Archives For faithfulness

‘To see the gospel carried through Baptist churches generation after generation’

Essentials MIO

MIO Logo 500pxSharing the gospel with at least 8 million people is a daunting calling, especially as the cultural opposition churches face continues to grow. But that is our calling here in Illinois. And each year in order to fulfill that calling, Illinois Baptists gather resources to fund ministries for evangelism, discipleship, and church planting.

How’s that working?

Gathered in the chapel of Broadview Missionary Baptist Church following a meeting of pastors, four IBSA leaders discussed the mission field and the future of ministry partnership through the Illinois Baptist State Association. In the discussion were:

• Nate Adams, IBSA Executive Director
• Mark Emerson, IBSA Associate Executive Director of the Church Resources Team
• Adron Robinson, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills, and serving his first term as IBSA President
• John Yi, IBSA Church Planting Catalyst focused on second-generation ministry in the Northeast region

How does our view of Illinois affect our churches’ commitment to partnership in state missions?

Nate Adams: I think a lot of people don’t think of Illinois as a mission field, because their community is reasonably churched and they’re reasonably happy in their church environment. But Illinois has 13 million people. At least 8 million of them don’t claim to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And a lot of those who do say they are Christians have just nominal church relationships.

John Yi: And there are many people groups that don’t have a single church that serves them. In Chicago we see so much diversity—people from all over the world speaking all kinds of different languages. There are about two million immigrants in Illinois.
And there are at least a half-a-million young people who have come to Illinois to study, and a large portion of them have come from overseas. We really have a unique opportunity to reach people with the gospel—in our cities and all over the state.

Adams: Illinois is very much a mission field. In Acts 1:8 terms, where Jesus said, “You’ll be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth,” Illinois is the “Judea” part of that mission field. In this environment, Illinois Baptists are missionaries, going to places like college campuses and large cities and rural areas, bringing the gospel there as if it had not come there before. Because for a lot of people, they’ve never heard the gospel in a way that they can really understand, even here in Illinois.

Seeing the needs, some churches have noticeably raised their support for state missions. Yours is one of them, Pastor Robinson. Why?

Adron Robinson: My congregation recently increased its Mission Illinois Offering giving because we saw the work that was going forward because of last year’s offering. We were able to see the money that we invested going to reach lost people in Illinois—going to help us reach our Judea, you know. Hillcrest can’t reach the entire state, but by giving through the Mission Illinois Offering, we can help other Illinois Baptists reach other lost people in their areas. We can join in our part of fulfilling the Great Commission.

Adams: IBSA is helping churches think about the mission field that is most accessible to them. Even though it’s a wildly diverse mission field, it’s the one that’s near enough where they can go there themselves.

Illinois is a very diverse state, both ethnically and in spiritual need. And John, you serve among people who exemplify both needs.

Yi: Chicago is a landing spot for so many immigrants. And because that’s the case, we can’t stop planting churches for our first-generation folks. But as soon as they arrive, a cultural gap starts to form between the generations almost immediately. And so the challenge is two-fold—that we reach immigrants in their own language, but also reach their children with the gospel in English, which the parents are unfamiliar with, in a meaningful way that’s going to bring them to Christ.

What can our churches do together that they could never accomplish alone?

Robinson: I’m grateful for our partnership with IBSA, because it gives the local church the resources and the connections to do statewide ministry that we can never accomplish as one small local congregation. Through Disaster Relief, evangelism training, equipping of our local church body through IBSA staff, we are able to reach people all around the state.

Mark Emerson: As Pastor Robinson points out, missions is part of our work, along with evangelism and discipleship. And we help churches do this by equipping them for leadership: IBSA develops leaders.

I think back to several of the guys who were on the IBSA staff when I was a new pastor and church planter almost 30 years ago, how they took me under their wings and mentored me. Today, I’m thinking how great it would be if every Illinois Baptist pastor had that kind of connection.

Adams: I think the advantage that IBSA has, that allows us to create that kind of opportunity, is proximity to the churches. Southern Baptists have an International Mission Board helping churches go around the world, and a North American Mission Board focusing on some of the great cities in North America. But the Illinois Baptist State Association is the nearby partner. They’re the guy nearby to the church who equips the church to reach its own mission field right here in Illinois.

