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Illinois Baptist State Association

Three Illinois girls

Lisa Misner —  June 24, 2019

By Nate Adams

This month it is my privilege to officiate the wedding ceremony of our youngest son, Ethan, and his fiancée, Alyssa. They will be married in Elgin, where they first met as Judson University students six years ago, and where my wife, Beth, and I also met more than forty years ago.

Our middle son, Noah, is also married to an Alyssa, and so we will gladly navigate that potential confusion at family get togethers. They met in high school, however, here in Springfield, not long after I came to serve at IBSA.

And our oldest son, Caleb, literally met his wife, Laura, at IBSA. They were in high school at the time, though it wasn’t until a few years later that they reconnected for good. Both Laura’s mom, Melissa, and I worked at IBSA. One summer we dragged our two reluctant college students to the IBSA family picnic. They started writing letters, and now they’ve been married six years.

Especially as parents who mainly know boys, Beth and I are so grateful for these three young ladies who have become our daughters. All are devoted Christ-followers who love the Lord and are active with our sons in local Baptist churches. Each one is delightful, gifted, and unique. And we are especially blessed with the genuine friendship these six young adults have with one another—and with us.

And so, I want to say thank you. Thank you first to the Lord, of course, who sovereignly brought these three couples together in his perfect timing. But thank you also to the IBSA Board and the larger Illinois Baptist family, who more than thirteen years ago called me to bring a wife, three teenage sons, and a slightly quirky dog to serve the churches of Illinois. As I occasionally remind each of our sons, we have prayed for their future wives since before they were born. As it turns out, all of them were here in Illinois.

As our youngest son marries, I’m finding grace in unlikely places.

As we discussed wedding preparations, each of our sons and their fiancées asked me to make sure that their marriage ceremonies contained clear gospel presentations. They asked me to underscore that Christ is the center of their relationships, and that by his grace he will be the lifelong foundation of their marriages. What a privilege it is to prepare a marriage ceremony with that charge.

There were a number of challenging topics that I considered writing about this month. The Southern Baptist Convention will convene in Birmingham and face several difficult issues, including recent accusations of sex abuse in churches and even by missionaries. Leaders will seek the best paths forward for effectively helping prevent the travesty of sex abuse in churches.

Also, at the end of their May session, the Illinois legislature approved the “Reproductive Health Act” that legalizes abortion through nine months of pregnancy, requires all insurance to cover abortions, and allows nurse practitioners to perform abortions. This appalling legislation is a major setback to the pro-life movement in Illinois. The action stands in stark contrast to recent legislation in states including Missouri, Georgia, and Alabama that have sought to limit or end abortion.

So it’s a tough month for Southern Baptists in Illinois. But right in the middle of that, I get to celebrate this wedding, this testimony to the gospel message and to Christ and his church. I get to welcome this wonderful young lady into our family, and watch our son be welcomed into hers. And I get to remember that God called me here to this often tough Midwest mission field, and that his grace and provision are still evident, in at least three Illinois girls.

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

By Nate Adams

During the years when our sons were younger and still at home, one of them asked me one evening, “Dad, what do you do all day?” No doubt I was distracted with whatever work I was doing at the time, and I glibly replied, “I attend meetings, talk on the phone, solve problems, and write e-mails.”

While a little sarcastic, my answer was not inaccurate. Administration is not just a big part of my job, it’s one of my spiritual gifts from God, so I accept it gratefully.

But some weeks, administration can feel more tedious than purposeful or personal. That was the case this past week, and in the midst of that drudgery, God sent me several unexpected guests.

One guest was a man I have known for years, though we have often not seen things the same way. The last time we talked by phone was months ago, and our conversation then had ended professionally, but not cordially. The only thing that surprised me more than seeing him at my office door were his immediate apology and his request for forgiveness when he sat down. I gratefully accepted and reciprocated, sorry that I had not taken the initiative. We prayed together sincerely and parted, brothers again. And I remembered that my work is often administrative, but my real priority is people.

They reminded me of my real priority.

A second guest came to me via both phone and e-mail. He was brokenhearted and concerned for the church where he grew up, and where some of his family still attend. He described the problems, and sources of conflict, and the impasses. He asked for counsel, and for information and resources to help, and I did the best I could on the spot, offering to come or send others from our staff when the time was right. There was despair in our first exchange, and optimism and hope in our last. And I remembered that my work is often administrative, but my real priority is people.

