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Chicago, IllinoisCOMMENTARY | While many college students were using summer break to relax and catch up on some much-needed sleep, one group of undergrads dedicated their downtime to proclaiming the name of Jesus throughout the city of Chicago, one of our country’s biggest mission fields.

The North American Mission Board started a program a few years ago called Generation Send. They identified 32 cities in great need of laborers and then sent students out to work in them. This past summer almost 400 youth showed 16 of these cities the love of Christ as they learned what it meant to live a life on mission in an urban context.

Students from Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, and Tennessee were excited to come and serve in the unique and diverse community of Chicago. They arrived at the beginning of the summer with few expectations for the coming months but to see Christ glorified.

Chicago contains 77 neighborhoods filled with people from across the world. It is the third largest city in the U.S., but less than 10 percent of the population is involved with an evangelical church. They are in desperate need of the gospel and for people to come and serve in the name of Christ.

Two of the student leaders through Generation Send, known as mobilizers, were returning to Chicago for the second summer in a row. They had become extremely burdened for the city and wanted to continue sharing that passion with others. Looking beyond all the glitz and the glamour, Chicago is still a place where people have real needs and individuals are desperately lacking gospel truth. Realizing this firsthand has a way of leaving an imprint on one’s heart.

Four mobilizers led teams of 3-10 people in four of the 77 Chicago neighborhoods. Students engaged business owners, college students, young professionals, different ethnic groups, families, and many others for the gospel.

Every week a Generation Send student would encounter someone who needed to hear God’s truth. And many times they were receptive to it. Less than halfway through the summer, students couldn’t bear the thought of going home and leaving these people behind.

In July when it was time to say goodbye, one team had the privilege of leaving Bibles with a Muslim family who owned a restaurant that they visited several times a week. Another team came alongside a church planter and his family and helped them prepare for their first Sunday preview service. In a matter of only six weeks, these students from Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, and Tennessee were completely broken for this place that desperately needs Jesus.

One mobilizer has now made the commitment to move to Chicago. In September she will move from her quiet, small town in Louisiana to the chaos of the Windy City, all to further the gospel. Another student is also praying about becoming a church planter there in the coming years. Many others have already committed to bringing teams back next summer and will continue to pray for Chicago throughout the year.

All throughout scripture we see God’s people burdened for cities that were in need of Him. In the book of Nehemiah we encounter a man who asked his King to return to Jerusalem, a city he once called home. He was so burdened for the people of Israel and for the city of Jerusalem that he wanted to make new again what was destroyed. The task was not easy and the burden was not light, but he was determined to obey and honor what God had called him to do.

This theme of being burdened for God’s cities continues today. God is calling his people back into the cities so that the gospel may go forth. Cities are considered the heart of our country and we need the people who live in them to have repentant hearts and put their faith in Jesus Christ. Please pray for Chicago and for students preparing to join the mission field there.

And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” Luke 10:2 (ESV).

Carrie Campbell is a teacher in Beardstown. She has served as coordinator for NAMB’s Generation Send summer missions program in Chicago for two years.

One of the first stops for Cassidy Winters and three other Transplant student mobilizers was an orientation session in the courtyard of a Chicago pie shop.

One of the first stops for Cassidy Winters and three other Transplant student mobilizers was an orientation session in the courtyard of a Chicago pie shop. Photo by Charles Campbell

HEARTLAND | Two groups of interns will work in Chicago this summer to assist church planters already on the ground, and to help outline the demographics of other neighborhoods in need of new churches.

Transplant, a summer initiative for students sponsored by IBSA, placed four “mobilizers” in various parts of Chicagoland in June, each paired with a church planter reaching out to people in the city or suburbs. Cassidy Winters said the mobilizers’ goal is to give their planters “more arms” to reach out in the community.

The college freshman from Edwardsville is serving alongside Dave and Kirsten Andreson, who are planting Resurrection City Church in Avondale on the city’s North Side. This is Winters’ second summer in Chicago. Last year, she admits, she didn’t know much about church planting. Shortly after her arrival, she remembers texting her mother something along the lines of, “I’m starting a church, Mom!”