Emerson: As a pastor, I recall how I looked at a lot of different things in our organization and thought, “Well, our church is not growing because we have a community problem. Or an organizational problem. Or a financial problem.” What I learned is that our ministry really had a leadership problem. And if the church was going grow, I was going to have to grow.

So, we are developing leaders by providing the same kind of experience that I had through the state association—creating cohorts where leaders come together and learn to lead. We have about 40 of these groups all over the state now.

In addition to cohorts, the Church Resources Team equips 6,500 leaders from almost all of our 1,000 IBSA churches and church plants in all aspects of ministry in statewide and regional training events. And we train kids and students in missions and leadership with camps each summer and evangelism events in the fall.

Robinson: Our church has hosted youth events for the northern region. Without our IBSA connections, these things would never happen—praying together and serving faithfully, partnering together—

The key word is partnership.

Adams: I hope our young people won’t lose the vision of partnering with others who believe Baptist doctrine to send missionaries into places that no one church could send by themselves. But that working together as Baptist churches we can send reliable missionaries to places that will deliver the gospel and start New Testament churches that are relevant to that community. And I hope that’s something that will happen for generation after generation.

Emerson: That our work is handed from one generation to another.

So how do you see state missions in the future?

Adams: For me personally to see the gospel carried through Baptist churches generation after generation is a continuation of what my dad started when he was a pastor and a director of missions in Illinois. I want to see that happen in the generations of my kids and their kids—a stewardship of faithfulness, that we believe the Bible, that we believe the gospel, that we believe the mission of God is the most important thing in our lives.

Don’t quit!

Lisa Misner —  August 2, 2018

By Adron Robinson

Read: Hebrews 12:1-2

The other morning I decided to go for a run. I hadn’t run in a while and I knew starting back would be tough. But I underestimated just how tough it would be. I started slowly by walking the first lap. Then on the second lap I began to run. Things were going well for a while and then it happened: Just a few laps in, I began to feel winded and my chest started to burn. Soon, pain kicked in, and the first thought that came to my mind was to quit.

Have you ever been tempted to quit? Quit your marriage, quit your ministry, or even quit your church? I have. Ministry is hard work; it’s spiritual warfare. If you do what God called you to do, there will be serious opposition, but don’t quit. Pastor, ministry leader, spouse, hear me clearly: God did not call us to ministry because we are able. He called us to ministry because he is able! And by his grace, he has chosen to display his strength in the midst of our weaknesses (2 Cor. 12:9). So, don’t quit serving, just quit trying to serve by your own power.

Paul David Tripp tells the story about the day he attempted to resign from his church. He was sure this was the best decision for him and his family. He was weary.  On Sunday morning he made the announcement to the congregation. After the service, a member walked up to him and said, “We know you are immature, but where is the church going to find mature leaders if immature leaders run?”

Brothers and sisters, the church needs spiritually mature leaders, and God makes them by training us to endure trials and tribulations while trusting him. So don’t quit! Your family needs you, your church needs you, the Kingdom of God needs you. Don’t quit!

PRAYER PROMPT: Father, ministry is hard and at times we are tempted to quit. Teach us to trust your strength in the midst of our weakness and allow you to use every circumstance for your glory. Amen.

Adron Robinson is pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills and president of the Illinois Baptist State Association.

Nate Adams IBSA exterior

Former editor Dennis Dawson used to write a column in the Illinois Baptist titled, “Is This a Great State or What?” During those days, I remember many IBSA staff members who would return from a far corner of the state and parody that column’s title by asking, “Is this a great BIG state, or what?”

Illinois is almost 400 miles long from its northern border to its southern tip, and more than 200 miles at its widest point from east to west. Believe me, I know. On a given Sunday, it’s possible for me to drive three and a half hours to a church in southern Illinois, or four or more to a church north of Chicago, even from our central location in Springfield. But when it comes to traveling our great state, I have two secret weapons, or perhaps I should call them secret blessings. I have a mom who lives in the Chicago suburbs, and a mother-in-law who lives in the heart of southern Illinois.

