Archives For collegiate ministry

Investing in churches

ib2newseditor —  September 5, 2016

MIO-box-smallNow is the time of year when most Illinois Baptist churches are preparing to promote and receive the annual “Mission Illinois Offering,” which is devoted to advancing the gospel among more than eight million lost people, right here in our state.

Most of the time when we describe our mission priorities here in Illinois, we talk about the desperate need for new churches, especially in northern Illinois, and in large, lost cities like Chicago. And indeed, the MIO is helping start about 25 new churches every year.

And many times we talk about the vast and strategic mission field of Illinois college campuses, where thousands and thousands of tomorrow’s American and international leaders are being trained, often with little or no exposure to the gospel. The MIO supports collegiate ministries too, on more than two dozen campuses.

MIO supports our greatest missionary asset: the local church.

Your gift through the Mission Illinois Offering also helps support the Christian Activity Center in East St. Louis, and human need ministries like disaster and hunger relief, and IBSA-coordinated mission trips from Illinois to the ends of the earth.

But I received a promotional e-mail the other day that reminded me we often don’t talk enough about one of the most important ministries that the MIO makes possible—the ongoing investment of our missionaries and staff in the health and evangelistic growth of IBSA churches. Local churches are our greatest missionary asset as Illinois Baptists, and our investment in their health, growth, and leaders is as important as planting new churches, reaching college campuses, or meeting human and spiritual needs.

Watch the video, “Turn on the Light,” to learn more about why Nate Adams supports the Mission Illinois Offering.

The e-mail was from a church consulting firm. It offered training over a 3-day period on topics like church health models, conflict resolution, overcoming barriers to church growth, and individual church leader development. I thought to myself, ‘That’s what our staff does all the time!”

IBSA carefully measures our staff’s time investment in training and consulting with local churches. Consistently we have had direct consultation with 750-800 churches each year. Considering that ministry is delivered primarily by about 20 traveling staff, that means each staff member is serving an average of 40 churches, all year long!

But what really caught my attention about the church consulting firm’s letter was the cost of its 3-day training—$950 per student, with a minimum of 15 students. That would be over $14,000 for three days of help. To do that for 800 churches would cost more than $11 million. Our Mission Illinois Offering goal this year is $475,000.

I realize that’s not a precise apples-to-apples comparison, since Cooperative Program giving also funds our state mission work, and since IBSA does far more than training and consulting. But I hope it makes the point for you that it made for me. Every IBSA church has a staff of church health and growth consultants at its disposal, and their help is valuable! Your church’s gifts through the MIO and CP enable that staff to be available for your and hundreds of other IBSA churches—week in and week out.

Sometimes it’s awkward to ask for financial support. And maybe it’s a little easier to ask churches to support church planting and missions than to point to the “return on investment” that churches also receive through training and consulting. But if you stop and think about the value of what your church both receives and provides for other churches through your state missions giving, I hope it will make you want to give a truly generous gift through the Mission Illinois Offering this year.

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering and Week of Prayer September 11-18 at MissionIllinois.org.

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

Safe zoneRecently I had an opportunity to attend a conference at one of the schools in the Illinois State University system. The conference was very informative and what I learned should benefit IBSA churches. What I learned walking through the campus may have been an even greater education.

I always enjoy being on college campuses and find the atmosphere invigorating. It’s a world that’s insulated from the stressors of work, dedicated to learning, the exchange of ideas, and full of youthful energy. But as a Christian it seems less and less welcoming.

Posters on the walls of hallways advertised events featuring authors of books on “queer” studies and “Lavender Graduation” ceremonies which the Human Rights Campaign describes as “an annual ceremony conducted on numerous campuses to honor lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and ally students and to acknowledge their achievements and contributions to the University.” The ceremony was scheduled to take place in a
few weeks in one of the rooms where my conference was meeting.

Different offices bore rainbow colored stickers emblazoned with the words, “Safe Zone.” Generally, they denote places where students can “safely” approach those inside about LGBTQ issues. I wondered how welcome I would be to walk inside and discuss Christ.

Like many of us, I consider myself well-read and informed, believing I know what’s going on in our country and culture. However, the reality of the situation hit me like a slap across the face. This is what many students from our churches encounter on their public university campuses everyday. Their beliefs are not celebrated and most likely not welcomed.

We must encourage and disciple the young people in our churches. We must do the same for them on our college campuses, and our churches must reach out to those on the campuses who do not know Christ. The culture is leading the next generation away from Christ, and we must speak truth into that culture—the truth that is Christ.

Christian college students can’t do it alone. Remember yourself as a student and the pressures you faced. Those pressures have only multiplied. Our churches must stand alongside them.

During a break between sessions, I found my way to the restrooms—one marked “men” and another marked “women.” I couldn’t help but wonder who I might encounter inside.

– LMS

COMMENTARY | Chase Abner

Note: This article originally appeared on Collegiate Collective, a new resource that features articles, podcasts, and videos designed to equip leaders to advance the gospel on college campuses.

Chase_Abner_calloutI’ve been around collegiate ministry for about eleven years. In those years, I’ve been witness to all sorts of public hubbub on the world stage of evangelicalism. At first, there was the challenge posed by Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code.” Then there was a lot of back-and-forth about the Emergent Church and how post-modernism was going to erode all of Christendom. And that was just a precursor to Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” and the battle for the doctrine of hell. And Mark Driscoll has been the subject of his fair share of controversies. Throw “The Shack” and Calvinism into the mix and you’ve got yourself enough blog fodder to last you until the other side of eternity.