This summer, Winters is helping the Andresons as they plant a church in a community of 40,000—and little evangelical presence. Growing up in her Christian home, Winters said, she “kind of got stuck in a Christian bubble…just not ever thinking about people who don’t love Jesus.” But in Chicago, there is a lot of hurt, and a lot of love is needed. Winters is helping the Andresons identify the projects they’ll tackle during ChicaGO Week, when teens from around the state come to Chicago for a week-long church planting practicum.

Cody Wilson is another student serving in the city this summer, along with a group a mobilizers recruited by the North American Mission Board for the Generation Send program. Instead of spending most of their time working with existing church plants, Gen Send-ers will develop a prospectus for a future planter who will start something new in a specific community.

Wilson, a student at Middle Tennessee State University, is serving in the Lakeview neighborhood and looking for what he calls “third spaces.” These are the coffeeshops, gyms, and arts programs where people hang out, and where a church planter might go to build relationships.

He had met a lot of people after just over two weeks in the city. “But it’s still obvious that in one of the busiest cities in the world…people are incredibly lonely and have very high walls and don’t let people in.”

In mid-June, team members joined Wilson, Winters and their fellow mobilizers to help further develop their prospectuses and projects. Their teams bring the total number of college students serving in Chicagoland through IBSA and NAMB to around 55 for the summer.

Look for more updates from Transplant and Generation Send interns, and a full report from ChicaGO Week, in the July and August issues of the Illinois Baptist.

Rob (left) and Mona Payne (center) lead worship during "Pop Up Church" for Downtown Phoenix Church, also known as DTPHX Church. Photo by Shawn Hendricks/BP

Rob (left) and Mona Payne (center) lead worship during “Pop Up Church” in Phoenix. Photo by Shawn Hendricks/BP

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Young adults in downtown Phoenix “don’t think about going to church on Sunday morning any more than you and I think about going to bingo on Friday nights,” says Pastor Jim Helman. To reach Millennials, his Downtown Phoenix Church “pops up” every other week at a coffee shop or in a park, and uses the other weeks to serve the community. Read more at BPNews.net.


His Seattle Seahawks may have lost the Super Bowl in stunning fashion (that second down call!), but quarterback Russell Wilson seems to already be bouncing back via Twitter. After the game, the outspoken Christian posted motivational messages and Psalm 18:1–“I will love You, O LORD, my strength.”


Imprisoned pastor Saeed Abedini thanked President Obama for meeting with his wife and children last week, and for assuring the couple’s young son that he will try to secure his father’s release by March (when Jacob Abedini will celebrate his 7th birthday). “I know that as a father you can truly understand the pain and anguish of my children living without their father and the burden that is on my wife as a single mother,” Abedini wrote to Obama from Rajaee Shahr prison in Iran.

In the letter, provided online by the American Center for Law and Justice, Abedini also thanked Obama “for standing up for my family and I and for thousands of Christians across the world who are persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ.”


The American Bible Society will relocate to Philadelphia after selling its Manhattan building for $300 million, reports The Christian Post. The 12-story facility on Broadway, which has housed ABS since 1966, is about 10 blocks from another ministry: the offices of the Metro New York Baptist Association.


Religion writer Cathy Lyn Grossman reports on the “post-seculars,” a group defined in a new study as falling between “traditional” and “modern” views of science and religion. Said study co-author Timothy O’Brien, “We were surprised to find this pretty big group (21 percent) who are pretty knowledgeable and appreciative about science and technology but who are also very religious and who reject certain scientific theories.”


Democrats feel more warmly toward Muslims than do Republicans, Pew reports in a study on how ideology and age affect American “temperatures” about Muslims and Islam.


As Boko Haram continues to wage a war of terror in Nigeria, “…God has raised up believers who have remained steadfast and bold in the midst of applied pressures to silence them,” said one Christian worker, according to this Baptist Press story.


 

HEARTLAND | Charles Lyons

Editor’s note: This is the third post in a series on prayer and spiritual awakening. Read “2015: The Year of Prayer,” and “Revise us, O Lord,” at ib2news.org.

A mid-1800’s revival that started with a small prayer meeting in New York City resulted in thousands upon thousands of people trusting in Christ. We need such a movement today, perhaps using several ideas from this list. Use personally, or with family devotions. Share it with your church prayer group of Bible study group. Share on Facebook.