Though both have been widowed for several years, and both are well into their 80’s, these two dear moms still maintain their own homes and are very active in their churches. And they still put a pretty good meal on the table. So when my travel takes me in their direction, my wife or I often call in advance and ask, “Is the Bed & Breakfast available this weekend?”

A word of thanks to faithful mothers for good food and, even better, spiritual refreshment.

Of course, these are our moms, not innkeepers. I would never want to presume upon their hospitality, and I’m sensitive to the fact that I’m sometimes passing through their homes quickly, with little more time than for a bed and breakfast. Yet each time I have apologized for that, our moms have both assured me that they are always glad for whatever time we have together.

Over the years, I have learned that there is more to a bed than sleep, and
more to breakfast than eating. When you’re at Mom’s house, the smells are
familiar. The sounds are familiar. The pictures on the walls and the knickknacks on the shelves are familiar. It’s home.

When you sit around the kitchen table at Mom’s house, you relax and ease up a little. You help yourself from the fridge. You change a light bulb or two, so she won’t have to. You eat, but more than that, you fellowship.

In other words, the blessing that these two moms are to me and my often extensive travel goes far beyond the hours of sleep saved. It even goes beyond the dollar they save the IBSA budget, which I’m sure would be thousands and thousands over the past few years. They refresh me. They refresh my wife and allow us to travel together more. They give me home away from home.

So as Mother’s Day passes this year, and since they both read the Illinois Baptist faithfully, I want to use this brief space to say thank you to two faithful moms, Romelia Adams and Georgianna Schultz. Perhaps in doing so I am helping other pastors or church leaders say thank you to their moms too, for all the ways that they support our ministries, from nearby or afar.

I recall my dad once saying that when his mother passed, he physically felt the absence of her prayers. I don’t know how that works exactly, but I do know that there is something extremely valuable in the support of a mother. I see it in our two moms, and I see it in my wife, not just for me, but especially for our children, and their spiritual lives.

So I will keep cherishing the times when I can pick up the phone and ask, “Is the Bed & Breakfast available?” So far it has been every time.

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

Blue ribbonNate Adams’s Illinois Baptist column was awarded first place by the Evangelical Press Association.

HEARTLAND | Eric Reed

O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the works Thy hands have made in 2014…

365 days marked by evening and morning, 365 sunsets and sunrises, as 143,341,000 people were born onto this planet and 56,759,000 departed, all receiving 1,640 minutes each day and blessings beyond number, I say

Thank you, Lord, for saving my soul; thank you, Lord, for making me one of the billions you have saved by grace through faith. I was sinking deep in sin, far from your holy standard, and yet you made a Way for me—for us—to be rescued.

And His Name is Jesus.

Dear Lord and Father of mankind, forgive our foolish use of time and grant that we may more wisely employ our moments and our days to share your peace with a world that has suffered its absence this year: the death-march of ISIS and the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, the kidnapped girls and the lost boys; the fear in Ferguson, and the failure of our social contract. We are grateful for God’s peace in our hearts, even as we realize the fragility of peace in our streets.

Sixty years after D-Day, bless the Greatest Generation who secured our freedom, and guard the young soldiers whose service today has redefined sacrifice.

calendar 2014.In this, the year of Ebola, we pray: Eternal Father, strong to save, whose arm hath bound the deadly wave with wonder drugs and rescue teams, hazmat suits and quarantines. For healthcare, though at times it’s costly, sparing lives that once would lost be; for ribbons pink and yellow wristbands and friends who live strong when faced with cancer. (And their hats.)

O God, our help in ages past, our hope for the year to come, we’re grateful for a stronger economy, steadier jobs, and the roof overhead. Our kids are warm and safely tucked in; thank you for the joy of children (those here now and those a’comin’).

For our Baptist family on bended knee lifting lost ones up to Thee; for our dear church, where would we be without your Body on earth that meets just down the street and comes over for small group?

For faithful friends and faithful givers, co-laborers in Christ who become brothers and sisters, the cloud of witnesses in heavenly places who cheer us on as we run our races.

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed is all you made and we marvel still at your inscrutable creation…yet little things cheer our hearts and make us sing “Happy” songs. I love breakfast (oh it’s so good!), foods I eat and foods I should. Coffee hot and iced tea sweet, mittened-hands and sock-warmed feet; feeling glad when winter comes and gladder still when winter goes.

