Archives For Gospel

Missional impact in your state

Lisa Misner —  September 13, 2019

By Paul Chitwood

Paul-Chitwood-webMy first international mission trip took place on a farm in central Kentucky.

As a new pastor in the community, I often found myself interacting with migrant workers from Central and South America. I soon realized that most were spiritually lost.

From conversations with farmers, I learned many of them were as concerned as I was about the eternal state of the souls of these (mostly) men who were so far away from their homes and families.

As we began to pull together churches in our association and piece together a plan to begin a migrant ministry, we found an organization ready and eager to help us: our Baptist state convention. With the assistance of our state convention staff, we were soon seeing people from all over Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua come to Christ — though we never left Kentucky.

Ministries in our 41 Southern Baptist state conventions vary from state to state, but their mission is the same: help churches reach their state and our world for Christ.

As we enter the fall of the year, most of our state conventions are promoting their annual state mission offering to support these vital ministries. My family will be giving to support the work in our state. As grateful and enthusiastic as I am for Southern Baptists’ support of international missions, I’m also thankful for and supportive of the ministry and mission work of our state conventions.

From my past experience as a pastor and state mission leader, I have seen firsthand the missional impact of state convention ministries. Where I served in Kentucky, more than 100 missionaries in the state receive varying levels of support for their work.

Ministries to refugees, migrants and ethnic minorities often are led or assisted by state convention team members and resources. State conventions help facilitate church planting, church strengthening and revitalization efforts as well as provide evangelism training and coordinate disaster relief ministry. In many states, collegiate work is led by the state convention and support is also provided for the ministry of local Baptist associations.

One of our adopted daughters was rescued and kept safe by our state convention’s orphan and foster care ministry before she came into our family. The lives of unborn children are being saved by crisis pregnancy centers that are often funded, in part, by the state convention. Several state conventions are actively involved in lobbying efforts for legislation to protect unborn children from the horror of abortion.

Many state conventions provide training and funding for prison ministries, through which inmates are hearing the Gospel, trusting Christ and being baptized by local churches. Women in the adult entertainment industry are being shown pathways to freedom and salvation, and churches are equipped for ministry to the homeless and those suffering addiction.

Across America, people are finding new life in Christ as churches work together through their state convention ministries. In addition to your church’s ongoing Cooperative Program support, your annual state mission offering is an opportunity for Great Commission and Great Commandment giving. Will you join my family and be a part of what God is doing through these ministries by giving through your state mission offering this year?

This week is the Week of Prayer for State Missions in Illinois. Learn more about MissionIllinois.org.

Paul Chitwood is president of Southern Baptists’ International Mission Board and a former executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Reprinted from Baptist Press.

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.

Day 3 Church Planting

Everyone Hears is a new initiative from IBSA to saturate the state of Illinois with the gospel of Jesus Christ, starting with concentrated efforts in places without a gospel witness. IBSA’s Eddie Pullen trains churches to start new congregations in target communities.

Pray for IBSA church planting catalysts working so everyone hears the gospel in Illinois.

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering.

Day 2 Grand Calling

More than 700 people were baptized in IBSA churches in the month of April. “One GRAND Month” focused on baptism, which increased 7% last year. But we have a long way to go.

Pray for new believers. And pray for IBSA churches to reach unbelieving people with the gospel throughout the year.

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering.

Roadside assistance

Lisa Misner —  May 2, 2019

By Adron Robinson

Read: Acts 8:26-40

Everyday is an opportunity to introduce someone to Jesus Christ, because everyday God allows us to be ambassadors of the Kingdom of God. In Acts 8, Philip was such an ambassador. When led by the Holy Spirit to go on what must have seemed an illogical journey, he immediately obeyed.

Because of his obedience, he was in the right place at the right time to tell someone about Jesus. The Holy Spirit led Philip to a high-ranking Ethiopian official who had been in Jerusalem to worship but left still searching for the living God. Despite the official’s power and prestige, he had a vast emptiness in his soul.

Will you share the gospel with one person and pray for them to be saved?

This Ethiopian man is like many of our friends, family, and co-workers today. They are socially successful and culturally religious. Sometimes they even read the Scriptures and seek the truth, yet they do not have saving faith in Jesus Christ. And each of them needs someone to show them the way. On the journey of life, they need roadside assistance!