Early on, I somehow got the impression that a big part of my job as a campus minister was to help students be on the “right side” of all these public controversies. I read a lot of blogs and way too many blog comments. I sought out what side my heroes were on. I studied the Bible hard and I tried to provide my students with all the right answers.

However, there was one big problem.

They weren’t even asking the questions. Most of them didn’t even know who Brown or Driscoll or Bell or Calvin was. They were more concerned about passing their biology test or paying tuition in the spring or what they were going to say to their roommate struggling with depression.

So I gave up. I stopped trying to be up-to-date on the controversy of the day. I decided that if it wasn’t something that was directly impacting my students, then I wouldn’t bother with it.

And guess what? I found that I had a lot more time to hear from God, rather than about Him from someone on a podcast. I found that I was freer to hear the questions the students actually had, rather than the ones I forced on them. And I found that it’s a lot easier to follow Jesus when you’re not fighting over Jesus.

So last week, a video of Victoria Osteen made the rounds. If you didn’t know, she is the wife of America’s most famous mega-pastor Joel Osteen. The clip is from a sermon in August wherein Victoria makes some…how do you say…provocative claims about proper motivation for obeying God. (If you haven’t seen it yet, then count yourself blessed and forget I mentioned it.)

Here’s what naïve Chase would’ve probably done in response to this clip if it had come along in my early days of ministry: I would’ve torn the thing to bits, shared all the parody videos, and read every blog that critiques the Osteens’ errant theology. I might’ve even used one of the parody videos in our weekly gathering or taught an entire lesson in response. In other words, I would’ve wasted a lot of time doing battle against something that had virtually zero influence on the people in my care.

Let me suggest this template for responding to public Christian controversies in your collegiate ministry context.

  1. Pray for the individuals caught in sin or espousing false teaching.
    • Example: Pray for the Osteens and those influenced by their teaching ministry.
  2. Examine yourself in light of Scripture.
    • Example: Ask God to show you where you have selfish motives in your obedience to him. Repent as necessary.
  3. Listen to your students. Respond when necessary.
    • Example: If your students aren’t being influenced by the controversy, then press on in your disciple-making as if nothing has happened. If they have questions about it, then address the controversy.

You see, as you focus your energy on developing mature Christians who believe and apply the gospel to all of life, they will be equipped to address the counterfeits on their own. If at times, the controversies catch their attention and your students have questions, then embrace those as teachable moments. But remember, they are just that—moments—and not the normal pattern for your ministry.

Most of all, avoid the temptation to define yourself and your ministry by what you’re against. Is the gospel exclusive? Yes. Does God draw some hard lines in Scripture? Yes. But most clearly, he reveals himself in the person and work of Jesus Christ who gave most of his energy on earth to proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom.

Chase Abner is Collegiate Evangelism Strategist for the Illinois Baptist State Association.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Twenty-eight college students from 11 countries came to a rather unlikely place – Springfield, Ill. – the weekend before Thanksgiving, for a few rather unlikely reasons: a visit to the Abraham Lincoln museum and a home-cooked Thanksgiving meal. And, of course, the chance to get away from campus for a few days. But the biggest draw?

“Year after year, it’s the experience of being in an American home,” said Chase Abner, collegiate evangelism strategist for the Illinois Baptist State Association, which organizes the Midwest International Student Conference with the help of local churches and Baptist campus ministries. “That fascinates them and draws them to the conference.”

The vast majority – up to 80% – of international students will never set foot in an American home, giving Christians a great opportunity to showcase the Gospel by just sharing their lives, Abner said.

“We’re able to show within our homes how the Christian faith affects everything about us,” he said. “How we eat, how we manage our household, how we treat our family members…”

What do you think? Have you and your family been able to use the ministry of hospitality to share the Gospel?

Other news:

Tweets from the Vatican
CNN reports Pope Benedict XVI will open a personal Twitter account next week under the account @Pontifex. His first Tweet, slated for Wednesday, Dec. 12, will answer a question about religion submitted via the hashtag #askpontifex. “The Pope’s presence on Twitter is a concrete expression of his conviction that the Church must be present in the digital arena,” the church said in a written statement to reporters, according to CNN’s religion news blog. Read the full story here.

Anonymous author embraces obscurity, humility
The author of the new book “Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God’s Everything,” released by B&H Publishing Group, chose to publish under the name “Anonymous” and to maintain nearly complete anonymity. Only one B&H editor and a couple of executives at LifeWay Christian Resources know the identity of Anonymous – reportedly a well-established author – who communicates via a specially created email address. “This book is a call to stop imitating the world’s formula for success and instead follow the model of our humble King,” Anonymous said in quotes provided by B&H. Read more at BPNews.net.

Abortion rate drops 5%
The Centers for Disease Control reported in late November that the abortion rate in the United States is down 5%, according to a story in the Los Angeles Times. The decrease is reflected in data for the year 2009, the most recent information available. It represents the largest single-year decline in abortions in the last decade, The Times reported, adding that 18% of pregnancies in the U.S. end in abortion. Read more.

Survey: Most Americans back contraception mandate
Nearly two-thirds of adults in America believe businesses and organizations, even those with conflicting religious principles, should be required to provide coverage of contraception and birth control for their employees, according to a new survey by LifeWay Research. In considering whether nonprofits should be required to provide the coverage, 56 percent of adults agree and 32 percent disagree they should be required to follow the Obama Administration’s contraception mandate, even if it goes against their religious beliefs. For more findings, go to BPNews.net.