Archives For Illinois Baptists

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.

Building them up

ib2newseditor —  December 28, 2017
Graffiti2

In September, a group of seven Illinois pastors’ wives navigated the New York subway every day to get to the Graffiti 2 headquarters in the Bronx, where they assisted with behind-the-scenes work needed to facilitate outreach programs for kids and adults. Photos by Andrea Hammond

Subway

Riding in the subway.

For Illinoisans who live outside the Chicago city limits—or don’t often visit—the hustle and bustle of New York City would likely bring on a good dose of culture shock.

For Terry Kenney, a pastor’s wife in Beardstown, her recent mission trip to the Big Apple brought back memories of her childhood in Chicago.

“New Yorkers do not think anything about walking” to get from place to place, said Kenney, whose husband, Brian, pastors First Southern Baptist Church in Beardstown. For the team of seven pastors’ wives from Illinois, navigating the city streets and the subway and taxis was a new, stretching experience. But a positive one.

“I never had a desire to go to New York,” Kenney said, “but now I’m going to take my husband back and let him see it.”

City reachers
The Illinois team was in the city to partner with Graffiti 2, a community ministry based in the South Bronx. Started a decade ago, Graffiti 2 is an offshoot of Graffiti Church, a Southern Baptist church planted in the early 1970s. The Graffiti ministries are grounded in a mission to meet the physical and spiritual needs of New Yorkers.

Toward that end, Graffiti 2 runs an after-school program for kids in the neighborhood, and also has started a jobs program that gives people the skills they need to learn and succeed in a career.

Standing in front of an intricate stained glass window in Graffiti’s new headquarters, the Illinois women watched one of Graffiti’s artisans at work at her sewing machine. The goods produced by Graffiti 2 artisans are sold through WorldCrafts, a fair-trade ministry of Woman’s Missionary Union.

Herself a seamstress, Kenney said it was nice to climb upstairs in the old church building and see where the artisans work, and hear about their needs. The Illinois team also helped Graffiti 2 with some administrative tasks resulting from their recent move to the building.

“We prayer-walked around their neighborhood in the South Bronx before meeting artisans and touring their new location,” said Andrea Hammond, a pastor’s wife from Grace Southern Baptist Church in Virden. “We experienced how they impact their community for Christ by finding out what their needs are, meeting them, then sharing Christ through those needs.”

Calling in common

stainglass

At the Graffiti 2 headquarters in the Bronx, artisans create fair-trade products and learn career skills.

Carmen Halsey came up with the idea for the New York mission trip as she was brainstorming ways to help pastors’ wives connect with one another. Inspired by the concept of “destination weddings,” Halsey, IBSA’s director of women’s missions and ministries, wanted to find a place that would let wives retreat to an attractive location, while also working together to fulfill a mission.

As they worked together on a large mailing project for Graffiti 2, Halsey said, the women had an opportunity to hear each other’s stories, and share their own. That was the special part, she said, watching the multi-generational group support each other and get to know one another.

“It’s a lonely job,” Terry Kenney said of being a pastors’ wife. There aren’t too many people you can confide in, she said, and the New York trip let the women open up to one another. That part of the trip was helpful for Ailee Taylor, who serves with her husband, Derrick, at NET Community Church, the congregation they planted in Staunton last year.

“I have not been a pastor’s wife for very long, and it is a group of women that I have not been around before,” she said. “In addition to learning and serving alongside the team at Graffiti 2, I was able to connect and grow alongside other women that share the role of pastors’ wives.”

The trip also had benefits that are transferable to her own ministry in Illinois.

“Even though New York is an urban environment, I learned things that apply to my rural environment,” Taylor said. “I also learned that we have a lot of things that we easily take for granted in Illinois.”

The mission trip was a renewing experience, she said, using decisive words for how she felt about returning to Illinois: “Filled, challenged, and fired up.”
For more information about upcoming missions opportunities for adults, students, and kids, go to IBSA.org/missions.

Volunteers aid homeowners after year of historic storms

ILDR Feeding Unit

 Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers prepare a meal for Hurricane Harvey victims in Vidor, Texas. The Illinois volunteers prepared over 40,000 meals during their callout. Facebook photo

A difficult year for many people in the U.S. meant Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief (IBDR) volunteers were hard at work in 2017.

