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Illinois Baptist State Association

It’s time to speak up

ib2newseditor —  August 3, 2016

Adron RobinsonThe week of July 4, 2016, was a very dark week in America. It began with my wife and me celebrating Independence Day with our family and watching the local fireworks display. But there would be a different type of fireworks in the days to come.

On July 5, a Baton Rouge police officer pinned down Alton Sterling and shot him several times while he was on the ground, killing him in front of witnesses.

The very next day in Minnesota, Philando Castile was pulled over in a routine traffic stop and shot multiple times by a police officer. Castile’s girlfriend videotaped the aftermath of the shooting and broadcast it live on Facebook for the world to see.

If those incidents weren’t enough, on July 7, at the end of a peaceful protest of these killings, an armed gunman ambushed Dallas police officers, killing five and wounding seven others.

How can the church remain silent when the sin of racism is screaming so loudly?

It truly was a dark week in America. As I sat at my desk praying about how to process these events and address these issues with my congregation, God led me to Matthew 5:13-16.

We live in a dark and decaying world, and the darker the world gets, the more it needs the church to be salt and light. Light shines brightest in darkness, and God has providentially placed the local church in the community to shine the light of the gospel to a world that desperately needs that light.

The killings of African Americans at the hands of police officers, and the denial of justice to the families of those slain, reveal the high level of personal and institutional racism in America.

The truth of the matter is that an encounter with the police is a life or death matter for many people of color in America. We pull over praying. Praying that the officer who stops us will uphold the law and not manipulate it to cover up his own racial prejudice. Praying that we will be treated the same way every other citizen of this country is treated. But most of all, we are praying that we are not killed by the very people our taxes pay to serve and protect us.

This is not the experience of my non-minority brothers and sisters. And it should not be the experience of anyone created in the image of God.

My question is, how can the church remain silent, when the sin of racism is screaming so loudly? How can we stand by as injustice continues against those we say are our brothers and sisters in Christ?

We cannot remain silent. In order for there to be change in our culture, the church must stop being silent and step up and be the church. In Matthew 5:13-16, Jesus calls us to be counter-cultural Christians. This means the church is called to influence our culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Christians and only Christians are the salt of the earth. Christians and only Christians are the light of the world. Christians and Christians alone are responsible for stopping corruption and slowing down the decay of this world.

Notice Jesus did not say “you and the government,” “you and the police department,” or “you and the Supreme Court.” There is only one hope for this world, and that hope is in people of God preventing decay and penetrating darkness.

We need to stop making excuses, stop being divided, stop being deceived by the darkness of this culture, and begin shining the light of righteousness and loving our neighbor as ourselves. We will never overcome a hateful world unless we learn to love one another.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” If we love our neighbor as ourselves, we cannot remain silent as our neighbors are being slain in the streets. And we must address the racism in our world, even if it is in our own hearts.

In Acts 10:34, Peter says, “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality.”

I pray that soon and very soon, the church would do the same.

– Adron Robinson is senior pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills and vice president of IBSA.

See you in St. Louis?

ib2newseditor —  April 25, 2016

St. Louis map pin2

What takes place at the convention is important—in the meetings and in the streets.

When the national Southern Baptist Convention convenes in St. Louis on June 14, I’m hoping there will be a record number of messengers from Illinois churches present. Among the cities where the SBC has met in recent years, St. Louis is certainly the most accessible to a majority of Illinois churches. But convenience isn’t the main reason I’m hoping to see hundreds, even thousands of messengers from Illinois.

First, this is an important SBC presidential election year. As President Ronnie Floyd is completing his second one-year term, three pastors have announced their intent to be nominated. As in the campaign for U. S. President, there are clear and important differences to be found in the leadership records, public statements, and declared priorities of each person seeking to lead the SBC into the future.

In fact, this year’s candidates have notable differences, not just in ministry experience, but in doctrinal conviction and missions cooperation. Messengers will want to study these in advance of the Convention, and arrive prepared to support the nominee who best represents not only their own churches’ practices and convictions, but also the direction they feel is best for our Great Commission cooperation as Baptist churches in the future.

Through the Illinois Baptist, IBSA.org, and other channels, IBSA is providing churches with objective information about and from the SBC President nominees and other issues anticipated at the Convention. IBSA will host a reception for Illinois Baptists at the St. Louis convention center on Monday night following the Pastors’ Conference and just prior to the convention’s start on Tuesday morning. So please, stay engaged and informed!

