: It’s been a busy year for Disaster Relief, Adams said, with volunteers responding to in-state disasters and hurricanes elsewhere in the country. IBSA anticipates long-term involvement in the Houston area hard hit by Hurricane Harvey.

Fourteen new churches were planted in the state in 2017, Adams reported, and IBSA welcomed 17 new churches for affiliation during the Annual Meeting.

Adams also pointed to other measurements, including membership, Sunday school attendance, baptisms, missions volunteerism, and missions giving, that have remained relatively flat over the past several years. He ended his report by encouraging churches to embrace one or more of the four “Pioneering Spirit” commitments designed to challenge IBSA to courageously depart from the status quo.

Throughout the meeting, the “Pioneering Spirit” commitments were detailed through interviews with Illinois Baptists who exemplify faithful service in four key areas:

  1. Go new places is a church planting challenge, asking at least 200 churches to commit to pray for new congregations, partner with a church planter to assist his work, or to lead in the planting of a new congregation.
  2. Engage new people is an evangelism challenge, which IBSA Associate Executive Director Pat Pajak described at the meeting. “We’re praying that 200 of our IBSA churches will baptize 12 people next year,” or more than the church’s previous three-year average. The hope is that churches will turn the decline in baptisms by setting evangelism goals and equipping members to share their faith, and by engaging lost people through evangelistic events and mission trips.
  3. Make new sacrifices. “We’re asking churches to make missions-giving a higher priority in your budget,” said Adams. “We’re asking would your church be willing to make CP a greater percentage of your budget—if the Lord would lead you to make new sacrifices to give through CP.” The Pioneering Spirit commitment is for 200 or more churches to increase CP giving (for example, 1% per year) with a goal of reaching at least 10% of undesignated offerings.
  4. Develop new leaders. Mark Emerson, associate executive director of IBSA’s Church Resources Team,urged pastors to commit to leadership development for current members and potential young leaders. The goal is for 200 or more churches to have intentional development processes in place.

Other business
– Messengers approved the 2018 IBSA budget of $8.7 million, with projected Cooperative Program giving of $6.3 million. IBSA forwards 43.5% of Cooperative Program gifts on to national SBC causes, the eleventh-highest among 42 state conventions.

– Messengers approved a motion brought by the IBSA Board of Directors that all property currently held by IBSA for Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services be conveyed by deed to BCHFS in its entirety. This includes 17 tracts of property (744.9 acres) that were acquired for use and are used by BCHFS, but are currently titled to IBSA.

– IBSA’s ministry partners gave video reports throughout the business meeting, including Illinois Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) and President Jill McNicol. God has advanced the work of WMU and given them new opportunities to reach new people, McNicol said, noting three places—Southeast Asia, the Bronx, and Cairo, Ill.—where Illinois women have served on mission in the past year.

“To the women of WMU, missions is not just a thing. It’s people. It’s lost people needing a savior. And it’s teaching Christians how to live on mission for God, to reach those lost people.”

Officers

NEW OFFICERS – Each of IBSA’s four officers were elected by
acclamation: (Left to right) Sharon Carty, assistant recording
secretary; Adron Robinson, president; Adam Cruse, vice|
president; and Robin Mayberry, recording secretary.

– IBSA’s four officers for 2018 were elected by acclamation: Adron Robinson, president, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills; Adam Cruse, vice president, pastor of Living Faith Baptist Church in Sherman; Robin Mayberry, recording secretary, member of Bluford Baptist Church; and Sharon Carty, assistant recording secretary, member of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Carlinville.

The next IBSA Annual Meeting is Nov. 7-8, 2018, at First Baptist Church, Maryville. Tom Hufty, pastor of FBC Maryville, will bring the annual sermon, and Michael Nave, pastor of Cornerstone Church in Marion, will serve as the alternate speaker.

Illinois Baptist Team Report

Postcard artThe IBSA Annual Meeting and Pastors’ Conference kicks off today at 1:30 from Tabernacle Baptist Church in Decatur. Belleville pastor Curtis Gilbert and Joe Valenti, a student and missions pastor from Ohio, will speak during the first session of the Pastors’ Conference, an annual gathering that this year is focused on the spiritual health of leaders, their families, and their churches.

