Archives For Heartland

Let’s go back to church

Lisa Sergent —  September 2, 2015

Back to Church SundayHEARTLAND | The kids have gone back to school, so now let’s go back to church. That’s the idea behind National Back to Church Sunday, September 20. After Labor Day is one of those times when the number of church visitors increases. How can we prepare?

Smiles, everyone. Practice your greetings. Put it plainly: let’s make people feel welcome, not just at the assigned hand-shaking time, but before and after the service, too.

Two-minute warning. As with the last moments of an NFL game, assign the greeting to the last two minutes of the service. Encourage people to stick around and talk, or invite the guests to lunch at a local restaurant.

Check the signage. Invite a stranger to assess the effectiveness of the signs in your buildings, especially for the restrooms and children’s area.

Paint the entryway. The rest of the place may need it too, but at least spruce up the lobby.

Best face forward. Assign the friendliest greeters for the month of September in a variety of ages. Review the basics of making people feel welcome and giving directions.

Learn more about Back to Church Sunday

The Chicago vortex

nateadamsibsa —  January 12, 2015

HEARTLAND | Nate Adams

It’s January, and another “polar vortex” appears to be descending upon our heartland homes. Just a few days ago the temperature outside was flirting with 50 degrees. But then yesterday was barely above freezing, and as I write now it’s 16 degrees, heading for a low of 6 tonight, with wind chill temperatures that will require those dreadful minus signs in front of them.

Nate_Adams_Jan12So instead I’m choosing to think about next summer, and I encourage you to do so too. Now, in the dead of winter, is a perfect time to start planning a summer missions experience.

Your church may already have a plan for sending one or more groups on mission trips outside your own community this year. Many churches in Illinois have adopted an Acts 1:8 strategy, and are seeking to send mission groups to serve nearby in their local association, as well as elsewhere in Illinois, North America and internationally. These are modern day equivalents of the “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the Ends of the Earth” mission fields that Jesus spoke of in His last words on earth.

If your church doesn’t yet have a mission trip planned for this summer, and especially if you have teenagers in your church, let me suggest one option where most of the planning has already been done for you. It’s called ChicaGO 2015, and it will be hosted July 26-31 on the campus of Judson University in Elgin. You can find more detailed information on the IBSA website, or by calling or
e-mailing Rachel Carter (217-391-3101 or RachelCarter@IBSA.org). Even if you only have two or three who can go, they will be quickly welcomed into the larger group.

During ChicaGO 2015, your group will be housed on the Judson campus there in Elgin, but during the days you will explore one or more of Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods or diverse suburbs. Morning training sessions and evening worship experiences will allow you to meet some of the dynamic church planting missionaries that are seeking to advance the gospel in our nation’s third largest mission field. And during the day you will work right alongside them, and alongside other students and adults from Illinois churches that share your heart for advancing the gospel there.

Wherever you live in Illinois, ChicaGO 2015 is relatively nearby, and affordable. Planning and preparations for the week, such as meals and work projects, will have been done by IBSA before you get there. Participants can be both students and adults, and the environment is one that’s safe, and yet that will open your group’s eyes to the vast and diverse lostness that is Chicago.

You see, Chicago itself is a vortex, and not just in the winter. A vortex is defined either as a “whirling mass,” or simply as “something overwhelming.” That’s why, when the frigid air from the Arctic Circle whirls its way down into Illinois, we feel the overwhelming
brutality of its icy grip. But there is also a whirling mass of people in Chicago that are in the icy grip of lostness. Many have never heard the true gospel in a way they can understand, or from people that care enough to meet them where they are.

That’s why now, this winter, right in the middle of our polar vortex, is an ideal time to plan a summer mission trip. Perhaps you will join our church planters and me in the Chicago vortex next July. Or perhaps your church has identified a different vortex of lostness or two to enter. Last year more than 26,000 Illinois Baptists did. It warms my heart just to think about it.