It’s also important that representatives from your church arrive as registered messengers, and not just as guests. Remember to elect messengers in advance at a church business meeting and register them online if possible. If you need help with this process, contact us here at IBSA.

A second important reason for coming to St. Louis is the evangelistic opportunity called Crossover that takes place just prior to the Convention. In fact, many Illinois churches could participate in Crossover on Saturday, June 11, return to worship in their own churches on June 12, and return for the Pastors’ Conference and Convention the following week.

Metro East Baptist Association Director of Missions Ronny Carroll and others have been representing the Illinois side of the river in planning this emphasis, which includes a variety of volunteer opportunities. You can find a complete listing online at meba.org/crossover-st-louis-2016/.

The people of the cities where the annual SBC is hosted certainly notice when Southern Baptists come to town. The Southern Baptist Convention is a major event, often covered in the news. Church messengers saturate the convention center, hotels and restaurants, and sometimes outside protesters try to step into the spotlight to advance their agendas.

This very public setting provides a wonderful opportunity for thousands of evangelistic volunteers to come and bring the host city both sacrificial service and the good news of the gospel. What takes place in the reporting, worship and business sessions of the SBC meeting itself is vitally important, and worth our time as messengers from Illinois churches, especially this year. And what takes place out in the streets at Crossover can be eternally significant to those who may meet Christ there. It’s well worth our time, both in St. Louis and in our own communities. And these are two very good reasons why I hope I will see you in St. Louis.

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

Stirring the Waters

After three years of declining baptisms, SBC leaders are calling it what it is—an evangelism crisis.

What happened to evangelism in the Southern Baptist Convention?”

The question, posed by SBC President Ronnie Floyd, came after the Annual Church Profile reports completed by Southern Baptist churches showed a third consecutive year of declining baptisms.

In fact, the total for 2014 (the most recent year for which national statistics are currently available) is the lowest number of baptisms since 1947. Southern Baptist churches baptized 305,301 people, a 1.63% decrease from the previous year. An in Illinois, the annual number of baptisms, which has hovered around 5,000, dropped to 4,400 in 2015.

“Deplorable” is how Floyd described the reality that even though there are more SBC churches than ever, and an ever larger population to reach with the gospel, it’s simply not happening—at least, not according to the baptism numbers.

Recently, Floyd and other SBC leaders have been increasingly vocal about how the numbers reflect an even bigger problem: an evangelism crisis.

“Lostness in North America is having a bigger impact on Southern Baptists than Southern Baptists are having on lostness,” New Orleans Theological Seminary President Chuck Kelley said at a recent chapel service.

The picture is bleak, but all is not lost, SBC leaders seem to agree. A turnaround is dependent on renewed appreciation for and dedication to evangelism in the Southern Baptist Convention and in individual churches. Church members need models, leaders who are soul winners themselves and can train people in the pews to share their faith.

“Let’s not be paralyzed,” Floyd wrote on his blog, urging Baptists to action. “Do something. Do more than you are doing now. Take a risk.

“Return to the importance of reaching and baptizing people.”

Mission drift

One reason some leaders cite for the SBC’s decline in baptisms, and overall in evangelism, is a culture that sidelines those things. In an address to the SBC Executive Committee in February, Floyd spoke about a critical shift that has brought the denomination to this point:

“Years ago, something happened where pastors and churches that reached and baptized people effectively came under the microscope of other Baptists who oftentimes did not have a heart for evangelism themselves. A culture of skepticism about evangelism began to creep into our convention. Evangelism began to die.”

Even the way we talk about evangelism is different, said IBSA’s Pat Pajak. The weekly opportunity to go out “soul winning” has been replaced with more politically correct titles such as outreach, or more often the practice has been lost altogether. “In the process, born-again believers have lost the passion and emphasis on reaching into the pagan pool and bringing the lost to Christ,” said Pajak, who leads the Church Consulting Team.

Recent research supports this: A 2012 study by LifeWay Research found that while 80% of Protestant church-goers believe they have a personal responsibility to share their faith, 61% hadn’t told anyone how to become a Christian in the previous six months. Nearly half (48%) hadn’t invited an unchurched person to attend a church event or service in six months.

LifeWay Research President Ed Stetzer broke down the research this way: “…The typical churchgoer tells less than one person how to become a Christian in a given year. The number for more than half of respondents was zero. The second most frequent answer was one.”

The shirt says it all -- Emily Zimmer is baptized by Pastor Tracy Smith at First Baptist Church in Mt. Zion.

