Archives For Illinois

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A log cabin stood in the exhibit hall at the 2017 IBSA Annual Meeting, surrounded by displays showing the current challenges of taking the gospel to people in Illinois.

Decatur, Ill. | Illinois Baptists were urged to remember their pioneering ancestors as they take the gospel to the more than 8 million people in the state who don’t know Christ.

One year before Illinois’ bicentennial celebration, the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Illinois Baptist State Association focused on “Pioneering Spirit” and asked churches to make four commitments: go new places, engage new people, make new sacrifices, and develop new leaders.

Kevin Carrothers web“We can’t be satisfied with the status quo, because the status quo is decline,” said IBSA President Kevin Carrothers (left) during his president’s message. The commitments are designed to help churches on the “uphill climb” to get the gospel to more people.

Preaching from the book of Numbers, Carrothers said no one remembers the names of the naysaying Israelites who didn’t want to go into the Promised Land. Instead, the real legacy of pioneering spirit was left by Joshua and Caleb, the two spies who trusted God to provide.

“They recognized the will of God was more important to obey than the whims and the desire of men, even if the majority won,” Carrothers said.

During a Wednesday evening worship service, church leaders put commitment cards on the altar—a symbol of their decision to take the gospel to new places, or to engage new people with the Good News, or to make new sacrifices of their resources, or to invest in new ways in the next generation of pastors, church planters, and missionaries.

The urgent need to get the gospel to more people was a driving theme of the meeting and Pastors’ Conference that preceded it, which started two days after a mass shooting at a Texas church. Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines was slated to speak during both the Pastors’ Conference and Annual Meeting, but instead traveled to Sutherland Springs, Texas, to minister to the church that lost 26 people in the attack.

Tom Hufty webTom Hufty (right), pastor of First Baptist Church, Maryville, Ill., filled in for Gaines at the Annual Meeting, outlining the 8-year journey his church has been on since Pastor Fred Winters was shot and killed in his pulpit in March of 2009.

“These tragedies remind us there’s an urgency to share the gospel,” Hufty said. The pastor told meeting attenders he remembers exactly where he was and what he thought when he heard the news about Winters: What must it be like to have been in that building that day, and how difficult it would be to lead the church through the aftermath.

“Even in that shape,” Hufty said, speaking of churches that have endured tragedy, “the church is still the heartthrob of the bridegroom”–of Christ. Ministry isn’t rocket science, Hufty said. “It’s loving God. It’s loving people. It’s making disciples.”

Sammy Simmons webIn the meeting’s final session Thursday morning, Pastor Sammy Simmons (right) offered encouragement for those who are weary from a difficult season of life and ministry. Rely on the Lord, said the pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Benton. And keep taking bold steps for the sake of the gospel.

“The conditions are too rough, the lostness is too great, for us to continue to do business as normal,” Simmons preached. “The cause of the gospel causes us to make bold sacrifices for King Jesus.

“I’m all in for this pioneering spirit. Oh, how much our church needs it. Oh, how much I need it. Oh, how much our state needs it.”

Counting to 200

ib2newseditor —  November 6, 2017

illinois coat of arms

Illinois became a state on December 3, 1818. And so soon, those who pay attention to such things will begin the one-year countdown to our state’s bicentennial.

Because Illinois is our state mission field, the “Judea” in our churches’ Acts 1:8 missions responsibility, IBSA will be joining the bicentennial celebration with a countdown of our own. Launching at the 2017 IBSA Annual Meeting, and continuing through next year’s Annual Meeting, we are challenging IBSA churches to consider “counting to 200” in four very special ways.

First, we have identified 200 places or people groups in Illinois where a new church is desperately needed. We are inviting churches to adopt one or more of those 200 by praying, or partnering with resources or volunteers, or actually sponsoring the plant as the mother church.

Second, we are praying for at least 200 churches that will seek to become more frequently baptizing churches, by setting annual baptism goals and equipping their members to intentionally have gospel conversations and participate in evangelistic events and mission trips. We are praying for churches that will set their sights on baptizing at least once a month, or more than their previous three-year average.

Third, we are praying for at least 200 churches that will commit a percentage of their annual budgets to Cooperative Program missions, and then seek to increase that percentage annually toward 10% or more.

Potential for true mission advance is through churches that embrace pioneering spirit commitments.

And finally, we are praying for at least 200 churches that will commit to intentional leadership development processes—not only for the pastor and current leaders, but also for future pastors, planters, and missionaries.

Of course, some churches are fulfilling one or more of these challenges already. But for the overwhelming majority of IBSA churches, these challenges will be a major stretch. In fact, as our 2017 Annual Meeting theme suggests, moving beyond our status quo into these types of commitments will take a true “pioneering spirit.” It’s the kind of spirit that brought Baptist pioneers to Illinois more than 200 years ago.

That’s why we at IBSA are asking churches to register their “pioneering spirit” commitments, either now or in the coming months. Not only do we want to celebrate those commitments between the 2017 and 2018 IBSA Annual Meetings, but we also want to give those churches our focused, priority attention as an IBSA staff.

Certainly we will continue to be responsive to the requests and needs of all IBSA churches, and to provide services, resources, consultations, and events throughout the busy year. But we believe that the greatest potential for true mission advance in Illinois will be through churches that embrace these pioneering spirit commitments, and we want to come alongside them in special ways, and give them our priority assistance. We also want to network these churches together, so that they can benefit from one another’s experiences and ministry strategies.