The most extensive callout was to Texas, where Hurricane Harvey left many homeowners displaced in August. Two childcare teams were the first Illinois units to deploy. They were stationed at the Dallas Convention Center, where they attended to children while their parents—refugees from flooding in Houston—stood in lines to meet with insurance companies and government agencies.

All other ILDR teams were sent to serve in the Vidor, Texas area. Two shower and laundry trailers from Franklin and Macoupin Associations were deployed. They provided 8,700 showers, and volunteers completed approximately 2,320 loads of laundry. Glenn and Sharon Carty spent three weeks in Vidor working with a laundry/shower trailer team. “You feel for the people and all they’re going through,” said Sharon. “But it’s the children who break your heart.”

IBDR: In 3 states and Puerto Rico

  • 14,401 man hours worked
  • 166 gospel presentations
  • 326 gospel tracts distributed
  • 161 Bibles given
  • 16 salvations recorded

Also in Texas, a 26-person mobile kitchen team based out of Living Faith Baptist Church in Sherman was staffed by volunteers from around the state and used to prepare over 40,000 meals.

As the callout continued, IBDR was asked by national Send Relief to take on a greater role. Dwayne Doyle, IBDR state coordinator, said, “IBDR incident command led the First Baptist Church, Vidor, Texas, joint ministry site between the new Send Relief program of the North American Mission Board and Southern Baptist Texas Convention Disaster Relief. During this time, our volunteers gave leadership to more than over 500 students from churches and universities across the nation.”

Illinois teams are continuing the work in Vidor, with more workers scheduled to return in January.

Earlier in the summer, heavy rains led to record flooding in Lake County, near the Illinois-Wisconsin border. Volunteers worked on nearly 150 homes, doing mold remediation in an effort to help homeowners get ready to rebuild. Their efforts have resulted in a church plant in Round Lake, as local Disaster Relief volunteers have followed-up with homeowners.

Disaster Relief volunteers also served in Illinois after early spring tornadoes in northern and southern parts of the state. Volunteer Don Kragness worked in the southern Illinois town of Vergennes. He summed up the motivation of many Disaster Relief volunteers when he told local television station WSIL, “We are here, basically, because we love Jesus and we want to serve him, and the best way we know how to serve him is to help people when they’re in need.”

Illinois has nearly 1,600 trained Disaster Relief volunteers. Their ministry is made possible through the generosity of churches and individual donors, and the volunteers themselves, who help provide equipment, supplies, and fuel for travel. To learn more about the callouts, training, and how to donate, visit IBSA.org/dr.

Breen 4

Peter Breen, Special Counsel for the Thomas More Society, talks to reporters after the Dec. 6 court hearing.

A law firm representing religious liberty concerns has filed a lawsuit to stop the implementation of taxpayer-funded abortions through House Bill 40 (HB40) in Illinois on Jan. 1.

The Chicago-based Thomas More Society suit argue that the General Assembly has not set aside funds in the state’s budget to pay for the abortions and remain within the Balanced Budget requirements of the Illinois Constitution. It also contends, according to the Thomas More Society, that the law cannot become effective until June 1 because it missed a May 31 cut-off date for General Assembly action.

“We’ve got $1.7 billion more appropriations than we’ve got revenue coming in,” said Peter Breen, Special Counsel for the Thomas More Society. “I don’t see how we’re going to find the money to pay for these elective abortions.”

Initial arguments were heard in the Seventh Judicial Circuit Court December 6 at the Sangamon County Courthouse in Springfield. Breen asked when the state planned to implement HB40. Attorney’s representing the state replied they were not prepared to answer the question.

Associate Judge Jennifer Ascher set the next hearing for Dec. 28. If the state does not intend to implement HB40 on January 1, the Dec. 28 hearing will most likely be rescheduled due to the upcoming holidays.

The suit is being brought by numerous state legislators, pro-life organizations and the Diocese of Springfield.

Board 2

A screen at the Sangamon County County Court Complex in Springfield lists assigned courtroom and the defendants and plantiffs in Springfield Right to Life, et al v Felicia Norwood, et al.

Following the hearing, Breen, who is also a state representative (R-Lombard), was asked about the projected cost of implementing HB40. “Based on numbers from the Health and Family Services Department, it costs $750-$1,000 per abortion you’re looking at between 20-30,000 abortions [being performed].” He stated that would bring the total cost to $15-$30 million, funds not reimbursed by federal Medicaid.