The shirt says it all — Emily Zimmer is baptized by Pastor Tracy Smith at First Baptist Church in Mt. Zion, one of many congregations in Illinois that experienced large increases in baptisms in 2015.

To right the ship, SBC leaders have pointed first to the need for spiritual awakening—first in churches, then in the culture at large. But there are also solutions to be found at the denominational level and in local churches, starting with leaders.

Floyd recalled a time when only preachers who led strong evangelistic churches were invited to speak at the SBC Pastors’ Conference and annual meeting. Those leaders were also the ones nominated for denominational offices. In his November blog post about the state of evangelism in the SBC, Floyd seemed to call for a return to those principles.

“Quite honestly, I am not impressed by how many books a pastor sells, how many Twitter followers he may have, at how many conferences he speaks, how great of a preacher he is, or how much his church does around the world if he pastors or is associated with a church that has a lame commitment to evangelizing and baptizing lost people and reaching his own community with the gospel of Christ.”

At the local level, too, leaders can help reverse the decline by creating an environment that is conducive to evangelism, said IBSA’s Mark Emerson.

“The pastors who are effectively reaching people for Christ are creating an environment of evangelism in their churches,” said Emerson, whose Church Resources team equips churches in evangelism.

“They are making sure every ministry has an evangelistic purpose, they are designing their worship services to communicate the gospel and offer an opportunity for people to make a decision. These churches are training their members to effectively enter into gospel conversations.”

Modeling evangelism

Scott Foshie is one pastor currently training his congregation to have those gospel conversations. Steeleville Baptist Church will start evangelism training in April, based on the “Can We Talk?” program created by Texas pastor (and FBC Pastors’ Conference President) John Meador.

“When it’s time to bridge a conversation from small talk to gospel talk, that’s an awkward transition for people to make,” said Foshie, who has pastored the church since early 2015. The six-week curriculum combines training with practical experience; teams of three people go out into the community, visiting neighbors and practicing gospel conversations.

Foshie’s personal stake in the training goes beyond the fact that it’s happening at his church. As a student of the F.A.I.T.H. evangelism training tool, he led his future wife, Audra, to faith in Christ.

“Personal evangelism training is very important to me because it changed my life. So, I want people to experience that. Personal evangelism training unleashes the army of the Lord, (it’s) what God has called us to do.”

But first, people have to face down a common obstacle: fear. The pastor likened sharing the gospel to someone handing you the keys to their sports car and telling you to take it around town.

“What we need to teach them is, hey, you step out in faith, you begin to learn to share, you simply share, and the Holy Spirit’s going to help you,” Foshie said.

“Once people learn to share the gospel, it changes their life completely.”

Top 10

“I feel like in some ways, after 10 years, I’m just figuring things out,” Nate Adams told the Illinois Baptist State Association Board of Directors last month during a celebration of his service as executive director.

Adams offered some reflection on IBSA’s victories over the last ten years, and a few challenges ahead, all in the form of a “top ten list.”

10. Goals and measurements. IBSA now has a consistent, annual pattern of evaluating churches’ needs (surveys), measuring churches’ progress (ACP), setting focused, organizational goals, and measuring effectiveness through multiple, strategic metrics. Our goals are based on facts and feedback, not programs or preferences. Everything from annual budgets to the Annual Meeting theme are driven by purpose and strategy.

9. Strong church participation. Over the past 10 years, IBSA churches baptized 49,584 people and planted 242 new churches. Mission trip participation is up 23% to more than 24,000. Nearly $90 million was given to missions, including more than $64 million through the Cooperative Program (CP). This growth in church participation is in spite of fewer total churches and members.

8. Financial frugality, stability, and health. Over the past 10 years, annual income over expense has averaged $395,000 or around 5% (in 2006 it was $36,608). IBSA’s Cooperative Agreement with the Baptist Foundation of Illinois (BFI) has helped it to grow and for the CP subsidy of BFI to be reduced from a peak of $153,000 to $35,000 in the 2016 IBSA budget.

While 2015 CP giving was $411,000 less than 2009 and NAMB revenue was $252,000 less, IBSA has avoided involuntary lay-offs, and modest compensation increases have been possible each year.

7. Updated and renewed facilities. In 2012, IBSA completed a $1.9-million renovation of its Springfield building and grounds, debt-free and on schedule. The building now hosts groups of up to 250. In 2014, Lake Sallateeska expanded and renovated its dining hall and two other buildings.

