Archives For Illinois Baptists

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

Essentials MIO

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

How’s that working?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The key word is partnership.

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

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

So how do you see state missions in the future?

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

By Nate Adams

MIO Logo 500pxLast Saturday I received three voicemail messages from the same number. I suspected it was a mistake or a telemarketer, because the number wasn’t familiar, and I recognized the area code as being from out of state.

Indeed, the first message sounded like an elderly lady, who simply apologized for possibly dialing the wrong number. But in the second and third messages, the same lady said that she was sorry for bothering me again, but she was trying to reach the “Illinois Baptist Convention.” She asked if I could call her back and at least let her know if she had reached the right number.

Though it was a Saturday evening, and I couldn’t imagine what this lady might need, the frequency and urgency of her messages led me to call her back. It was then that I met Miss Myra, a 95-year-old grandmother from Kentucky.

After a few minutes of conversation, I learned several things about Miss Myra. She had just moved into a new assisted living facility a month earlier. She was nearly blind due to macular degeneration. And years ago, she had served for a while on the board of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. That’s how she knew to call me.

But I learned all those things after Miss Myra told me the primary reason for her call. Her grandson Ben had recently moved to Chicago, and she was concerned that he wasn’t attending church in that new, big city. His parents had raised him in a different denomination, she said, but he hadn’t seemed to stay connected with that church. And she didn’t know anyone to call there anyway. But she knew Southern Baptists, and she knew that if she called “the state convention office,” someone there would help her find a nearby church for her grandson. And she knew that church would be Bible-believing and gospel-centered.

I probably receive 3-4 calls a year like Miss Myra’s, often from someone in the South whose family member or friend has moved to Illinois, usually the Chicago area. They frequently are afraid that Southern Baptist churches “up there” are few or non-existent, and that the city is huge, and probably dangerous.

With Ben’s address, I was able to go to our online database and quickly find several churches within a few miles of where he lived. I did need to filter the options, because some of the IBSA churches nearest him were Spanish-speaking, or Russian, or Vietnamese. After all, Chicago is an international mission field. But a large-print letter went out to Miss Myra the following Monday, with contact information for six churches and pastors, and my offer to contact them personally if she or Ben would like me to do that.

The calls and e-mails and letters I receive like that one from Miss Myra remind me why IBSA continuously plants churches, especially in population centers like Chicago. I didn’t need to find a Chinese, or Romanian, or Korean church this time. But I could have.

Miss Myra’s call also reminds me why we ask churches to collect a Mission Illinois Offering each year, and why we ask Illinois Baptist church members to give generously. That annual offering helps us plant new churches in places like Chicago, or in one of the 22 Illinois counties that still have one, or zero, Baptist churches.

At one point in our conversation, Miss Myra said to me, “You know, I’m 95 and almost blind. I can’t do much. But I can do this.” I will remember her words when I give my Mission Illinois Offering through my church this year. I hope you will too.

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

By Andrew Woodrow

Classic Outreach

In a town proud of its Route 66 heritage, thousands gather every year to celebrate what John Steinbeck called “the Mother Road.” For more than 20 years, Edwardsville’s annual Route 66 festival at City Park has offered visitors fun, food, and classic cars. What was missing, realized church planter Rayden Hollis, was a gospel opportunity.

Hollis is the planter and lead pastor of Red Hill church in Edwardsville. The church isn’t quite three years old, and they don’t have their own building yet. But Hollis is passionate in leading his church by a missions strategy based on Jeremiah 29:7.

“Just as the Israelites, exiles in their community, were commanded to seek out the welfare of the city they were living in,” Hollis said, “it’s our philosophy that we too, as exiles, need to seek out the welfare of the city we live in and pray for it.”

That philosophy is at the core of Red Hill’s presence at their city’s summer festival—and it’s a noticeable presence. At this year’s event June 8-9, park visitors stirred the humid air with hand-held fans emblazoned with Red Hill Church. Diners at picnic tables ate under misting fans donated by the church. Dog walkers at the festival discussed their pets with dog walkers from Red Hill. Church members brought a bean bag set and played alongside park visitors.

Church Hits the ‘Mother Road’ from IL Baptist State Association on Vimeo.

And showcased just outside the church’s two tents at the festival: a 1955 Chevy Bel Air. The gleaming red and white car—made even more vibrant by the sun’s glare—attracted visitors to the Red Hill display.

To Hollis, Red Hill isn’t just about gathering for their Saturday evening worship, it’s about the church going out into the community and making the city better.

“I’ve been a part of churches where if the Lord removed that church from the community, the community wouldn’t even notice,” Hollis said. “We don’t want to be that church.