Ed Stetzer, the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism and executive director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College, will speak twice on Wednesday.

Check up Pastors ConferenceConference attenders also will have the opportunity to choose from several breakout sessions, including making your church more evangelistic, and developing healthy leaders in variety of roles.

On Wednesday afternoon, the IBSA Annual Meeting starts at 1:15 with music from This Hope, an Atlanta-based worship quintet. They will lead worship throughout the meeting, which is focused on the “Pioneering Spirit” needed to reach Illinois with the gospel.

During the Wednesday evening worship service, churches will be challenged with four “Pioneering Spirit” commitments in the areas of missions, evangelism, giving, and leadership development.

Check back here and at IllinoisBaptist.org for news and updates from Decatur.

Counting to 200

ib2newseditor —  November 6, 2017

illinois coat of arms

Illinois became a state on December 3, 1818. And so soon, those who pay attention to such things will begin the one-year countdown to our state’s bicentennial.

Because Illinois is our state mission field, the “Judea” in our churches’ Acts 1:8 missions responsibility, IBSA will be joining the bicentennial celebration with a countdown of our own. Launching at the 2017 IBSA Annual Meeting, and continuing through next year’s Annual Meeting, we are challenging IBSA churches to consider “counting to 200” in four very special ways.

First, we have identified 200 places or people groups in Illinois where a new church is desperately needed. We are inviting churches to adopt one or more of those 200 by praying, or partnering with resources or volunteers, or actually sponsoring the plant as the mother church.

Second, we are praying for at least 200 churches that will seek to become more frequently baptizing churches, by setting annual baptism goals and equipping their members to intentionally have gospel conversations and participate in evangelistic events and mission trips. We are praying for churches that will set their sights on baptizing at least once a month, or more than their previous three-year average.

Third, we are praying for at least 200 churches that will commit a percentage of their annual budgets to Cooperative Program missions, and then seek to increase that percentage annually toward 10% or more.

Potential for true mission advance is through churches that embrace pioneering spirit commitments.

And finally, we are praying for at least 200 churches that will commit to intentional leadership development processes—not only for the pastor and current leaders, but also for future pastors, planters, and missionaries.

Of course, some churches are fulfilling one or more of these challenges already. But for the overwhelming majority of IBSA churches, these challenges will be a major stretch. In fact, as our 2017 Annual Meeting theme suggests, moving beyond our status quo into these types of commitments will take a true “pioneering spirit.” It’s the kind of spirit that brought Baptist pioneers to Illinois more than 200 years ago.

That’s why we at IBSA are asking churches to register their “pioneering spirit” commitments, either now or in the coming months. Not only do we want to celebrate those commitments between the 2017 and 2018 IBSA Annual Meetings, but we also want to give those churches our focused, priority attention as an IBSA staff.

Certainly we will continue to be responsive to the requests and needs of all IBSA churches, and to provide services, resources, consultations, and events throughout the busy year. But we believe that the greatest potential for true mission advance in Illinois will be through churches that embrace these pioneering spirit commitments, and we want to come alongside them in special ways, and give them our priority assistance. We also want to network these churches together, so that they can benefit from one another’s experiences and ministry strategies.

The second verse of our Illinois state song begins, “Eighteen-eighteen saw your founding, Illinois, Illinois, and your progress is unbounding, Illinois, Illinois.” It goes on to remind us of the origin of that unbounding progress. “Pioneers once cleared the lands where great industries now stand. World renown you do command, Illinois, Illinois.”

When you see things like great industries and world renown, it’s usually because a few pioneers paved the way for them. And if we are to see great churches and world impact coming from Illinois Baptists, it will be because a few pioneers sacrificially pave the way. Will your church be one of those first 200 that brings a much-needed pioneering spirit to our state’s bicentennial, and to our mission of seeking and saving the lost here in Illinois?

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

The road ahead

ib2newseditor —  October 30, 2017

A tough but exciting journey awaits us

Postcard art w adventure inserted

If we were to drive west from Illinois, whether along Interstate 70 from St. Louis, 72 from Springfield, or 80 from Chicago, the experience would be largely the same. We would continue in a long, straight line for a very long time, rolling over a few hills and rivers in Missouri or Iowa before settling into the even longer, even straighter, seemingly eternal plains of Kansas or Nebraska and eastern Colorado. Then we would see the mountains.