My third unexpected guest just dropped in while she was in the area. I didn’t know her personally, though I knew her church. She quickly and quietly told me that she didn’t want to take much of my time, but her mother had recently died, and she found in going through her things documents from several Baptist meetings that were over a hundred years old. Rather than throw them away, she wondered if they might be as important to us as they were to her mother. I reverently paged through them with her, talking about what it must have been like to attend a Baptist association meeting in 1894, and why her mother would have treasured them. I gratefully agreed to receive them into our historical archives. And I remembered that my work is often administrative, but my real priority is people.

Other unexpected guests came into my life this week. One had been deeply hurt by his church, another by her pastor. Neither plan to return to their lifelong churches, but both were looking for reasons not to give up on church entirely. I know why one of them contacted me, but I have no idea why the other one did. But by the time they did, I remembered again that my work is often administrative, but my real priority is people.

What do I do all day? There are indeed a lot of meetings, and phone calls, and e-mails. But God used at least five unexpected guests this week to remind me, in the midst of my administration, that real life and ministry and purpose is found in people.

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

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Baptist church saved amidst CA fire
When the deadliest wildfire in California state history struck the town of Magalia, pastor Doug Crowder of Magalia Pines Baptist Church opened his church to those unable to evacuate the town to take shelter with church members and himself. Despite the engulfing flames, the people came out unscathed the next day. While everything around the church had been incinerated, the church’s property was untouched.

Final rules guard conscience from abortion mandate
The seven-year battle by objectors to the abortion/contraception mandate has come to a regulatory close with a victory for freedom of conscience. The Trump administration issued two final rules Nov. 7 that supply conscience protections to Americans with a religious or moral objection to the 2011 mandate instituted under President Obama.

IMB taps Paul Chitwood as presidential candidate
The International Mission Board trustees’ presidential search committee announced Nov. 6 that the committee will recommend Paul Chitwood, 48, to be elected as the 173-year-old entity’s 13th president. The vote to elect Chitwood is scheduled for the Nov. 15 plenary session during their IMB board meeting in Richmond.

IBSA churches meet mission field with ‘Pioneering Spirit’
Illinois set the foundation for IBSA’s Annual Meeting Nov. 7-8 at First Baptist Church in Maryville. The state’s bicentennial highlighted the 112th annual gathering of Southern Baptists in Illinois. The meeting also focused on four “Pioneering Spirit” challenges churches have embraced over the past year so that the gospel is advanced in a state where more than 8 million people do not know Christ.

Man files lawsuit to change age
A Dutch entrepreneur has filed a lawsuit to legally change his age to 49 – that’s 20 years younger than his chronological age. Emile Ratelband wants to change his birth date, stating that if one can change genders, he is justified to change his age. of A local court in the Netherlands will rule on the case in December.

Sources: Baptist Press (3), Illinois Baptist, CBN

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.

Leaning into the challenge

ib2newseditor —  February 12, 2018

Amid decline, churches called to new commitments

Pioneering Spirit

Throughout 2018, Southern Baptist churches in Illinois are invited to accept challenges in four key areas: evangelism, church planting, missions giving, and leadership development.

The challenges, focused on the “pioneering spirit” needed to advance the gospel among more than 8 million lost people in Illinois, were laid out last November at the Annual Meeting of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Their urgency was reinforced by new data based on the 2017 Annual Church Profile reports completed by 95% of IBSA churches.

“The 2017 ACP data from IBSA churches tells us that, while some churches are thriving, many are struggling,” said IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams. “For example, about 40% of IBSA churches didn’t report a baptism in 2017. And the sum total of information from all churches shows flat or steadily declining dynamics in many key indicators, including baptisms, worship attendance, Bible study participation, and church planting.

“This doesn’t do justice to the many bright spots where effective ministry and growth is happening, but it does give an overall picture.”

In 2017, IBSA churches baptized 3,441 people, a 13% decrease from last year’s total of 3,953. Other measurements also were down, including professions of faith, church membership, and missions giving. Giving through the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program totaled $5,924,029 in 2017, compared to $6,032,407 the previous year.

A highlight of 2017 was growth in the area of missions participation, as 21,607 people engaged their Acts 1:8 mission fields through projects and partnerships.

“It was studying last year’s ACP numbers, and really the last several years’, that led us to the important theme for the 2017 IBSA Annual Meeting,” Adams said. “Advancing the gospel through Baptist churches in Illinois has, and always will, require a ‘Pioneering Spirit.’ That means continuously engaging new people, developing new leaders, making new sacrifices, and going new places with the gospel.

“Churches that are not intentionally and effectively reaching out into their communities with a pioneering, missionary spirit, face inevitable decline.”