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

HEARTLAND | Nate Adams

It feels like I have had more than a few challenging days of ministry recently. But today is an especially good Sunday, and I’d like to tell you about it.

I leave home very early, to drive almost 200 miles to an IBSA church where I know the pastor, but have never attended on a Sunday morning. It’s their 70th anniversary, and I have a nice plaque from IBSA to present to them. In all those regards, it’s not really an unusual Sunday.

Nate_Adams_July28What’s a little more unusual is that my wife, Beth, is traveling with me. Our youngest son Ethan is leading the worship team at our home church in Springfield, and Beth would like to be there too. But by evening we will be at the church where our middle son Noah is youth pastor, and so she has decided to come along. So it’s already an especially good Sunday.

We drive past one, two, three IBSA churches, and eventually past the one where I recall speaking three years ago when my oldest son Caleb also shared his testimony. He had just returned to the Lord after years as a prodigal. And as I realize that today my wife is with me, and that all three of our sons are worshiping and serving in an IBSA church, I realize that this is an especially good Sunday.

At the church celebrating its 70th anniversary we are greeted warmly, with appreciation for both IBSA and for our long drive that morning. I watch as an effective pastor loves his people, and they love him back. I meet a 93-year-old former church planter and pastor, who tells me he helped plant one of the first SBC churches in northern Indiana. He’s surprised I don’t recognize his former supervisor’s name, until I remind him I wasn’t born yet.

Later when I’m presenting the plaque, I tell both the 93-year-old church planter and the 70-year-old church that my wife and I are on our way, after church, to IBSA’s first “ChicaGO” student camp at Judson University. It’s a pilot church planting camp that we hope will continue to produce church planters, church plants, and eventually 70-year-old churches. And as I describe this picture of church planting across the generations – I realize that this is an especially good Sunday.

We arrive at Judson University late in the afternoon, and help greet students and chaperones from 11 different IBSA churches. Then a bus-load of IBSA All State Youth Choir students unload, and I remember they are there for a couple of days too, to join the ChicaGO mission week, and share a couple of concerts in the area.

That night the choir sings at Calvary Baptist Church in Elgin. In addition to being my mom’s and son’s church, this is also the church where Wilma and Jack Booth are members. During the concert, IBSA Worship Director Steve Hamrick reminds us that Wilma was one of the leaders that started the IBSA All State Choir 36 years ago. And as I reflect on the blessing of tomorrow’s worship leaders being equipped for churches across the generations – I realize that this is an especially good Sunday.

I will have to wait until my next column to tell you about the “week in the life of church planters” that follows this special Sunday. But let me punctuate this account by telling you that as the All State Youth Choir led us in singing “Jesus Messiah,” I found my eyes welling up with tears. God was reminding me that, though there will be challenging days, He is steadfastly building churches and growing leaders across the state and across the generations here in Illinois. And whenever I can see that as clearly as I do today, well, it’s an especially good Sunday.

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

Nate_Adams_July7HEARTLAND | Nate Adams

We have a fairly small front porch. We don’t spend much time there, partly because we live on a cul-de-sac, and our front porch doesn’t offer much privacy. It looks directly into the yards, and lives, of several other families.

We spend much more time on our backyard deck. That’s where we can see most of our flowers and our garden. It’s where we grill during the summer time, and where we enjoy the privacy provided by a number of mature trees.

Last weekend, though, our son Caleb brought over his lawn trimmer to see if I could help him make it work, since it used to be my lawn trimmer. When he arrived, I met him on the front porch, and for some reason we sat down there to work on it. Soon my wife, Beth, joined us, and noted that the only other person who seemed to be outside that beautiful Saturday was our neighbor who has cancer. Let me call her Cindy.

Cindy was out tending to her beautiful front yard flowerbeds. Suddenly Beth exclaimed, “Oh my, Cindy just fell.” Caleb and I then looked up from our work, and saw Cindy lying on her sidewalk.