6. Staff efficiency and strength. IBSA has trimmed, restructured, and right-sized its staff to adjust to available resources, increased personnel costs, and the evolving needs of churches. Part-time zone consultants are the most notable example. Today, the IBSA staff is not only more diverse, but far more field-based and closer to churches than it was 10 years ago.

5. Effective change management. IBSA has weathered significant economic and social change, from the secular culture, to the national SBC, to local associations and churches themselves. Many organizations and state conventions in particular have had traumatic adjustments to these changes. By acting early, budgeting conservatively, and an “elastic” restructuring, IBSA has for the most part been able to manage a gradual altitude adjustment with minimal negative consequences to IBSA churches. Changes at both the national SBC and local association level present IBSA with new opportunities and challenges for the future.

Those are the victories of the past 10 years. Now the challenges ahead:

4. IBSA churches’ relatively low net impact on lostness in Illinois. While 242 churches have been planted, the net IBSA congregation count has dropped from 1,032 to 957. IBSA churches baptized 4,400 in 2015, yet dropped 3,352 in Sunday School attendance.

3. Reversing health and growth trends among churches. Annual baptisms are down 18% from the 2009 level. Overall worship attendance is now basically the same in 2016 as 2006, though it rose as much as 9.3% (in 2008). Overall Sunday school attendance in 2016 was 17.4% lower than in 2006.

2. Rekindling the passion and renewing the power of cooperation. Some younger leaders and those without Baptist backgrounds do not always understand or buy in to the cooperative missions model. After dropping to 6.8% in 2013 and 2014, the CP giving percentage rebounded to 7.1% in 2015. Nationally, the average is 5.5%. “Engagement” is key for IBSA’s future.

1. Raising the bar of leadership. Most of the challenges and problems with which IBSA churches struggle are rooted in leadership issues. As the 2015 Midwest Leadership Summit and 2016 Illinois Leadership Summit demonstrated, there is a hunger for leadership development among IBSA churches and leaders.

Fulkerson and Porter group photo web

Disaster Relief volunteers Bob Fulkerson and his wife Margie (left) and Butch and Debbie Porter (right) rest for a moment during a call out a few years ago in New York. Fulkerson passed away Tuesday, March 29 while serving on a call out in Leesville, La. Both couples are members of First Baptist Church of Galatia, Ill. Photo courtesy Butch and Debbie Porter.

Funeral arrangements have been made for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (DR) volunteer Don Fulkerson, who died of a heart attack Tuesday, March 29, while serving flood victims in Leesville, Louisiana. Fulkerson, 77, was with a group of trained DR workers from First Baptist Church of Galatia, IL, and volunteers from other Illinois Baptist churches.

Visitation will take place Friday, April 1 from 6-9 p.m.  and Saturday, April 2 from 9-11 a.m. at First Baptist Church of Galatia, 108 E. Church St., Galatia, IL 62935. His funeral will be Saturday, April 2 at 11 a.m. also at First Baptist Church of Galatia. Fulkerson was a member of the church.

Rex Alexander, Disaster Relief coordinator for the Illinois Baptist State Association (IBSA), suggested DR volunteers attending the funeral, “wear your yellow shirts in honor of Don’s faithful service to the Lord through Disaster Relief Ministry.” Southern Baptist DR volunteers are easily identified at disaster recovery scenes by the bright yellow shirts they wear.

“The callout to Louisiana was Don’s 15th response over a period of only four years and his wife, Margie, was almost always by his side serving whenever the opportunity arose,” shared Alexander. “Their faithful service to Christ brought great joy to both of them as they served side by side in the ministry of Disaster Relief.”

Cards of condolence may be mailed to his widow Margie Fulkerson, P.O. Box 5, Galatia, IL 62935.

The DR team from First Baptist Church of Galatia were first responders in what is expected to be a series of callouts to aid victims of spring floods in Louisiana. IIBSA teams will serve alongside teams from around the country.

IBSA has 1,600 trained volunteers who serve as part of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Disaster Relief ministry (SBDR), the third largest relief agency in the United States. Disaster Relief often responds to natural disasters by providing feeding stations, mobile kitchens, child care, and chaplains. In the case of flooding, volunteers in their signature yellow shirts help homeowners with “mudout,” clearing flooded properties of debris and contaminated building materials, so they can begin rebuilding and recovery.

Eleven Portraits

Lisa Misner —  March 7, 2016

Eleven_portraits

In some ways I’m just getting started and just beginning to figure some things out.