They need a Philip to obey the Holy Spirit’s leading and come alongside them on the road of life to have a gospel conversation with them. They need someone who will help them understand the Scriptures, and they need someone who will tell them the bad news about their sin and the good news about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And when they believe, they need someone to baptize them and then disciple them so they can go out and make other disciples.

Will you be like Philip and follow the Holy Spirit’s leading? Will you share the gospel with one person and pray for them to be saved? On the road of life, we all need roadside assistance.

Prayer Prompt: Father God, we were lost and you found us; we were broken and you healed us; we were dying and you rescued us. Help us to follow in your footsteps and look for daily opportunities to share the gospel with those in need.

Adron Robinson pastors Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills and is president of IBSA.

Happy Birthday, Illinois!

Lisa Misner —  October 15, 2018

By Meredith Flynn

On our state’s bicentennial, the resolve of its early settlers has new meaning for Baptists.

Settlers arriving in the Illinois territory in the early 1800s didn’t know what to make of what they found. History tells us many of them moved north from areas that were heavily wooded. They trusted land that could support so many trees. The Illinois prairie offered no such reassurance.

“The prairies posed a new set of problems for farmers,” writes historian Pamela Riney-Kehrberg. “Below the land’s surface were tough, fibrous roots of tall prairie grasses, extending downward a foot or more. A simple wooden plow could hardly penetrate the surface.”

The pioneers made do by settling mostly in the southern part of the state, where ready access to water and trees made constructing their homes and farms more feasible. Some, though, eventually headed north, and found a way to work the hard prairie soil. It was richer than they thought, historians say. They just needed different tools. Steel, instead of wood.

Industrial pioneers John Deere and Cyrus McCormick developed tools for farming the prairie lands. And Illinois boomed. Its statehood population in 1818 was 35,000. By 1830, it had grown to 157,000, and would triple over the next decade. Still, tending the land was expensive. Families sacrificed much, Riney-Kehrberg notes, to run even a modest farm.

Two hundred years later, the challenges of tilling the soil in Illinois are different. But they still exist, especially in spiritual terms. More than 8 million people in Illinois do not know Christ. Many churches are struggling against the cultural tide to see real transformation in their communities.

Blue map copy

“I have often said that even though Illinois is the second flattest state in America, being Baptist here is an uphill climb,” said IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams. “Baptists have always been somewhat counter-cultural and a minority in Illinois, but that used to be because larger groups of people from different religious cultures had settled the state.

“Now it’s because the culture overall has become less and less religious, and arguably more hardened to the gospel message.”

Like Illinois’ early settlers found years ago, sometimes hard soil calls for new tools. Last year, IBSA presented four challenges to renew “pioneering spirit” among Baptists in Illinois. (Read more about the challenges at pioneeringspirit.org.)

These “new tools” are actually tried-and-true church practices: evangelism, church planting, sacrificial giving, and raising up new generations of leaders.

“The widespread and growing lostness of our state compels us to think in new ways. Maybe old ways,” said Van Kicklighter, IBSA’s associate executive director for the Church Planting Team. “The pioneers of Illinois and parts west came to those territories knowing that if they didn’t bring the gospel with them, it just would not be present. We need that same kind of spirit and thinking today.”

‘Time to do something’
After the 2017 IBSA Annual Meeting, David Starr led his church to tackle all four of the Pioneering Spirit challenges. His congregation, Community Southern Baptist Church in Clay City, is employing these new tools to make a difference in Illinois, especially in places where there is no IBSA church.

Starr approached Joe Lawson, director of missions for Louisville Baptist Association, about starting an association-wide prayer emphasis for the 10 counties in Illinois without an IBSA church. Community Southern, which averages around 70 in worship attendance, was assigned Carroll County in northwest Illinois. They started praying. Then, they took action.

“There’s a time to pray, and there’s a time to do something,” Starr said. He spoke with IBSA staff in Springfield and leaders in northwest Illinois, planning a mission trip that would be focused on assessing needs in the region. In July, Starr and his wife and another couple from their church traveled more than 300 miles along a diagonal line from Clay City to Savanna, Ill.

During their trip, they met with a church planter in Galena for a Monday night Bible study. Then, they knocked on doors. Starr said the small team visited 70% of the homes in the focus area, and found 21 people or families who wanted to commit themselves to seeing a Southern Baptist church planted there.

