Archives For Chicagoland

Chicago skyline

About two million Illinois residents were born outside the U.S. Second-generation church planting catalyst John Yi and strategist Jorge Melendez work with immigrants in Chicagoland. They help new churches so everyone can hear the gospel in their heart language.

Pray for IBSA’s church planting team who are uniquely fitted to reach generations of families that others may not.

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering.

Intercessors spend a day lifting up the needs of the city

By Andrew Woodrow


“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.”

Church Planting in Chicago


Bryan and Marci Coble relocated far from their downstate home. Their new neighborhood in Chicago, Irving Park, is seven times larger than Marci’s hometown, with 77,000 people. The variety of people and languages there is amazing. They are engaged in church planting activities to meet the neighbors and form a core group for a new church. First they will start a Bible study at the community center in the park, followed within a few months by weekly worship services. With the partnership of their home church, IBSA, and national missions partners, the Cobles are committed to sharing Christ in our state’s largest mission field. Acts 1:8 missions strategy starts at home, and moves on to the big cities nearby, such as Chicago.

Pray for the Cobles, for more church planters in Chicagoland with its 10 million residents, and for Dennis Conner, Tim Bailey, John Yi, and Jorge Melendez who lead IBSA’s church planting strategy there.

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering.

Give to the Offering. If your church promotes and receives a Mission Illinois Offering, we encourage you to give that way. If not, you can also give here —

Watch the Coble’s story, “A Heart for the City.”

Missions opportunities to highlight gathering in Metro Chicago

Final preparations are under way for the 110th IBSA Annual Meeting November 2-3. The event at Broadview Missionary Baptist Church in metro Chicago will focus on cross-culture ministry opportunities in Illinois. The keynote speaker will be Dr. Jeff Iorg, president of Gateway Seminary of the SBC, called Golden Gate Seminary prior to its relocation from the San Francisco Bay Area to metro Los Angeles this year.

“Dr. Iorg is among the most compelling, thoughtful, and missional voices in Southern Baptist life today, especially when it comes to understanding post-Christian culture in America,” said IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams. “I’m so grateful that he is leading our West Coast seminary into the future, where pastors and leaders will engage values and cultures that are already very different from those of the past century.”

I hope this year’s Annual Meeting will bring to all of us a new vision and higher level of commitment to ‘cross culture’ with the gospel.

Iorg is a former church planter and state convention executive director in the Pacific Northwest. As a leader of Southern Baptist work on the West Coast, Iorg has addressed many of the cultural challenges now facing evangelicals in the Midwest. He has written frequently on theological and biblical perspectives on marriage, sexuality, and gender. His book “Building Antioch” shows from the New Testament how an ordinary believing congregation can become a transformational community.

“Illinois Baptists will come away from Dr. Iorg’s messages challenged and transformed, I’m sure,” Adams said.

The Wednesday evening session, including Iorg, will focus on a four-phase process for engaging ministry across cultural barriers. Adams will outline the plan and share testimonies and videos of Illinois churches carrying the gospel to people unlike themselves.

“My own recent trips to Chicago have reminded me again how diverse our churches are, and even more so how varied and challenging are the cultures that our churches need to reach,” Adams said. “I hope this year’s Annual Meeting will bring to all of us a new vision and higher level of commitment to ‘cross culture’ with the gospel.”

IBSA President Kevin Carrothers, pastor of Rochester First Baptist Church and Vice President Adron Robinson, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills, will also bring messages.

In addition to the session on the variety of ministry opportunities in Illinois, the meeting will include two business sessions on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning. Vision tours of Chicago-area ministry opportunities are available. Seating is limited, so online registration is encouraged.

Visit to learn more.

A popular hotel chain is running a television commercial that cleverly depicts several groups of people trying to decide whether or not to attend a wedding. One is a group of bridesmaids, who clearly aren’t thrilled about the turquoise dresses the bride has chosen. Another group is former boyfriends of the bride, wondering why on earth they all got invited. And one sad lady simply doesn’t want to see Uncle Joe dance in public again. I think it might be Uncle Joe’s wife.

The musical background for the commercial is a rock song from the 1980’s. Over and over that song chants the simple question, “Should I stay, or should I go?”