Breen later said, “We’re always talking about how our children are our future. So how can you argue that somehow aborting more children is going to bring more value to the State of Illinois?”

When asked about the religious liberty aspects of HB40, Breen said, “This lawsuit is very specifically about public funds…We don’t have moral argument in court. We’re just looking at the misuse of public funds.”

The suit was filed on behalf of several legislators and pro-life groups who are opposing HB40, which would provide coverage for abortions through Medicaid and state employees’ health insurance plans.

In November, messengers to the IBSA Annual Meeting passed a resolution calling for the repeal of HB40, pledging support for “the rights of the unborn,” and claiming, “all human life is God-given and sacred, and should be protected by moral and righteous government.”

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner originally pledged to veto the HB40 if it came to his desk, but signed it into law Sept. 28—to the dismay of Christians and pro-life advocates. State Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) is working to get on the Republican primary ballot against Rauner in March.

“He lied to us,” Ives said in an Associated Press article last month. “None of us trust him anymore.”

– Lisa Misner Sergent

Why Chicago?

ib2newseditor —  December 7, 2017

chicago-cloud-sculpture

We may not verbalize the “why” question with the persistence of a young child, but we still look for a reason or substantial meaning when called to some action.

Through more than a dozen years in church planting, I’ve heard the “why” question. When a family gave five acres for a new church property to a local association in eastern North Carolina, many in nearby churches asked why, even as their buildings were nowhere near filling their seating capacity.

When I planted a church in Buckeye, Ariz., the North Carolina churches I invited to partner with us often wondered why they should care about planting a church in a community 2,000 or more miles away.

For nearly four years now, I have had the privilege of living in Chicago. During that time, I have mentored, coached and challenged many church planters here. I’ve also invited churches in more than a dozen states to get engaged in supporting church plants here in Chicago with prayer, action and finances.

“Why Chicago?” some ask, jesting, “Why not Hawaii? That would be a great mission trip!”

Yet there are three key answers:

The first reason is biblical. In Luke’s account of the Great Commission in Acts 1:8, Jesus tells His disciples and us, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (CSB).

No matter where you live, major metropolitan areas like Chicago are located between you and “the end of the earth.” And frankly, because of political views and sensationalized news, Chicago in particular is to many in southern Illinois and elsewhere what Samaria was to the Jews: a place and people we’ve been trained or conditioned to dislike or even hate. Yet, even if it is Samaria to Christians, it’s a place and people to which Jesus has sent us to bear witness of Him and His Good News.

The second reason is practical. Cities like Chicago have, from their earliest settlement, become a home for immigrant people groups — many that are identified as “unreached and unengaged” by the International Mission Board.

Because of technology and ease of global travel from America’s major cities, many immigrants maintain a reach to and influence in their homelands. So, effectively evangelizing and discipling people in a city like Chicago gives us a reach into many parts of the world, including most of the peoples in the 10/40 window, a region between the 10th and 40th parallels across Africa and Asia where most of the people who have never heard the Gospel live.

Reaching Chicago and other metropolitan areas with the Gospel could bring a significant advance toward the global evangelization that Jesus promised in Matthew 24:14.

The final answer to “Why Chicago?” is missiological. Chicago is sometimes called the “most segregated city in America.” And while that is changing in some of the neighborhoods of the city, people groups are usually heavily concentrated in certain areas. Poles are heavily concentrated in the northwest neighborhoods and nearby suburbs. Chinatown, as you might guess, is home to mostly Chinese people, many of them still speaking Mandarin or Cantonese. Pakistanis are clustered along Devon Avenue in the northern part of the city. Professional millennials make up two-thirds of the population in the West Loop. Wicker Park is the epicenter of the hipsters.

High concentrations of people groups in a specific place give us a missiological advantage in reaching them. Even if it is a cross-culturally gifted southern boy and his family living among south Asian immigrants, winning one or two to Jesus could result in dozens who live nearby coming to faith in Christ. Given their close proximity to each other, bringing them together to a form a new church can happen very naturally.

While it may not be unique, Chicago is rare in giving us three good reasons to seize the opportunities for the Gospel that lie within our reach.

Dennis Conner directs IBSA church planting efforts in northeast Illinois. Beginning Jan. 1, Conner will transition to planting a church in Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood. This article first appeared in the Illinois Baptist and has been republished by Baptist Press.