Archives For advancing the Gospel

Welcome to our mission field

Elizabeth Young

Elizabeth Young

For the third time in 14 years, Arizona Southern Baptists will welcome the larger Southern Baptist family to Phoenix in June.

When Phoenix was chosen to host the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting the first time in 2003, we were more than a little surprised, given our reputation for high summertime temperatures. But with Baptists’ repeated visits, we figured the word must have gotten out that, given our low humidity, our average 102-106 degree June temperature isn’t as bad as “back home” for a lot of folks.

We’re delighted when the family comes to town. We hope, for many, it’s a reminder that Southern Baptist work does exist outside of the Deep South and west of the Continental Divide. Illinois Baptists may feel the same way about recognition of Southern Baptists north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

While we want to offer a warm welcome to the family, we sincerely pray that our guests will remember they are on a mission field. We pray for a quiet, peaceful annual meeting so that we don’t have to explain to our lost neighbors why feuding Baptists, or Baptists engaged in culture wars, made the local news. When you’re up to your eyeballs in lost people, it puts a different perspective on priorities of concern.

Illinois Baptists probably understand this, too. Although we have some differences, we seem to have a lot in common.

You have more people—almost 13 million to our 6.9 million—but we have more land—nearly 114,000 square miles to your almost 58,000. You have more churches—nearly 1,000 to our about 450—but we have similar church-to-population ratios—one church for every 13,000 people in Illinois and one for every 15,000 in Arizona.

Both of our states have one large metropolitan area that encompasses two-thirds or more of the state’s population. And whether it’s Chicagoland or greater Phoenix, also known as the Valley of the Sun, the city is a massive sea of people who don’t know Jesus as savior.

Whether on not you make the trek to the Grand Canyon State this summer, our message to you is the same. We’re drawing from Paul’s Macedonian Call in Acts 16:9 and inviting you to “Come over…and help us.”

Consider what God is calling you to do:
• Pray for God’s work in our vast state.
• Partner with an Arizona church.
• Plant a church in Arizona.

May God give all of us a “Macedonian” vision for Arizona—and beyond!

Elizabeth Young is director of communications for the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention and the editor of Portraits magazine.

Everything grows together

Meredith Flynn —  August 22, 2013

pull quote_ADAMS_NEWCOMMENTARY | Nate Adams

Editor’s note: This column is the second in a three-part series, interpreting IBSA’s 2013 state mission offering theme statement: Mission Illinois – Churches Together, Advancing the Gospel. Read Nate’s first column here.

Throughout September, and during the September 15-22 week of prayer in particular, churches across our state are joining together to focus on our Illinois mission field, where at least 8.2 million people don’t yet have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. In addition to praying, most churches participate in the “Mission Illinois Offering,” all of which goes to work right here in our state to push back lostness, and to assist missionaries and churches in disciple-making evangelism and church planting.

The theme statement we’ve chosen to describe Mission Illinois is “Churches Together, Advancing the Gospel.”

The second word of that theme – together – speaks of the multiplied strength, impact, and growth that happen when churches embrace cooperative missions. The power of what churches can do together far exceeds the power of what any church can do individually.

Individually, an Illinois church might work for years to help establish one new congregation somewhere else in the state. But last year, Illinois “churches together” started 28 new congregations.

Individually, an Illinois church might be too far away from a college campus to have a meaningful ministry, even to its own students there. But Illinois “churches together” provide Baptist collegiate ministries on dozens of college campuses.

Individually, an Illinois church might be able to equip a handful of its members to go on an annual mission trip or two. But Illinois “churches together” sent more than 27,000 missions volunteers last year, a 34% increase over the previous year.

Individually, an Illinois church might baptize five or ten new believers, or even a hundred if it were one of our larger churches. But Illinois “churches together” welcomed more than 5,000 new believers into the Kingdom of God last year.

Those kinds of results go beyond mere cumulative totals. They are the synergistic result of us believing together, praying together, giving together, and working together as a Baptist family of churches here in Illinois. But let me cite another noteworthy example, or rather examples, of what “together” means.

Individually, an Illinois church might be flooded, or lose its pastor, or be divided in conflict, or be confronted with a lawsuit. That church might simply not know how to respond to a crisis or traumatic event, or it might need help improving its Sunday School, or evaluating its facilities, or hosting its first Vacation Bible School in years.

Illinois “churches together” provide one another with our statewide staff and resources so that each church is only a phone call, e-mail, or visit away from getting whatever kind of assistance each one needs to remain strong, or in some cases, to survive.

One of the many catchy tunes embedded in my memory from childhood days of watching “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” is the song, “Everything Grows Together.”  Mr. Rogers taught us that: “Your toes grow as your feet grow as your legs grow as your fingers grow as your hands grow as your arms grow as your ears grow as your nose grows as the rest of you grows, because you’re all one piece.”

How does everything grow, even in the ministry of our churches? Together. Why?  Because we’re all one piece. We know the joys and benefits of interdependence. As you consider your gift to the Mission Illinois Offering this year, I hope it will be in part because you see the amazing value of what can only be done by churches together.

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