Because Chicago is our state’s largest and most diverse mission field, we all need to get more familiar with, and comfortable in, this world class city.

As the November 2-3 IBSA Annual Meeting approaches, I imagine there are Illinois Baptists asking themselves that same question. For the first time in several years, the meeting is being hosted near Chicago, at Broadview Missionary Baptist Church. The drive will be quite a distance for those in other parts of the state, just as last year’s location in Marion was a long drive for northern churches.

And of course some will not want to brave the congestion and the traffic. In fact, I don’t know any Chicagoland natives who look forward to that part.

The message of the hotel chain’s commercial is that their comfortable, affordable hotels give even reluctant travelers reasons to go, rather than stay home. So let me suggest some reasons to go to the IBSA Annual Meeting this year.

We need to see and care about and partner with its churches.

First, the challenging theme of this year’s gathering is “Cross Culture.” The program will intentionally showcase the diversity of Illinois Baptists and also point to multiple cultures in our state that desperately need the gospel. There’s no better place in Illinois to receive the challenge to “cross culture” than in Chicago.

Second, because Chicago is our state’s largest and most diverse mission field, we all need to get more familiar with, and comfortable in, this world class city. We need more practice going there. We need to better understand its neighborhoods, its problems, its needs, and its people. We need to see and care about and partner with its churches.

Third, a lot of advance preparation has already gone in to making your stay in Chicagoland as easy as possible. Broadview is a wonderful, generous church, with lots of parking and lots of practice hosting large events. Catered meals have been arranged on site at the church to make the dinner hour easier and more convenient. Nearby hotels have provided very reasonable rates that include breakfast. And Broadview’s near west suburban location makes it a wonderful home base for seeing more of the city, either on your own or as part of two pre-planned vision tours.

Should you stay or should you go?

I could go on and on, but let me cite just one more reason, one that really applies to every Annual Meeting, regardless of location. It’s just very, very good for our Baptist family in Illinois to be together. Throughout the year, we as pastors and leaders and devoted church members work hard in our various local contexts to fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission of Jesus. As the year draws to a close, it is good for us to assemble, and network, and be inspired, and remember that we are not alone in this mission.

Should you stay or should you go? If at all possible, you should go. It may surprise you what the Lord has done across our state over the past year. And it may surprise you how he and the fellowship of your brothers and sisters in Christ will inspire you for the year to come. I look forward to seeing you there.

For more information about the IBSA Annual Meeting and Pastors’ Conference, visit

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at

Church planter Scott Venable (second from right) shares about the process of starting Mosaic Church in Wicker Park, during a listening session hosted by SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page.

Church planter Scott Venable (second from right) shares about the process of starting
Mosaic Church in Wicker Park, during a listening session hosted by SBC Executive Committee
President Frank Page (photo below).

NEWS | Frank Page
is president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, but he also carries the title CEO, which he has often said means “chief encouraging officer.” Operating in that role, Page joined pastors and church planters in northern Illinois for two “listening sessions” in August.

Throughout the year, Page has met with leaders in several states. In Chicagoland, he and members of his staff hosted church planters at a luncheon in Edgewater to discuss specific ministry challenges related to planting in the city. They also were at Broadview Missionary Baptist Church for a session with more than 50 leaders.

“I think the key is building relationships and building trust,” Page told SBC Life about the listening sessions. “It’s time to build some momentum on correct relationships.”

Broadview Pastor Marvin Parker said he was impressed Page “is taking the time to go around the country, to hear what SBC pastors are talking about.” In the Chicago sessions, Page and leaders addressed several issues:

Page_blogChurch size and diversity. Page previously has called small churches the “backbone” of the convention. In the session at Broadview, he told leaders that a large majority of Southern Baptist churches run 100 people or less, said Pastor Don Sharp. “And to me, that’s a story that needs to be told over and over and over again,” said Sharp, pastor of Faith Tabernacle Baptist Church in Chicago.

“…We hear these stories of people coming in places and [the] membership’s quadrupled and the baptisms are off the board, so to speak, but it doesn’t speak to many of us” pastors of small churches, Sharp said. Faced with the comparisons, leaders can fall into fear that they’re the reason their church doesn’t measure up.

“If nothing else, I came out of that meeting with a sense of, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing, and leave room for God to do the rest.’”