Visitors to the IBSA office building in Springfield sometimes take note of eleven portraits displayed there, acknowledging the men who have served IBSA as executive director since its formation in 1907. Those portraits used to hang in the entrance lobby, and since our building renovation a few years ago they have been on display in our first floor Resource Room.

While it’s hard for me to believe, by God’s grace I have just celebrated 10 years in that executive director role. That milestone recently led me to a few reflective moments in front of those portraits. Four of those men are simply historical figures to me, but I’ve had the privilege of meeting the other six personally. They each served in different times and faced different challenges, but together they form the legacy of leadership on which I now gratefully stand.

I’ve been told by others around the Southern Baptist Convention that 10 years seems to be about the typical length of service in the state executive director role. Since years of service are noted on a little plaque beneath each of the IBSA portraits, I did the math and learned that indeed the average term of service here in Illinois has been just over nine years.

There are, however, two distinct groups of IBSA executive directors among my 10 predecessors. Six men served less than seven years, and four served 12 or more. The smaller, longer-serving group were four of the first five executive directors, all of whom completed their service by the 1970s. The larger, shorter-serving group represent the more current trend. And at 10 years’ service, I now stand in the middle.

There are many reasons why leaders stay in roles for a short time, including some which are beyond their control. So I wouldn’t second guess the Lord’s leadership or providence in any of the shorter terms of service. But after investing 10 years here at IBSA, I have a new appreciation for the men in the longer term group.

It takes time to establish relationships, and to build trust. It takes time to learn the many systems and traditions and landmines inherent in a thousand diverse churches working together. It takes time to learn the regional and ethnic and generational uniqueness of churches and their leaders. It takes time to take necessary risks and make unavoidable mistakes, and then to recover and learn from them. And I’m now discovering that it takes time to do it all again and again, as new pastors and leaders come on the scene.

After 10 years, I feel in some ways I’m just getting started and just beginning to figure some things out. Yet by the law of averages I’ve already had as many years as most executive directors ever get. It makes me admire the men who stayed 12, or 17, or 19 years.

And it makes me want to sprint right past this 10-year mark and see what might be possible in the company of these long-tenured men that preceded me.

It’s certainly possible to overstay your welcome, or to outstay your effectiveness. And it’s always best when a leader can recognize that time long before anyone else does. But for the most part, it can be very good for an organization and its mission when a leader finds favor and stays.

So if you are wondering whether to stay and persevere where you are, let me encourage you to do so if at all possible. One day you will take your place among the portraits of former leaders in your place of service. It may be less and less common for leaders to stay long in one place. But if God gives you grace and favor to do so, I believe you will find a unique influence that only comes with time.

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

Grappling with leadership

Lisa Misner —  February 15, 2016

A better grip

It may be hardest part of ministry, but the local church’s future depends on leaders who understand who—and how—they lead.

Michael Kanai came to the Illinois Leadership Summit excited about recent happenings at his church. “We had a retreat and we made many plans and casted our vision,” the pastor of Orchard Valley Baptist Church in Aurora said. “Now,” he continued, “we need to implement and execute the plans.”

For many pastors and church leaders, that’s the hard part: turning plans into action and leading the congregation to achieve the goals. A stumble or two at this stage can stall the work and cause the people to wonder about the abilities of the leader.

But, don’t be mistaken, this article is not about goals and action plans. It’s about what happens in the heart of the leader who realizes he can’t do the ministry alone. He needs a team, and more important, he needs a team of leaders.

“We are at a point where we are needing to lead leaders,” Kanai said. “It’s really helpful learning the difference between leading followers and leading leaders. The ‘collective’ we just attended just told us there is a steep step between those two types of leadership—it’s a pivotal shift in the way you lead.”

Halfway through the Summit, Kanai was clearly “getting it.”

Setting the (grappling) hook

For two days in January, pastors, staff, and church leaders convened at the Springfield facilities of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Last year at the same time, almost 1,300 leaders from 10 Baptist state conventions across 13 states gathered for the Midwest Leadership Summit at the nearby Crowne Plaza.

Previously called the North Central States Rally, the triennial event schooled ministry leaders in programming and skills to help grow their churches and fulfill their callings in their Upper Midwest mission fields. But this meeting was different: First, it was an Illinois-only event. With the two-year break between conferences, IBSA sought to build on the momentum from the 2015 event by bringing Illinoisans together to address the leadership issues we face here. And second, this event was not so much about skills, but about the heart and character of the leader.