Clinging to the hope of spring, there are 10,000 reasons for my heart to sing…Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul…because whatever comes in 2015,
“I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist and IBSA’s associate executive director for the church communications team. This column was written in the style of the late Joan Beck, Chicago Tribune columnist, whose annual “thanks” essays inspired readers for 30 years.

Josh_Laxton_Aug21COMMENTARY | Josh Laxton

For the last eight years, I have been working in churches that were in need of revitalization, or breakout. I know this doesn’t make me an expert, but it has given me field experience. In addition, for the last three years I have been intensely studying the condition of the American church and her impact in contemporary culture.

I have come across many success stories of pastors who led their church to positive breakout. But it seems that for every story of success, there are nine stories of struggle and heartache. In all honesty, leading a church to breakout is like trying to climb Mount Everest. It’s daunting and extremely difficult.
In my last column on Nehemiah, I explained how his breakdown laid the foundation for the breakout of his people. But that’s not the end of the story.

Nehemiah also faced many obstacles in leading the breakout. The king (his boss) had already stopped the rebuilding of the wall years earlier. Nehemiah hadn’t led this kind of work before. He faced a long, dangerous journey to get to the people, and once he arrived, he met a discouraged people in need of motivation and organization.

Just like Nehemiah, those who want to lead a church to breakout will face a variety of obstacles. As leaders, we face obstacles of perceptions, practices, poor theology, and people’s resistance to change. For many, the perception is that the church is fine—we’re paying the bills and ministries are still running. When it comes to practices, over time churches tend to focus on insiders, not outsiders, which can lead to neglecting the building, failing to create hospitable environments, and lacking a defined process for connecting new people.

Poor theology also can be an obstacle. Without being aware, a congregation can lose their passion for the centrality of Jesus and his gospel, their urgency to call people to repentance and salvation, and their missional posture towards the community and the nations.

One of the toughest obstacles is leading people to embrace change. I have found many church members want growth (or, at the very least, they don’t mind it), but don’t want things to change. In short, leading breakout isn’t easy, especially in light of the various obstacles. Nehemiah knew this as well. He navigated through the obstacles by way of breakthrough—an “aha moment.”

His prayer, starting in Neh. 1:4, gives us at least three principles of breakthrough that have implications for our ministry today:

God is the breakthrough power. Immediately after hearing the condition of the people, Nehemiah went to the Lord. “Let Your eyes be open and Your ears be attentive to hear Your servant’s prayer,” he says in verse 6. “…I confess the sins we have committed against You.”

This is paramount for church and denominational leaders to understand, especially given the fact that we live in a self-help culture where there is no shortage of books, conferences, leadership podcasts, and workshops about how churches can breakout from their unhealthy condition. While there’s nothing wrong with many of these resources, I have to constantly remind myself that these are supplements to breakout, not the source.

Humility is the breakthrough position. Nehemiah’s prayer reflects his understanding of God’s position and power, and that he and Israel are His servants (Neh 1:5, 6,10). Our prayers should reflect God’s transcendent position in relations to us—how great, gracious, awesome, faithful, and powerful he is. In addition, our prayers should reflect our humble position to God—a position that’s here to serve him and be used by him to do what he has put in our hearts.
When it comes to leading our churches to breakout may we never confuse our role with God’s—we are simply conduits by which He works to bring his people where He wants them to be.

Faithfulness is the breakthrough pattern. In Nehemiah’s prayer, we see that his going to the Father wasn’t a one-time deal; he did this “for days.” Scholars note that four months passed between chapter one and two. Thus, for over four months, Nehemiah faithfully goes to the Lord, humbling and submitting himself to God’s will and leading. His continued faithfulness reflects both the seriousness of leading a breakout and his belief that only God could do it.

If we desire to lead our churches to breakout, not only must we have a breakdown, but we must have a breakthrough—an “aha moment” were we realize God is the only one who can breakthrough the obstacles we face.

Josh Laxton is lead pastor of Western Oaks Baptist Church in Springfield. His first column on Nehemiah appeared in the July 28 issue of the Illinois Baptist.