“We watch God,” Starr said. “He’s done everything.”

The team also saw physical need in Carroll County. The region has lost jobs in two big industries—railroad and lumber. There’s poverty and hunger. A woman who the team encountered ran into them later at a local store. “Don’t forget us,” she said.

Starr’s team went back home to Clay City, but they’ve continued to pray. There’s a map on the church bulletin board showing the streets they visited, and printed prayer reminders for the congregation.

Along with the challenge to go new places with the gospel, Community Southern is keeping up with the other Pioneering Spirit commitments. They increased missions giving through the Cooperative Program, are working to enlist new leaders, and celebrated one baptism on One GRAND Sunday, a statewide baptism emphasis in April.

“Here is a pastor and church that captured the pioneering spirit,” Kicklighter said. “They heard about a place where there was a compelling need, and they decided to do something about it.

“We need lots of Illinois Baptist churches with this kind of passion and willingness—a pioneering spirit.”

Starr said he’s never seen anything like it in his years of ministry. His church is investing willingly in other people and places. Like Illinois’ early settlers, they’re tilling the hard soil, and using less familiar tools to do so.

“We watch God,” Starr said. “He’s done everything.”

– Meredith Flynn, with info from History.com and “The Historical Development of Agriculture in Illinois” by Pamela Riney-Kehrberg

The best offense

Lisa Misner —  May 7, 2018

By Nate Adams

During the years I played basketball, my teams had some winning seasons and some losing seasons. After one of those losing seasons, our coach decided to make some changes.

They weren’t personnel changes—our best players were on the floor most of the time. The problem was that most of our competitors were taller and bigger than we were. And none of us were great outside shooters.

But we were quick. And we played hard. And by the start of the next season, our coach made sure we were in excellent condition. Because his new strategy, and our new life, we learned, was defense.

ADF-IBSAAt first we complained, at least among ourselves, because three-fourths of our practice time focused on guarding and running. Most basketball players like to shoot the ball. But our coach shook off our looks of discouragement with this promise: “Guys, this year our best offense is going to be good defense.” And as our defense created steals, and those steals created easy baskets for us, we grew to believe him. It was good defense that was creating new opportunities, and victories, for us.

For churches in today’s rapidly changing moral and legal climate, good defense is also essential. Religious freedom is being assaulted again and again, and often by giant, imposing foes that can range from the courts, to the schools, to the entertainment elite, to the culture itself. Churches that were once noted for the good they do are now often viewed with distrust and, in some cases, those churches face direct legal challenges.

One excellent “coach” in this changing and challenging climate is a Christian organization named Alliance Defending Freedom. ADF has over 23 years of experience providing religious freedom legal services to churches and Christian organizations, and has played a role in at least 52 Supreme Court victories. Now, through its recently developed Church Alliance program, it provides member churches with religious freedom legal services ranging from facility or land use, to unconstitutional regulation, to tax exemption issues.

Churches that join ADF’s Church Alliance program receive a religious liberty audit, including legal review of church bylaws and policies. They receive direct access to attorneys to answer the church’s questions about protecting its religious liberty. And they can receive consultation and/or legal representation in cases involving the church’s religious liberty.

Seeing that these services are now so valuable to churches, IBSA recently entered a partnership agreement with ADF to provide these services to IBSA churches for a flat annual membership rate, regardless of the church’s size. In fact, IBSA believes so strongly in the value of these services for individual churches, that IBSA will pay half of the first year’s annual $250 fee for any IBSA church that enrolls in ADF’s Church Alliance program. The religious liberty audit of a church’s key documents alone is worth well more than this amount, especially compared to the cost of an individual attorney for these services.

You can learn more about Alliance Defending Freedom, and receive the half-price IBSA church partnership discount (enter code IBSA2018), through the IBSA.org website, or call or e-mail the IBSA offices for a free brochure on how the ADF Church Alliance program works.
For my basketball team, playing serious defense was a game-changer, and a season-changer. We scored more points, and we won more games. But our offense was triggered by a solid, hard-working defense.

I am hopeful that hundreds of our IBSA churches will realize the threat they are facing, and get serious about defending their biblical beliefs and religious freedoms. Perhaps in doing so, we will also find new opportunities to go on offense with the gospel. Sometimes the best offense really is a good defense.

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