“When most pastors think about leadership in ministry, they view it as administrative duties, supervisory oversight, or managing some new project,” said associate executive director Pat Pajak. “Until a pastor discovers the necessity of leading himself, especially in the areas of spiritual disciplines and character development, he will never be able to lead followers, lead leaders, or lead an organization in the way God intended.”

That’s why this Summit was different.

“IBSA frequently offers ministry skill training, but we made it clear from the outset that the Summit would focus on one’s personal growth as a leader,” said executive director Nate Adams. “That shift appears to have both met a felt need, and also created an itch among leaders that IBSA hopes to help scratch in the days ahead.”

ILS16 Bumgarner_Tuesday

Bob Bumgarner

The centerpiece for the event was the new leadership development process that the IBSA team has been crafting for more than a year. The main speaker for the event was Bob Bumgarner, a leadership expert who has contributed to the creative process. He was joined by four Illinois pastors in the main sessions (called “collectives”), and by 28 other pastors and ministry leaders in breakout sessions (called “intensives”).

“I think we would all agree that leadership development is forefront and needed in Southern Baptist life,” Bumgarner said. “And I also think we all would agree that it’s not as easy as it sounds.” Bumgarner (pictured above) headed leadership development for the Florida Baptist Convention and currently serves as executive pastor of Chets Creek Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, a large, multi-campus congregation.

Bumgarner sought to dispel the myth that all leadership is alike no matter the group or setting; and that leadership is innate and there’s nothing that can be done to improve it.

Not true.

IBSA’s four-part plan

Leading self is about growing your capacity to be on Jesus’ mission as a person of influence.

“The hardest person I ever lead is me,” Bumgarner said, as he began to unpack the four phases in IBSA’s leadership process. “We have to understand that before we can lead others well, we have to learn to lead ourselves.”

Bumgarner pointed to the iceberg as a good illustration of the issues in self-leadership. Most of it is under the surface. That’s why character is so important. “You can get so successful that your character can’t support (your ministry)….If you want to be a better self-leader, figure out how you can hunger for God’s wisdom.”

He recommended spending five hours per week developing character and 50-60 hours developing ministry.

“Ministry is a place where you can be completely busy or completely lazy, and people won’t know,” said Heath Tibbetts, pastor of First Baptist Church of Machesney Park. He brought some personal applications for pastors. “I’ve realized strong self-leading means that even if no one else is looking, the Holy Spirit is keeping me accountable.”

Table_fellowship

Eric Trout, Ashby Tillery, and Mark Mohler, all from Marion, were among Summit attenders who watched the large-group collective session in the room adjacent to IBSA’s auditorium.


Leading followers
is about leading individual contributors, people who are not leading others, often serving as a ministry head or teacher in small groups or classes.

There are official followers, such as deacons or committee members, but there are also unofficial followers, the people who like or respect the leader, who have bought into the vision and want to be part of making it happen.

Bumgarner said at this stage, the objective is to identify your followers, inspire them by giving them a leader worth following, initiate followers by casting vision, and invest in their personal development. Make a goal, he advised: “By the end of next year, I want to have invested this amount of time into this number of people.”

“Our church grew when I stopped trying to lead big and started trying to lead through small groups,” said Mark Mohler, pastor of Second Baptist Church of Marion. He described bringing his congregation into a new vision for the church that found its most vital point of connection at the level of Sunday school classes.

Leading leaders is directed toward those who lead others. It requires a different skill set to keep those people who have leadership abilities of their own on your team.

Here is the pivotal point in the four phases of leadership. Adams described an image of stairs. In this case, not all the stairs are of equal height. Some have a short rise, others have a tall rise. The step between leading followers and leading leaders is the biggest jump for most people. And as Kanai described his own discovery at the Summit, it’s the most critical.

A leader who can only lead followers is limited by his own capacity; but a leader who can lead those who lead multiplies his capacity. But leading leaders is challenging and it’s risky. Other leaders have their own ideas, and they may set their own agendas.

“It can be one of the scariest moments of our life,” Bumgarner said, “nurturing your baby and then handing the baby to another person to raise….Regardless of the pain sharing a ministry can cause, something bigger and better can happen as a result.”

At this stage, empowerment of additional leaders must be balanced with clear, ongoing vision-casting: “85% of your success in leading leaders is wrapped up in common purpose and clear communication,” Bumgarner advised. “Do enough (communication) so that downstream from that work, we can see the fruit we’re looking for.”