City HallLead your church to pray for one item each Sunday for 15 Sundays. Use each one for a church prayer focus for a week each.

“Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile and beseech the Lord on its behalf. For in its welfare you will also have welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7)

1. Invite the Holy Spirit to teach you to pray as He helps you to pray.

2. Pray for your pastor – his spiritual health, his marriage, his family, his vision, wisdom, and spiritual power. Ask God to enhance his ability to lead your church to reach your city or town.

3. Pray for your church family to enthusiastically engage in serving your community.

4. Pray the same for the pastors in your city.

5. Pray for the newest church you know and the oldest church.

6. Pray that your church family will impact your city or town in 2015 as never before.

7. Pray for your mayor – a sense of accountability to God, humble acknowledgement of need for wisdom, relationship to God, and desire for righteousness and integrity.

8. Pray the same for your police chief.

9. Pray the same for your fire chief.

10. Pray the same for your city council or your local elected official.

11. Pray the same for your superintendent of schools.

12. Pray for the schools closest to you, the high school and its principal, the grade school and its principal.

13. Pray for those who work in the healthcare system in your community – administrators, doctors, nurses, technicians.

14. Pray for your closest neighbors or friends to be saved and be fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ.

15. Pray for a merchant or clerk you interact with on a regular basis.

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Charles Lyons pastors Armitage Baptist Church in Chicago.

The death of death

Meredith Flynn —  April 18, 2014

Charles_Lyons_blog_calloutCOMMENTARY | Charles Lyons

I wish you could meet Richard.* When our church moved into the hulking former Masonic Temple, squatting on a Kedzie Boulevard corner, the guy I would come to know as Richard hung out with a crowd of 20 guys in front of our building each evening.

This was their hood. This was their corner. Now, many years later, Richard has confessed with his mouth and believed in his heart the Lord Jesus.

He’s in my Grow Group that meets every Thursday night. The week after Easter we were bemoaning that Richard had to work the previous Sunday. He’s a security guard at a hospital, which has served this dangerous Humboldt Park neighborhood since the early 1900s.

He was recounting the hectic happenings at his ER security post on Resurrection morning.

“Yeah, we had two rape victims come in, then we had two other girls who were hit and run…” His hands were waving. “Then we had a shooting victim brought in.”

Right about here I interjected, “This is all Easter morning?”

“That’s right,” he affirmed, voice rising.

“Then the Monsters* (local gang whose turf surrounds the hospital) started gathering outside the ER door trying to get in to finish off the guy they shot but failed to kill. We had to put a call into CPD (Chicago Police Department) for some help. On top of that, two overdoses came in.”

While all that was going on, about a mile and a half north, Armitage Baptist was lifting praises to the resurrected Christ. We were declaring the good news that Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection is victory over sin and death. He’s in the life-transforming business. That very morning, almost a score of sinners
confessed Jesus as Lord in our services.

Cities are centers of death. The wages of sin is death. Cities … more sinners … more sin … more wages of sin … more death. I can’t help but think of the crime, the plagues, the fires, the wars that have wreaked havoc on cities throughout history.

Even natural disasters are more dramatic and more death-dealing when they hit cities. Think of the tornado in Joplin, Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and Biloxi, and Hurricane Sandy in Long Island.

Think of Jerusalem – ravaged, destroyed, blood soaks every square foot of its rocky soil. Several hundred years before Christ, the Babylonians decimated the city. Several decades after Jesus, the Romans brought great horror to the sacred city.

Jerusalem – The city. The city that is the center of the earth. The city central to God’s grand plan. On one dark Friday it is again the center of death. This death is the death of all deaths. Three days later death is conquered in a city, the city.

Could it be with all the devastation Satan has hurled at humanity in cities and through cities, that God chooses the city purposefully as the place where death will be conquered?

“O death, where is your sting, O grave where is your victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55) The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law, but thanks
be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Rosa,* new to our Grow Group, sat in stunned silence as Richard talked. Which, if you knew Rosa, was an awfully rare occasion. There had been a knock as our group assembled. The door was flung open. Richard entered the tiny living room seemingly filling it. Rosa told me later, “I recognized him right away! I don’t know if he recognized me, so I just introduced myself.