The lower numbers in Illinois reflect national trends, according to the most recent data available. (National ACP data for the previous year is released in the summer, prior to the annual Southern Baptist Convention.) In 2016, baptisms in SBC churches decreased by 4.9% from the previous year, and worship attendance declined 6.8%.

“I would encourage any church that is struggling or simply desiring assistance to invite IBSA, its local association, or perhaps another like-minded church to come alongside and help,” Adams said. “Often another trusted leader’s perspective can make all the difference, along with the experience and resources that others can bring.

“For our part, IBSA is eager to bring training, consulting, and resources in any of these areas, and to any IBSA church. That’s why we’re here, and we really want to help.”

The power of ‘one’
A decline in baptisms over the past decade is behind this spring’s “One GRAND Sunday” emphasis, which calls IBSA churches to participate in baptizing at least 1,000 people on April 8, the Sunday after Easter.

Last year, 352 IBSA churches reported zero baptisms. The churches that did report baptisms had an average of 6.4 baptisms per church.

The ‘GRAND’ goal is lofty, IBSA’s Evangelism Director Pat Pajak has acknowledged, particularly amid the current downward trend. But he’s urging church members to focus on the “one” part of the challenge, and to pray for one person to come to Christ and be baptized. That idea was recently echoed by prayer leader Phil Miglioratti.

“And as my ‘one’ is added to your ‘one’…as their church’s ‘one’ is matched by that church’s ‘one’…as a Sunday class prays for ‘one’ and is joined by a fellowship group asking for ‘one’…a youth group in a southern association, a seniors’ class in the center of the state, a planting team up north, a children’s ministry along the eastern border, and a WMU along the western border, each claiming, petitioning, pleading for ‘one’…one plus one equals two. But in God’s mathematics, ‘one’ plus ‘one’ times prayer could equal ‘One GRAND Sunday!’

“Even the smallest church among us can ask in faith for ‘one,’” Miglioratti said.

Sign up for the “Pioneering Spirit” challenge at pioneeringspirit.org. Register for One GRAND Sunday at IBSA.org/Evangelism.

Somebody’s prayin’

ib2newseditor —  October 2, 2017

Pray button

After my dad’s mother died, I remember him saying that he physically felt the absence of her prayers. Dad had, in some ways, a challenging personality for pastoring. He was introverted, in many ways non-assertive, a quiet thinker and reader who scripted his sermons by hand so that he could deliver them effectively.

So, if you only knew my dad personally, you may have been surprised when you first saw him step into the pulpit, or witnessed him in some other pastoral role. He was wise, articulate, bold, insightful, truly helpful. As a pastor, he was supernaturally equipped for the role to which God had called him, in a way that eclipsed his natural limitations. And I believe this was supernaturally sustained by the devoted prayers of people who supported him over the years, his mother and my mother chief among them.

Our pastors need our sincere and earnest prayer. They need us to intercede spiritually for them, every bit as much as they need us to support them in leading the ministries of our church. Not all pastors face the same challenges that my dad did, but all of them face their own unique struggles and obstacles. If it is primarily those closest to them that sustain them in prayer, just think what could happen with an entire church earnestly praying.

Pastors need our sincere and earnest intercession.

October is Pastor Appreciation Month. If this is not already your practice, let me encourage you to take the month of October to pray for your pastor, and perhaps other pastors you know, daily. At the IBSA.org website, there will be a daily prayer guide to assist you in that discipline.

You will not be alone. Throughout October, our IBSA staff will be praying for every IBSA church pastor, by name. We are also asking for specific prayer requests by e-mail, and personally calling more than 300 pastors for whom we don’t have a current e-mail address, to ask them how we can pray.

I hope many pastors will share specific prayer needs, perhaps some that are difficult to share with church members, and will allow us to pray for them personally in this way. For those from whom we don’t receive specific requests, we will simply use the prayer guide to pray for each pastor.

Many churches give gifts and other expressions of love to their pastors during October. Prayer, especially consistent, daily prayer, is one of the greatest appreciation gifts you can give. When something “appreciates,” it increases in value. And I believe that the sincere, consistent prayers of a congregation will “increase the value” of a pastor more than anything else. And by the way, that’s true even when you may personally struggle with your pastor!

In a recent IBSA chapel, we were talking about praying for pastors. Our state worship director, Steve Hamrick, shared about his dad, also a pastor, who prayed for him daily throughout his ministry. When his dad passed away a few years ago, his father-in-law noted at the funeral how special that prayer relationship was, and committed to him to take up the privilege of praying for Steve from that day forward.