Leading organizations is about leading leaders who lead other leaders. It’s about having a vision for the whole ministry and communicating that effectively to the whole organization.

In church life, this leader is usually the senior pastor, but not every pastor is actually leading at this level. He may be leading followers, or even leaders, but not effectively guiding the work of the whole ministry.

“Leading organizations requires working on the ministry versus in the ministry,” Bumgarner said. Many listeners in the room seemed to connect with this comment. He described a season when his ministry was consumed by the work of ministry rather than giving adequate attention to the purpose of the ministry, its vision and goals.

Leadership at this level requires strategic planning about how to do the ministry. “Your church needs you to facilitate the things that need to be done in order to share the gospel. If you find time to get the top 20% done, the other 80% will be done right.”

Bumgarner concluded, “The point of organizational functionality is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

– Coverage of the Illinois Leadership Summit by Meredith Flynn, Kris Kell, Kayla Rinker, Lisa Sergent, and Eric Reed

Students at Youth Encounter 2014 huddle for prayer after a main session of the annual evangelism conference. Photo by Brooke Kicklighter

Students at Youth Encounter 2014 huddle for prayer after a main session of the annual evangelism conference. Photo by Brooke Kicklighter

HEARTLAND | Youth Encounter, the annual evangelism conference for junior high and high school students sponsored by the Illinois Baptist State Association, has a new look in 2015. Instead of one location, it’s in three. And the traditional post-Christmas date has been moved to October 11.

Changing patterns in youth culture and a decreasing number of attenders in recent years necessitated a re-launch of the Youth Encounter strategy, said Mark Emerson, IBSA’s associate executive director for the Church Resources Team. Noting the event’s rich heritage among Illinois Baptists, he said, “We are working to allow more students to have access to this event, while at the same time renewing its evangelistic purpose.

“Youth Encounter is more than just a concert; it is an event where pastors and student leaders can bring lost students to hear the gospel presented with the opportunity to respond to Christ. Not only are we praying that more churches will be involved with Youth Encounter this year, we are praying that hundreds of students will give their lives to Jesus.”

YE 2015 will take place in three cities: Country Club Hills in Chicagoland, Decatur and Mt. Vernon. The conferences share a purpose—inspiring students toward deeper devotion to Christ—but will welcome different speakers and musical guests:

North | Hillcrest Baptist, Country Club Hills
Hip-hop artist and St. Louis native FLAME will return to Youth Encounter after making his YE debut in 2014. Joining him at the Chicagoland site are singer/songwriter V.Rose and performance artist Marc Eckel. IBSA pastors from the area will lead in teaching at the northern location.

Central | Tabernacle Baptist, Decatur
Evangelist Clayton King is the featured speaker in Central Illinois. Bands Seventh Time Down and Remedy Drive will lead students in worship, along with artist Andy Raines.

South | Another YE returning guest, 321 Improv, will bring their comedy act to the southern location, joined by worship artists Jordan and Jessa Anderson, Shuree Rivera and The Great Romance. Evangelist and Liberty University Senior Vice President David Nasser is the guest speaker.

Each YE conference is 3-10 p.m., with dinner included. Until October 9, the cost is $25 per participant for churches affiliated with IBSA, and $30 for all others. Cost is $30 at the door.

For more information about Youth Encounter or to register, go to www.IBSA.org/YE2015.

HEARTLAND | Nate Adams

Many Illinois Baptists know by now that Melissa Phillips, who was Associate Executive Director of IBSA’s Church Cooperation (Business) Team, went home to be with the Lord on July 2, almost a year after her initial cancer diagnosis.

Melissa was strong and determined, and she managed her initial months of chemo and radiation treatments so amazingly well that we all grew optimistic. And of course we were praying, diligently and daily (often wearing “Team Melissa” buttons). So her rapid health decline in June and then her passing have seemed sudden, especially to those who only saw her occasionally. For those of you just joining us in that grief, I am truly sorry for your loss, too.

Nate_Adams_July20Near the end of the movie, “The Last Samurai,” Tom Cruise’s character, Nathan Algren, travels to Tokyo to present the emperor with the sword of Samurai Lord Katsoumoto, who has just heroically given his life in battle. Somberly, the emperor says to Captain Algren, “Tell me how he died.” And with great respect and tear-filled eyes, Algren instead replies, “I will tell you how he lived.”