“Maybe she’s OK. Let’s see if she gets up,” we said. “We don’t want to embarrass her by running over there if she just lost her balance for a minute.”

But as we watched, Cindy just laid there for a few seconds. Then, with great effort, she raised one hand and began waving it slowly in the air.

We all then sprinted to her side. Cindy was relieved to see us, and asked if we would help her try to get up. She had fallen on her hip.

Our first, careful efforts to help her brought her so much pain that we all agreed we needed to leave her where she was and get some medical help. We found her husband inside, who called an ambulance and then scurried around to prepare to go with her to the hospital.

We stayed with Cindy for several minutes, comforting her until the ambulance arrived, and then assured both of them of our prayers. As she was rolled into the back of the ambulance, Cindy raised her hand once again, and softly said, “Thank you for seeing me and for coming to help. If you hadn’t, I think I would still be there.”

It has occurred to me many times since that day how unusual and providential it was that we were even in a position to help Cindy. Like so many, we seem to be backyard deck people more than front porch people.

And I have also been convicted how true that is spiritually, in our relationships with our neighbors. How many of the people we know are down and helpless, at the end of their ropes spiritually, and quietly waving one last hand in hope of help? Are we even in a position to see them? Or are we comfortable in our own backyards?

Many of the people we know who have deep spiritual needs don’t even know what or Who they need. Cindy didn’t. She just suddenly knew she was helpless. But because we were in that rare position to see her fall, we were able to play a small role in getting her the help needed.

This summer, let’s all spend more time on the front porch. Let’s look for the frail waves of the people around us. And let’s help them call on the One who can meet them right where they are. We may see their soft wave of gratitude in eternity.

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

HEARTLAND | This morning, read Psalm 68. Then think on these 25 attributes of God seen in the psalm, outlined by David Platt in a sermon at the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference in Baltimore.

God is awesome.
God is active.

He subdues all who rebel against Him.
He satisfies all who trust in Him.

He is the One True God.
He is the covenant-keeping Lord.

God is father of the fatherless.
He is protector of the widow.
God loves the lonely.
He rescues the captive.
He provides for the needy.

God is sovereign over all nature.
He is sovereign over nations.

God is powerful above us.
God is present with us.

He commands a heavenly army.
He conquers an earthly victory.

God daily bears our burdens.
He ultimately saves our souls.
He is my God and King.
He is our God and King.

He draws peoples to Himself.
He deserves praise throughout the earth.
He is the divine warrior.

God speaks a dependable word.

For us, there are two implications, Platt said. Give glory to this God. And give your life to His mission.

My job and the Gospel

Meredith Flynn —  April 7, 2014

Carrie_Campbell_blog_calloutHEARTLAND | Carrie Campbell

Looking around my middle school classroom in Springfield, I’m struck by how different it is than where I was eight months ago, surrounded by the beautiful mountains of eastern Kentucky.

Or five months ago, when I was immersed in the bright and flashing lights of New York City.

After college, I decided to take a season of my life and do full-time ministry. I spent two years in Kentucky working with at-risk kids. I followed that up with a
few months in Brooklyn, learning about ministry in an urban context. I came back home to Illinois in November and felt called to live out a personal dream: becoming a teacher. I received an exciting job offer to teach current events to sixth, seventh and eighth graders.

My classroom isn’t as scenic as the mountains or the city, but it’s certainly a mission field.

Going from a mission-minded environment to a secular workplace was a big jump for me. In many ways it was one of my biggest life challenges. I went from being surrounded by those who have the same eternal goal in mind, to working with people who have lots of different goals. I quickly learned that the “harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” But God has given me opportunities to share the Gospel.

One of the first things I noticed among my co-workers was that the environment in my school was very negative. I started writing encouraging notes to the teachers on my team as well as the administrative staff. My coworkers quickly took notice of that and sought me out to talk about their struggles. A before-school prayer meeting started up again. People are more positive now. I realized that sharing the Gospel starts with the small things, and God can take those small things and transform a school.