“We want to be so deeply integrated into the life of our community that if we were pulled out, it would have a devastating effect upon the regular rhythms that people engage in inside of our cities. So, we’re trying to find ways that we can step in and make an immediate impact and difference in the life of our city, just by observing what’s naturally happening in it.”

Nothing in return

Early on, Red Hill began to observe the rhythms and patterns of Edwardsville, seeking out ways to serve at city events with a focus to “breathe even more life into it,” Hollis said. “We want to be given an opportunity to show the city how much our church cares for it.”

Once Hollis learned of the success of Edwardsville’s Route 66 Festival, he knew he needed to get involved.

But at first, it wasn’t easy. Katie Grable, assistant director for the Edwardsville parks department, was uncertain about allowing a church to actively participate in the festival. “Initially I was a bit skeptical,” she told the Illinois Baptist. “Not because I was against a church partnership, but rather, I was nervous that their angle would be vocally evangelistic.”

Still, in 2015, Red Hill was granted permission to set up a photo booth tent in the far back corner of the festival. They provided props and space for festival-goers to pose for photos. “We wanted to do something that added to the festival’s success,” said Sarah Hollis, Rayden’s wife. “And through that, begin those gospel conversations with the park visitors.”

Realizing the potential to reach up to 10,000 people in one weekend, Rayden Hollis was eager to do more the next year. He asked Grable how Red Hill could best contribute to the festival, and the city’s success, from Red Hill’s own budget. His requests puzzled Grable, leading her to eventually ask Hollis what was in it for his church.

“Nobody just gives freely without wanting something in return,” Grable said. “And they were just willing to offer so much I eventually asked what Rayden wanted, and we would see what we could do to help.”

To Hollis, Grable’s question came as a surprise. “At first I didn’t know what she was talking about,” he said. “But then something really awesome happened.” Hollis was able to explain to Grable that what Red Hill was doing was meant to be a reflection of God’s love. Hollis further explained there wasn’t anything he needed but rather that the opposite was true. “I told her I had something that she desperately needed,” Hollis said. “And I got to share the gospel with her.

“Now the unfortunate news is that she didn’t receive Christ, but because of what we’re doing as a church, I got the opportunity to share with someone why we’re doing what we’re doing.”

Grable wasn’t yet ready to receive Christ, but she understood Red Hill’s genuine intent in giving. And a partnership blossomed between the Parks and Recreation department and Red Hill.

“It was through that experience that I finally realized this was just an honest willingness in wanting to help,” Grable said. “They’ve been our most frequent partner since then and are the only organization that is coming out to basically anything that we do in the city.”

Valued partners

Since their first involvement with the Route 66 Festival in 2015, Red Hill has come a long way at the event. Their photo booth tent is no longer in the far back corner of the park. It has instead been moved to the front.

“We even have a second tent where we pass out handheld fans,” said church member Casey Elmore. “And we do almost all the volunteering for the kids’ activities.”

Elmore emphasized Red Hill’s devotion to the city as a “heartbeat to serve and build relationships within our community. And through that, crack open those opportunities to share the gospel.”

The church is also fostering its relationship with the Parks and Recreation department, who has called on Red Hill to help open their newest park, and even made Hollis an administrator on their Facebook page.

The pastor thanks Illinois Baptists for giving through the Cooperative Program to help make his church’s outreach possible. 

“Events like this would never happen unless Southern Baptists of Illinois continued to give to the Cooperative Program, to the Mission Illinois Offering, and other Illinois Baptist offerings. So, to every pastor, thank you for inspiring and encouraging your church to give. And to every Illinoisan who’s given over the course of their lifetime, thank you.

“Your generous gift helps make this moment possible for us to be a gospel witness and to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this city.”

No girls allowed?

Lisa Misner —  July 26, 2018

Thank you

ib2newseditor —  April 2, 2018

Cooperative ProgramRecently I attended a meeting of state Baptist executive directors, like myself, from across the country. The format of the meeting included several panel discussions on topics ranging from missions giving to working with local associations, and from disaster relief ministry to ways Baptist state conventions can help one another.

One of the panels was comprised of four experienced leaders, and they were asked the question, “What have you discovered that encourages generous missions giving from churches through the Cooperative Program?”

It was a question that certainly got my attention. While Cooperative Program giving is up in Illinois so far this year, last year it dipped below the $6 million mark for the first time since 1998. Many churches understand and appreciate Cooperative Program missions and ministries, and are giving sacrificially. But many are giving nominally, or at a rate lower than in the past. That affects missions and ministries not only in Illinois, but throughout America and around the world.