Imagine what early pioneers must have thought when the amazing barrier of the Rocky Mountains first appeared on the horizon. No doubt many of them turned south or north for a while, hoping to find a way around. They knew the experience, equipment, and skills that had carried them across the slowly elevating plains would not take them over those mountains. They would need to find a pass, a way through. And even that journey would be like none they had faced before.

As we Southern Baptists in Illinois now approach our state’s bicentennial year, our journey is much the same. We have been on a long, flat path for years—in number of churches, in baptisms, in church plants, in giving, and in most measures of church involvement and growth. That’s not a criticism. It’s just a description of our recent journey.

Along the way, hardly noticeable until just recently, the altitude has gradually increased and the climb has grown steeper. So many cultural dynamics have grown counter to Christian faith, and perhaps especially to Baptist faith. We too can turn to the left or to the right for a while. But to truly advance from the plains of our status quo up into the mountains our mission now faces, I believe we must dig deep and find a new, pioneering spirit.

Go to new places
In Illinois Baptist mission life, going new places means taking the gospel to the counties and cities and communities where Baptist or even evangelical churches don’t yet exist or have a strong presence. It means church planting.

IBSA churches have numbered right around 1,000 for decades, even while planting around 20 new churches a year. With those one thousand churches baptizing between four and five new believers each, we reach about 4,000 to 5,000 people per year. Yet Illinois has 13 million people, and at least 8 million of them don’t claim to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And most of them do not live near our existing churches. To leave the flatland of our status quo and reach the lost people of Illinois, we must increase and accelerate the number of new churches being started. We must place a gospel witness near them.

Pioneering Spirit Challenge #1: Will your church adopt at least one of the 200 places where a new church is needed? Your commitment can be to pray, or to partner with others to get that church started, or to be the primary planting church. Will you pray, partner, or plant?

Engage new people
Establishing healthy, new churches in the places where they are needed is one important commitment of a pioneering spirit. The first Baptists arrived in Illinois during a time when it was extremely difficult and even dangerous just to survive and eke out a living. Yet they considered it a priority to share the gospel and to start new Baptist churches. Four of those churches that were in existence when Illinois became a state in 1818 are still serving their communities today!

But being blessed—and burdened—with a pioneering spirit also leads churches, both new and established, to intentionally and consistently engage new people with the gospel message. With a sense of urgency, they will evangelize.

Sadly, it’s possible even for a well-intentioned church to lose its passion for evangelism, and become more of a church of settlers than a church of pioneers. They worship, and study, and fellowship, and even serve one another and the community. But very little energy goes into seeking and saving the lost.

Consider this: The almost 1,000 IBSA churches baptized about 4,000 people last year, four per church on average. But over 300 churches reported no baptisms at all. The remaining churches that reported baptisms averaged seven each. If non-baptizing churches simply reached the same number of people with the gospel that baptizing churches did, 7,000 people would come to know Christ next year. And just imagine what would happen if the churches already baptizing seven or more started baptizing monthly!

By intentionally shifting their focus toward evangelism, churches that have settled can become pioneering churches again.

Pioneering Spirit Challenge #2: Will your church commit to turning itself inside out into your community, training its members to intentionally have gospel conversations and evangelistic events, and asking God to increase the number of baptisms you see each year? Will you do whatever it takes to become a more frequently baptizing church?

Make new sacrifices
Going to new places and engaging new people is costly. It’s one reason so many stay where they are—and settle. Many early pioneers packed literally everything they owned into a wagon, and some sacrificed it all to get to their destination. A pioneering spirit sees the value of moving toward those new places and new people, and is willing to give sacrificially to make it happen.

Going to a new place of mission effectiveness here in Illinois will be costly too, especially if God inspires more churches and raises up more leaders, planters, and missionaries to go to new places and engage many new people. Fortunately, we as Illinois Baptists have a wonderful, reliable, tested vehicle in which to entrust our sacrifices. The Cooperative Program (some call it CP Missions) prioritizes missions in Illinois by investing 56.5% of its gifts here, while also sending 43.5% to be combined with others’ gifts and take the gospel throughout North America and the world.