The group also discussed diversity in the SBC, and the need for more ethnic groups to be represented in convention leadership, Sharp said. He paraphrased Page’s words: “The election of Fred Luter (as the SBC’s first African American president) should not be an anomaly…it shouldn’t take another 30 or 40 years for something like that to happen again.”

Cooperative Program education. The CP is Southern Baptists’ main method of supporting missions around the world, but it doesn’t have a Lottie Moon or Annie Armstrong to help promote it. “One of the keys for the future is to somehow put a face on the Cooperative Program,” said IBSA’s Dennis Conner during the Edgewater meeting of church planters. “We are deep into a cultural shift where people want to know the people they support.”

That challenge is something his team deals with every day, Page said, asking for ideas. The planters suggested using social media or daily news briefs to connect Southern Baptists with missionaries they support through the Cooperative Program.

The Executive Committee’s Ashley Clayton suggested a more foundational plan to help communicate the importance of CP giving in the next generation. “Perfunctory” support for CP has been tailing off for several decades even among older Baptists, Clayton said. There’s a need to elevate again Baptists’ core values, like international missions, reaching unreached people groups, planting churches, and theological education.

“These are core values, that when you say it in a room full of pastors, they nod their heads, they’re in agreement, they go, ‘Yeah, I’ll support that.’”

The Chicago challenge. Also in Edgewater, Page heard from Chicagoland church planters about how long it often takes to grow a church. Michael Allen, city coordinator for Send North America: Chicago, said he tells planters, “When you come to Chicago to plant a church, buy a cemetery plot.”

“In other words, don’t come to Chicago thinking I’m going to try this church planting thing and see if it works out….Many [church planters] who start do not last, and I think primarily they didn’t realize just how hard the ground is, and how much gumption you have to have.”

Page told the leaders around the lunch table that he understands the role of a sponsoring church pastor, but hasn’t had personal experience as a church planter. “I don’t even pretend to understand what you might be going through,” he said.

“I will tell you that what I hear, what I’ve seen in the past four to five years, is that things are changing across our nation….Even in the deep south, we’re seeing an encroaching lostness in some areas that is profoundly more than what you might think.”

The planters and Page discussed the temptation church planters have to move to a new place with the hope of winning the city, but without really understanding its culture and context.

Page said he was praying for “an indigenous move of God, that native Chicagoans will be able to reach the city for Christ, in addition to those that God does bring in from the outside that has called, and equipped, and [that] have the staying power to get it done.”


Students and their leaders at ChicaGO Week pray for specific neighborhoods that are in need of a new church.

How do you introduce junior high and high school students to the intricacies of church planting in one of the country’s largest cities?

Take them there, and let them try it out.

More than 50 teens will spend this week working alongside five church planters in Chicagoland as part of the first-ever ChicaGO Week, a project sponsored by the Illinois Baptist State Association. The week kicked off July 13 at Judson University in Elgin, where youth groups from Harrisburg, Chicago, and several places in between will gather for worship after days at their project sites.

prayer_2During the opening worship service, the students heard from someone with lots of experience juggling the responsibilities of church planting.

And lots of experience with actual juggling too.

Ken Schultz is a professional entertainer with the stage name “The Flying Fool.” He’s also co-pastor of Crosswinds Church in Plainfield, a church he started several years ago with nuclear engineer John Stillman.

“God uses my juggling and John as a nuclear engineer to help grow a church,” Schultz told the students. Crosswinds has an average weekly attendance of 120 people, and 60% of those came to Christ through the church’s ministry.

“John makes killer spreadsheets,” Schultz said of his co-pastor. “I do this,” he said, before wowing the crowd by juggling three long knives.


Pastor Ken Schultz used his juggling and unicycle-riding skills in a message on boldness.

“What are you good at?” Schultz asked the students. “Can God use that to build his church?

“He can. You just need to give it to him.”

This week, they’ll do just that at Backyard Bible Clubs, through prayer walking and community clean-up projects, and by offering their time to church planters working hard to get to know their neighbors. It’s a lot to juggle, but God empowers His people to do His work.

“Let this generation be bold, let them be bold as lions for your glory and your good,” Schultz prayed at the end of his message. “If You can use a silly guy who juggles, You can use anybody.”