Your missions giving is making a difference here in Illinois and around the world.

By the way, if you want to know how strong your church’s CP missions giving is, simply divide the amount your church gave through the Cooperative Program last year by the number of church members. Across all IBSA churches, that average is about $50 per member. The top 100 CP missions giving churches in Illinois give at least $100 per member. My home church here in Springfield isn’t large, but it gave about $200 per member last year. This “per capita” giving is really the most accurate way to compare churches of all sizes.

Anyway, so when I heard the panel discussion question about CP missions giving, I sat up straight and poised myself to take notes on whatever my colleagues might say about this important need. The first to speak was one of the most experienced and respected of all the executive directors.

“The first and most important thing is this,” he began. “Whenever I am in a church, whenever our staff is in a church, in fact whenever I have an opportunity to speak or write to pastors or churches in any setting, I always start with thank you. Thank you for prioritizing the Cooperative Program in your missions giving.”

I didn’t bother writing anything down. “I can remember that,” I thought. “What else will he suggest?” But he kept talking about gratitude.

“We all need to remember that churches, like church members, have a lot of demands on their resources. There are lots of ways they could spend their church’s offerings at home. Whatever they choose to send beyond their church field to the mission field and ministries of our state, nation, and world, deserves our humble gratitude. I always focus on saying thank you.”

Then, one by one, each of the experienced panelists began their remarks by affirming this foundational principle. “I agree, the most important thing you can do is say thank you.” “Yes, we must always remember to say thank you.” “We can never take a church’s missions giving for granted.”

Whatever else my colleagues said that morning, I came away with this note in my head. “The next time you write to Illinois Baptists, say thank you for their giving to Baptist missions and ministries through the Cooperative Program.”

So, thank you. Whatever your church is giving, it is making a difference here in Illinois and around the world, and it is deeply appreciated. In fact, I would love to come to your church and thank you personally, if you will invite me. Whether I deliver the morning message, or just share a brief word about Cooperative Program missions, you can be assured that my first words will be thank you.

Cooperative Program (CP) Sunday is April 8. Downloadable CP materials are available at IBSA.org/CP.

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

Churches challenged to baptize 1,000 on one day

One Grand social

One thousand baptisms on a single Sunday. That’s the challenge behind One GRAND Sunday, an initiative designed to help IBSA churches train church members in evangelism, share the gospel, and follow-up with believer’s baptism.

One GRAND Sunday is scheduled for April 8, one week after Easter.

“Easter is normally a high attendance day, and the strategy of scheduling April 8 as One GRAND Sunday is to encourage people to return the following week to witness an historic event—their church being a part of 1,000 people being baptized on one day!” said Pat Pajak, IBSA’s associate executive director of evangelism.

The baptism-focused Sunday is part of a series of “Pioneering Spirit” challenges put before IBSA churches at the 2017 Annual Meeting. The evangelism challenge is for 200 or more IBSA churches to baptize 12 or more people each year, or to baptize more than the church’s previous three-year average. In other words, the commitment is for IBSA churches to become “frequently baptizing churches.” So far, 57 churches have accepted the challenge to engage new people with the gospel.

“Unfortunately, baptisms across our state have been declining over the past several years, and I would like to see One GRAND Sunday serve as a reminder that the church exists to evangelize and baptize those in the communities where God has planted them,” Pajak said.

The One GRAND Sunday emphasis coincides with a North American Mission Board-sponsored effort to promote gospel conversations, or opportunities to share the gospel. NAMB is urging Southern Baptists to have one million gospel conversations by next summer’s Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas. At gcchallenge.com, people can upload videos of themselves sharing about gospel conversations they’ve had, and get more information about gospel-sharing resources, like the “3 Circles” guide.

With just under three months left until April 8, Pajak suggested this timeline for churches preparing for One GRAND Sunday:

January: Collect your church’s baptism numbers for the past three years. Prayerfully set a new goal for this year.

February: Announce the baptism event and launch gospel conversations. Register your goal at IBSA.org/Evangelism. Conduct the training for church members. Consider teaching the “3 Circles” method.

March: Promote One GRAND Sunday. Personally follow-up with prospects and new believers. Teach about baptism, either personally or in a group setting.

April 8: Baptize!

April 9: Start over again.

One thousand is a large number, but Pajak put the goal in perspective. “What may look like a very lofty goal can easily be accomplished if every one of our 1,000 churches simply committed to baptizing one person.”

For more information about One GRAND Sunday and evangelism resources, or to register to participate in the April 8 emphasis, go to IBSA.org/Evangelism.