Today the average IBSA church gives about 7% of its undesignated offerings to local and worldwide missions through the Cooperative Program. As with baptisms, that average is the result of some churches sacrificing far more, and some sacrificing far less. At one time, 10% was the accepted norm for Cooperative Program missions, and at one time IBSA churches averaged giving 11% rather than 7%. Simply stated, a return to that 10% standard could result in over $3 million more to missions next year.

Pioneering Spirit Challenge #3: Will your church commit to a new level of sacrificial missions giving through the Cooperative Program? Will you challenge your members to faithful tithing and life stewardship, so that generous giving transforms their own lives, as well as others’?

Develop new leaders
A pioneering spirit must be multi-generational. Very few destinations that require true, pioneering effort can be fully attained in one lifetime. Our parents’ generation brought us this far into our Baptist missionary journey in Illinois, and now we lead and will go a little farther before entrusting the journey to our children. That’s why a pioneering spirit must invest in the development of new leaders, even as it sacrifices and gives its all now.

It seems that churches used to have more systematic ways of developing new leaders. Sunday nights were invested in church leadership training programs. Wednesday nights were often invested in missions education programs that developed boys and girls, and young men and women, for tomorrow’s missionary and church leadership roles.

We should be grateful for churches that still develop tomorrow’s leaders in this way, while not necessarily wishing the same programs or methods on others. But today, more than ever, we must ask ourselves with a new seriousness, “How are we systematically and intentionally developing leaders for tomorrow’s churches?”

Pioneering Spirit Challenge #4: Will your church commit to the intentional developing of younger leaders who will be tomorrow’s pastors, and church planters, and missionaries? Will you join with other Baptist partners like IBSA who can help you develop these young leaders for tomorrow’s church?

Facing our mountains
Last summer I traveled to Loveland, Colorado, in part to scout out Long’s Peak, a 14,259-foot mountain that will hopefully, next year, be the thirty-first and most difficult “fourteener” I climb. As I headed west from the Interstate and flatlands of Loveland, I could not immediately see the pass up into the mountains. But soon I noticed that the road was following a stream, and then a mighty, rushing river. There was barely room for a road in some places, but the water had cut enough of a path through the rock that we could now follow it up to previously impossible heights. We eagerly forged ahead.

To leave the flat trends of our recent journey as Illinois Baptists may seem impossible at first. Our 200-year-old mission field is more lost now than ever. And developing new leaders while making new sacrifices to engage new people in new places with the gospel—well, that’s no easy path. But I believe the living water of God’s own Spirit has already made a way for us. If we are filled with his Pioneering Spirit and will follow him forward by faith, even into difficult places, I believe God has new heights planned for us here in Illinois.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. The challenges outlined here will be presented in the Annual Meeting.

Postcard art.pngThe 2017 Annual Meeting of the Illinois Baptist State Association is Nov. 8-9 at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Decatur. The online pre-registration process, detailed in a letter sent to IBSA churches, is now open for those who will serve as messengers, or voters, at the meeting.

Pre-registered messengers should bring their paperwork to the meeting in Decatur, where they will be fast-tracked through the rest of the registration process.

The Decatur gathering will focus on the “pioneering spirit” required of those who settled Illinois nearly 200 years ago, and of Christians today who are seeking to push back spiritual lostness in the state.

“When pioneers were settling Illinois in 1818, only about 35,000 residents lived in the entire state, alongside the Native American population,” said IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams. “It was extremely challenging just to survive and to eke out a living. But some of those early pioneers were also pioneers of Baptist faith. During difficult and dangerous times, they considered it a priority to share the gospel and to start new Baptist churches.

“Today Illinois has over 13 million residents, and only about 80,000 Illinois Baptists in church on a given Sunday. In many ways our Great Commission challenge is greater in 2018 than in 1818. We need a fresh wind of pioneering spirit today.”

Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines will speak during the Annual Meeting, and also will be on hand for the IBSA Pastors’ Conference Nov. 7-8 at Tabernacle in Decatur. (For more on the Pastors’ Conference, see the ad on page 6.) The Pastors’ Conference and the Annual Meeting will each offer dinner prior to the Tuesday and Wednesday evening sessions; for more information and to purchase dinner tickets, go to IBSAannualmeeting.org.