“Pastor, Pastor, he’s the guy who told my son that he was going to kill him!”

“When was this?” I asked.

“Over 15 years ago. Right out in front of church!”

It seems Rosa’s then-teenage son had some kind of run-in with Richard. Rosa had literally feared for her son’s life, taking precautions to avoid the big guy that ran the hood.

Not having seen him for years, she had the spiritually jolting, emotionally shocking experience of sitting that night studying the Word of God with the very man, now her brother in Christ, who had threatened the life of her son. And doesn’t God often take it up one more notch? Rosa’s son now works at the hospital because Richard helped him get the job!

Jesus is the death of death in the city.

Charles Lyons has pastored Armitage Baptist Church in Chicago since 1974. This column first appeared in the Baptist Bible Tribune.

Michael_AllenChicago connections key in pastor’s new role

NEWS | Uptown Baptist Church pastor Michael Allen has been named Send City coordinator for Chicago by the North American Mission Board (NAMB). He succeeds IBSA’s Tim Cotler, who moved from the local coordinator position to a Midwest regional role in NAMB’s church planting strategy that targets 32 major metropolitan areas in North America.

The local “Send” strategy committee identified 184 areas and people groups in Chicagoland that need churches. The city itself has 77 neighborhoods. Allen says his goal is to plant 77 new churches, one in each of those neighborhoods, in the next five years.

Allen has a big job ahead of him, helping coordinate the work of churches and church planting partners, including IBSA.

“Just as Allen has adopted Chicago as his hometown, his heart is to invite a new generation of Southern Baptists to adopt Chicagoland as their mission field,” said Van Kicklighter, IBSA’s associate executive director for church planting.

“It’s like what politicians say about Iowa,” Allen said. “All roads to the White House go through Iowa. Chicago is like that when it comes to church planting. We’re such a key crossroads of our country and the world. Just about any ethnic group you want to reach with the gospel, you name it, they’re here.”

Allen has served as pastor of Uptown Baptist Church since 2005. He will continue as senior pastor at the church, whose work among an eclectic population includes weekly outreach to homeless and hungry people, as well as those living in high-rise condominiums on Lake Michigan.

“Our neighborhood is the most diverse in Chicago,” Allen said, “in any way you want to measure diversity, whether it’s educated and uneducated, rich and poor and then the various ethnic groups—those who are living in multi-million dollar homes and those living on the streets. [Uptown Church is] right in the middle of all of that, and it gives me a great learning perspective.”

Allen was born in Jamaica but moved to Florida with his family when he was 9. He first moved to Chicago to attend Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He also became the first African-American staff member of Chicago’s famous Moody Church, pastored by Erwin Lutzer.

After three years on staff at Sagemont Baptist Church in Houston, Allen returned to Chicago. He was also a NAMB missionary there while serving as pastor at Uptown.

Chicagoland is the third-largest metro area among NAMB’s 32 Send cities, topped only by New York and Los Angeles. With 308 Southern Baptist churches in the metro’s four associations, Chicagoland has only one SBC congregation for every 32,000 residents.

-Reporting by Illinois Baptist and NAMB

MIO_blogDAY 4: Watch “Big City, Big Challenge”

Metro Chicago is a mix of neighborhoods and small towns and mid-size cities, all stitched together into the urban patchwork we call “Chicagoland.” With 2,000 people groups and 200 languages spoken, Chicago has many people who desperately need the Gospel.

As God draws missionaries, pastors, and church planters to share the Gospel with the region’s 10 million people, he calls some to come from far away. Others he calls to invest their lives in their hometowns.

“When God first called me, I wanted to go far away, like Jonah,” Pastor Marcus Randle said. “But he sent me right back here to the Southside.”

When we first introduced Randle, his congregation was moving into an old church-school complex, with big plans to expand their outreach to at-risk kids and homeless women. Settled in now, the challenges are big for Resurrection House, but the opportunities are bigger.

Read: Jonah 3:1-4; Isaiah 6:1-6

Think: Why does God send people to minister in places where, at first, they refuse to go?

Pray for 80 church planters and their families working in Illinois today. Ask that they have favor in the many neighborhoods without a church.