Some events from last year offer insight on issues facing evangelicals and church leaders

If evangelicalism is having an identity crisis, as some religious and cultural observers posit, the issue is whether “evangelical” means a person’s theological beliefs and practice, or is it adherence to a conservative political movement. It has at times meant both, and at points in 2017 we saw the movement struggling with itself over which is “the main thing.”

In this short collection of news stories from last year, we see how evangelicals balanced belief and practice. We witnessed the thumb-wrestling of “Big-E Evangelicalism,” inheritors of the socially conservative political force Moral Majority and keepers of its dwindling flame, and “little-e evangelicalism,” the smaller group who are not merely self-identified evangelicals, but whose core-group of beliefs about Scripture, Jesus, and their relationship to him directly affect their behaviors and drive their moral decision-making.

Donald Trump would not be president without evangelicals, more specifically Big-E Evangelicals, and the presence of some in his administration serves as a reminder of that. There is a group of cabinet leaders and others who meet weekly for Bible study. Spokeswoman (and preacher’s daughter) Sarah Huckabee Sanders is possibly the most visible Evangelical in the White House through her daily televised press briefings.

Trump’s appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court as a hoped-for advocate for religious freedoms was hailed by church leaders. And Southern Baptists were present on several occasions in 2017 when President Trump signed legislation affecting religious liberty.

But the December loss of a U.S. Senate seat by Republican Judge Roy Moore, Alabama’s Ten Commandments champion, to a pro-abortion Democrat has caused some pundits to wonder if the Big-E political/Republican alliance has weakened, and what that might mean for President Trump in the future. Given the special circumstances in that Senate race, moral accusations against Moore, another conclusion is that the biblical beliefs of little-e evangelicals trumped the Big-E political machine in the privacy of the voting booth.

Similarly, a Democrat easily won the governor’s race in Virginia, whose considerable Evangelical population had previously supported a string of GOP governors. Conservative analyst Stephen Mansfield wrote in a new book that the loss can be attributed partly to the disaffection of evangelicals.

“The young, probably in reaction to Trump and to some of the machinations on the Right, went strongly for the Democrat. I think that is an indication of future trends,” Mansfield said in an interview. “It will probably settle down, but I think that the social consciences of the young are raising some important questions.”

But can those assumptions be applied to the President himself, who a year ago got 81% of the white, evangelical vote? “He’s had about a 10-15% drop-off in support from the evangelical community since taking office,” Mansfield summarized. “So while there may be a sort of exaggerated self-reporting around the time when an evangelical casts a vote, there is some indication that there was never really that depth of devotion. I don’t think their support was ever very deep, and it seems to be weakening quickly.”

One conclusion is that little-e evangelicalism—personal, biblical belief and practice—is being separated from its Big-E political counterpart in this generation.

“Many have analyzed the weaknesses of the current iteration of this movement,” writes conservative Presbyterian pastor Tim Keller. “The desire by mid-twentieth-century leaders to foster more widespread cooperation between evangelicals and downplay denominational differences cut believers off from the past, some religion scholars have found…. This has made present-day evangelicals more vulnerable to political movements that appeal to their self-interest, even in contradiction to biblical teachings, for example, about welcoming the immigrant and lifting up the poor. However, evangelicalism is much more resilient than any one form of itself. The newer forms that are emerging are more concerned with theological and historic roots, and are more resistant to modern individualism than older, white Evangelicalism.”

Issues in Illinois
Governor’s race: Evangelicals disappointed by Gov. Rauner’s support for HB 40, which allows state-funding of abortions involving state employees and aid recipients, will be looking for a gubernatorial candidate to support in 2018.

Pro-life advocate Jeanne Ives of Wheaton said she would run against Rauner in part because of his signature allowing the abortion legislation. Ives handily won a January straw poll against Rauner among Chicago-area Republican leaders, but she faces an uphill climb against the well-funded incumbent. Seven Democrats are on the March 20 ballot with J.B. Pritzker the apparent leader.

The general election is in November.

Social issues: After successfully moving legalization of same-sex marriage through the Illinois General Assembly, State Senator Heather Steans and some other representatives are preparing to introduce legislation to legalize marijuana use in Illinois. Steans is using economic growth as an argument for legalization, citing a prediction that 250,000 jobs will be created in the “cannabis industry” by 2020. “As many of you may have heard, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced last week that he was rescinding an Obama-era policy that discouraged U.S. attorneys from prosecuting operations in states that legalized marijuana,” Steans wrote to supporters. “This change will not diminish our efforts to legalize adult-use cannabis in Illinois.”

A public hearing is scheduled for late January.