The most valuable part of my job is getting to know my students and letting them know I care about their needs. Even though I’m not allowed to say, “Christ has a future for you,” I can give positive feedback and point them toward their strengths.

One student recently was placed in my room for a behavior problem. He quickly got bored, so I gave him the simple task of fixing my three-hole punch. He liked that I gave him some attention and that he was able to accomplish this task for me. We’ve had a positive relationship since then, and he knows that I care about him and want him to do better in school.

Even with the challenges this new workplace brings, I have been constantly reminded that Christ is in control, and that the real mission field lies in our schools and regular workplaces. People with needs are crying out and, for us who are Christians, being able to step into those places and bring the Gospel is an honor.

Carrie Campbell is a member of Delta Church in Springfield.

Baptist_hymnalHEARTLAND | Nate Adams

Our youngest son, Ethan, recently mentioned to his mom and me that he had heard a couple of great new Christian songs he really liked. We asked what they were, hoping that we had been listening to enough Christian radio to perhaps recognize them.

Imagine our surprise when the songs he named were 100-year-old hymns.
We couldn’t help but show our disbelief. “Have you never heard those hymns before?” we asked. “Have you not been in churches that sang either of those?”

Perhaps he had, we decided, but apparently not often, or not at a time that he remembered. As we then reviewed the churches our family attended since Ethan was born, we realized that each of those churches had a contemporary worship style, or at least a blend of contemporary music and hymns. Therefore, hymns that I know by heart, sometimes even by page number, have become almost lost treasures to my son.

Music is just one example of the things in church life that sometimes need to change or evolve over time in order to stay relevant to new generations. But as my son’s new love for old hymns illustrates, sometimes we let treasures that have lasting value slip away simply because we have not properly maintained them, or passed them along effectively.

Nate_Adams_blog_callout_4Cooperative missions giving is one of those time-proven treasures that I fear we risk losing in the next generation if we do not more intentionally teach its value and practice its power. As with hymns, we may be assuming that what we have known so well by heart will always be with us, even if we’re not rehearsing it regularly with new church leaders and members.

That’s one reason many Southern Baptist churches set aside one special Sunday in April to inform and educate their church members on the incredible, week-after-week power of our ongoing missions support system known as the Cooperative Program. This year the national Cooperative Program promotion Sunday is April 13, but since that happens to fall on Palm Sunday, many churches may choose another nearby date for this emphasis.

Whether it’s April 13 or some other time, intentionally educating everyone in the church about Cooperative Program missions is extremely important. Church members need to understand that the Cooperative Program portion of their church budget provides
foundational support for thousands of faithful Baptist missionaries, throughout North America and around the world. They need to know that hundreds of people groups in more than 150 countries are receiving the Gospel through these missionaries, and that thousands of new churches are being planted as a result. Right here in North America, more than 900 new churches are being established each year, and coordinated ministries such as Disaster Relief help place thousands of Southern Baptist volunteers and chaplains right in the middle of people’s deepest physical and spiritual needs.

Cooperative Program giving helps make theological training at six world-class seminaries affordable for tomorrow’s pastors, church staff, and missionaries. And it gives us an important voice in the culture through the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and the SBC Executive Committee. Right here in Illinois, CP helps train more than 23,000 leaders each year, and start 25 new churches.

There are lots of good resources at http://www.IBSA.org/CP and http://www.sbc.net to help church members understand how the CP works, and, more importantly, how many lives are being transformed through it as the Great Commission is advanced. There are short videos to use in worship services or small groups, and well-designed print pieces ranging from bulletin inserts to multiple-page articles.

Many of us may assume that, like a treasured hymn, the Cooperative Program will always be there, always fueling the most effective and far-reaching missionary system in history. But that will only happen if we consistently and continually teach new
generations of church leaders to carry the tune.

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