So let me write just a few words here about how Melissa Phillips lived. Melissa was one of the most loving, serving, capable professionals I have ever known. She was intelligent, intuitive, poised and articulate. I trusted her completely, and she brought the highest integrity and work ethic to every decision she made and every task she performed. She was often the first person at her desk in the morning, and the last to leave at night.

Melissa was 18 when she started at IBSA. It was just a few days after graduating from high school, and marrying her sweetheart Doug. As I said during her funeral service, in her 35 years at IBSA she not only trained a husband and two daughters, she trained six different executive directors. I am privileged to have been the most recent, and now the last.

Melissa was a reluctant executive, preferring to serve others and work behind the scenes for the good of IBSA, its churches and leaders. Yet she led well, and was strong and decisive when she needed to be, or when I needed her to be. Her moral compass and her wisdom were rooted deeply in her relationship to Jesus Christ and her understanding of God’s Word and his ways.

A few years ago, our son Caleb and Melissa’s daughter Laura got reacquainted at the annual IBSA family picnic. Talking led
to writing, and writing led to visits, and then a courtship led to marriage. So while Melissa has now gone on to be with the Lord, our families continue to be lovingly intertwined. And so in addition to all she gave me personally as a friend and staff member, through God’s providence she and Doug also gave us a daughter, one who seems to me to grow more like her mother every day.

As I watched hundreds of people patiently file through during the funeral visitation, and then pack every square foot of Springfield Southern Baptist Church for Melissa’s home-going service the next day, it became evident to me how many people loved and respected Melissa. The sentiment many expressed could be summed up by the question, “How can we go
on without her?”

This of course is the question Jesus’ disciples were asking themselves after his seemingly sudden death. Yet because Jesus then conquered death, and because he sent his Spirit to be present with us, and help us continue his example and his mission to the world, we find joy and purpose in moving forward, longing eagerly to see him again. How like Melissa to follow Jesus’ example, and leave those of us who loved and depended on her so much with that same wonderful assurance and hope.

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

Illinois Disaster Relief volunteers help clean a home in Colorado.

Illinois Disaster Relief volunteers help clean a home in Colorado.

HEARTLAND | Morgan Jackson

After severe storms swept across Northern Illinois June 22, several of the state’s Disaster Relief teams moved quickly to respond. By June 24, four volunteers were in Coal City to meet with homeowners and assess damage. More than 50 volunteers on chainsaw teams from Salem South, Capital City and Three Rivers Associations worked over the next few days while staying at First Baptist Church, Coal City.

On June 30, IBSA’s Disaster Relief Coordinator Rex Alexander got word of a new need in the community of Sublette, which was hit by a tornado on the same evening as Coal City.

“This area has been closed off to volunteers due to safety issues of gas leaks and electrical wires being down,” Alexander reported. “They are now opening up this area and requesting assistance for a large number of chainsaw jobs…” Alexander also was working to recruit assessors and chaplains to work in the area. The response was expected to begin Monday, July 6.

Outside Illinois, recent flooding in Colorado, Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma  caused severe water damage in many communities. The first of several waves of ministry teams from Illinois arrived in Colorado June 15.

Don Ile, from Greater Wabash Association, was supposed to lead his team to Colorado Springs. But storm-related issues and a tornado forced them to Berthoud, about 50 miles from Denver.

Another Illinois team from Williamson Association, led by Jerry Cruse, was delayed in arrival. But after staying overnight in Kansas, they were able to get to Colorado and start work.

Before arriving, Ile said they didn’t know what to expect. “We’ve been told there are major water problems; they’ve had at least a couple tornadoes…possibly some chainsaw work and tree situations, but more flooding than anything. People are happy we’re coming. We just hope to accomplish what some of their needs are right now.”

After a couple days on the job, Cruse said, “Our team draws closer to God all the time as we’re helping people. We just pray others grow close to him too through seeing us work and our interactions.”

While taking a break, Ile described his current view: beautiful, snowcapped mountains to the west, sunshine, perfect weather. But a booming thunderstorm the night before was a poignant reminder to the team why they were there, despite the picturesque landscape.

Their first task involved moving a large amount of a homeowner’s belongings in order to strip all carpet on the lower level. They faced a number of problems: no dumpster, stopping the spread of mold, not being able to power wash.
Ile sounded in good spirits, though. “Every house has its own challenges, but we’re doing good, we’re getting there.”
Both teams said God was certainly good to them during their travels, and that their goal was to help as many families as possible during their time in Colorado.

For more information about Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief, go to www.IBSA.org/dr.