During that same chapel, Steve led us in singing the old Ricky Skaggs song, “Somebody’s Prayin’.” The first two lines of that song are simply, “Somebody’s prayin’, I can feel it. Somebody’s prayin’ for me.”

IBSA pastors, I will be one of those somebodies praying for you throughout the month of October, along with every member of our staff. I hope you “feel” it in the same way that my dad did from his mom. And I hope you will feel it from many faithful church members as well.

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

Marci Coble

Standing outside their Chicago condo, Marci is holding a photo of her grandparents. Her grandfather, Maurice Swinford, led church development for IBSA and ultimately served as executive director.

The strategy is simple. Lost people know lost people. They hang out with lost people. If you lead one lost person to faith in Christ, suddenly you have broken into a whole new circle of people who need Jesus. And the most effective witness to the gospel is someone whose life has been changed by salvation in Jesus Christ—especially if it’s happened recently.

That’s why the Illinois Baptist State Association continues to invest in church planting as an important and effective strategy for evangelism. There are lots of places in a state of 13 million people where there is little or no evangelical witness.

IBSA is identifying 200 places and peoples that need Jesus. With at least 8 million lost people living just next door, it won’t be hard to put those pins on the map. For Bryan and Marci Coble, that pin landed in the Irving Park area of Chicago, far away and far different from her small hometown in Chatham.

Marci Coble was raised near Springfield under a strong Baptist influence. Her grandfather, Maurice Swinford, was on IBSA’s staff 15 years and served as executive director from 1988 to 1993. “He was always making sure I knew who Jesus is,” Marci says with a tear in her eye. She was a GA and Acteen, and worked one summer at Lake Sallateeska Baptist Camp.

“I was allotted a lot of opportunities and a lot of blessings that I probably wouldn’t have had without his influence and without being his granddaughter—even my call to missions.”

She is almost as emotional describing Chatham Baptist Church. “I grew up there, I was baptized there,” Marci says. “Bryan and I were married there. They shaped me and molded me and I’m blessed to call that my home.”

So when Marci’s husband, Bryan, suggested when he finished his seminary studies that they move to Portland, Ore., to plant a new church, Marci’s brows furrowed. She was willing to go wherever God led them—in fact, they visited the Pacific Northwest on a vision tour—but might God lead them to Chicago?

“Bryan had set up an appointment in Portland. And we received a note from my grandmother with an article from IBSA letting us know they need church planters in Illinois too.” Marci laughed. “And we were like, ‘Oh, that’s so sweet. I love Grandma.’” But the message stuck.

“I didn’t want to come to Chicago,” Bryan readily confesses. “I was raised 60 miles south of St. Louis and grew up a St. Louis Cardinals fan. When we started to pray about Chicago, God actually told me—this may sound crazy,” he says as an aside, “to get a Chicago Cubs hat and wear it for 30 days.”

Bryan shifts the Cubs hat on his head, as if he’s adjusting to the fit.

“My heart started to change,” the Missouri transplant says as a smile breaks out. “My love for this city and my burden for this city started to grow. We love this city so much. We love the people of this city so much,” he says.

A similar feeling started growing back in Chatham, Marci’s home church in suburban Springfield. The town of 11,000 is one-seventh the size of the Cobles’ new neighborhood. And for the church members there, Chicago has seemed like someone else’s responsibility.

“To be honest with you, Chicago has always seemed very distant to us,” says Pastor Milton Bost. But having a hometown girl serving as a missionary in the big city has changed things.

“I think Bryan and Marci are kind of pioneers for us,” Bost says.

Chatham has become heavily involved in the Cobles’ planting work 200 miles away. “Folks from Chatham came up to help us do this,” Bryan says on a rainy Saturday morning in April. A children’s playground in the center of their neighborhood is also the epicenter of their planting work. “(We) hand out flyers, hand out cookies, talk to people, build relationships.” The park is covered in people wearing green T-shirts declaring their love for the area.

“We want the community to know that we love them, we’re here to invest in them first and foremost,” Marci says.

The couple moved their two boys there last year—in time for the Cubs’ World Series win. They began surveying the city and seeking God’s direction. In the spring the Cobles bought a small condo in a pre-war three-floor building, and started meeting the neighbors—Hispanics, Anglos, and some Asian people. Their goal is to launch a Bible study, then a church, in the recreation building at the park.

“Chicago is a world city. It has high influence not just within the state of Illinois, but in the world,” Bryan says. “We need to be able to reach these people with the gospel. We do it in love, so that they will hopefully come to know Christ and be changed by the gospel. And the world with them.”

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offer and Week of Prayer September 10-17 at www.MissionIllinois.org.

Watch the video, “A Heart for the City.”