The second verse of our Illinois state song begins, “Eighteen-eighteen saw your founding, Illinois, Illinois, and your progress is unbounding, Illinois, Illinois.” It goes on to remind us of the origin of that unbounding progress. “Pioneers once cleared the lands where great industries now stand. World renown you do command, Illinois, Illinois.”

When you see things like great industries and world renown, it’s usually because a few pioneers paved the way for them. And if we are to see great churches and world impact coming from Illinois Baptists, it will be because a few pioneers sacrificially pave the way. Will your church be one of those first 200 that brings a much-needed pioneering spirit to our state’s bicentennial, and to our mission of seeking and saving the lost here in Illinois?

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

The Briefing

TX churches sue FEMA over Harvey relief funds
Three small churches damaged by Hurricane Harvey and made its way through the Houston area sued the Federal Emergency Management Agency in federal court, seeking access to relief funds for nonprofit groups. The lawsuit filed on behalf of the Rockport First Assembly of God in Aransas County, Harvest Family Church in Harris County and Hi-Way Tabernacle in Liberty County claims the government’s disaster relief policy violates the Constitution by denying faith groups the right to apply for funds.

Free abortions offered to women affected by Hurricane Harvey
Whole Woman’s Health, a reproductive health care organization, in collaboration with other groups, is offering free abortions to women affected by Hurricane Harvey. At least 74 women have already taken the organization up on the offer, or have scheduled an appointment for the procedure. The price will be fully covered, as will the cost of transportation and accommodations, the group said.

Illinois abortion bill still in limbo
The bill, known as HB 40, that would extend the availability of taxpayer-subsidized abortions to state workers and Medicaid recipients, still has not been sent to Governor Bruce Rauner’s desk. Lawmakers approved the legislation back in May.

Protestant unity is new confession’s focus
A confession of faith aimed at expressing “interdenominational unity” among Protestants on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation has drawn endorsement from professors at all six Southern Baptist Convention seminaries and staff members at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. The “Reforming Catholic Confession” also has been signed by professors from at least eight colleges affiliated with state Baptist conventions and by Southern Baptist pastors including Matt Chandler, J.D. Greear, and James MacDonald.

Gaines: Memphis Confederate monument should be moved
Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines is among about a dozen Southern Baptist signatories of a letter requesting that a Memphis statue of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest be moved from a public park “to a more historically appropriate site.” In all, 169 clergy members representing 95 congregations and other institutions signed a Sept. 13 letter to the Tennessee Historical Commission in support of Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland’s request to move the statue.

Sources: Houston Chronicle, Fox News, Springfield News Channel 20, Baptist Press (2)

Giving

Coin

Today churches will collect the Mission Illinois Offering, which supports the ministries in this prayer guide and more. It is so important that we reach the $475,000 goal. Consider your own gift for state missions.

In worship and prayer today, consider all the things that IBSA churches achieve together. We are grateful for God’s blessing on missions and ministry that reach lost people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. But with a little more than 70,000 people worshiping in Southern Baptist churches in Illinois today, we are far outnumbered. And with at least 8-million lost people in our state, the task before us is monumental—but not insurmountable.

God can bring a spiritual awakening to Illinois. And Baptists can stand ready to join in sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Faithful prayer and missions support make God’s work strong and growing.

Pray for all our partner churches to give today, and for Executive Director Nate Adams and the missions support staff of IBSA.

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering.

Give to the Offering. If your church promotes and receives a Mission Illinois Offering, we encourage you to give that way. If not, you can also give here — www.IBSA.org/GiveToMIO.

Watch IBSA’s, “Annual Report to Ministry Partners.”

The Mission Illinois Offering and Week of Prayer is September 10-17, but there are plenty of opportunities for prayer ahead of that week. In fact, all of September is a good time to focus on God’s work through Baptists in Illinois.

Devote time to prayer every Sunday or Wednesday in September. Share mission facts and videos on the mission stories. Our main focus is evangelism and church planting in Illinois. Review the statistics about lostness in Illinois. These are not just numbers, they are people.

Pray for salvation. Check Wikipedia for the population of your county or town. According to the experts, more than two-thirds (say 65%) of those people do not know Jesus Christ. Do the math. Pray for their salvation. While you’re at it, make a list of people you know who need Jesus.

Pray for the missionaries by name. Use the daily devotions as brief prayer prompts in worship services and in personal prayer. They are in the MIO Prayer Guide/bulletin insert, online, and printed in the special Illinois Baptist wrapper on the outside of the Aug. 14 issue.

Schedule a special prayer meeting for state missions. Some churches use the Wednesday during the Week of Prayer, others use Sunday morning or Sunday night. Or pick another time, day or night.

Spread the responsibility. Ask Sunday school teachers and small group leaders to focus prayer on state missions during September. Ask the missions team or WMU or men’s group to pray for state missions in their September meeting.

Focus on Romans 10:14.
“How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher?” (CSB)

Pray each section of the verse:
• For the Holy Spirit to open hearts to believe;
• for the gospel to be shared; for the church planters;
• for gospel witnesses to respond to the call to
missions and evangelism, especially in Illinois.

We could plant so many more new churches and reach so many more lost people in Illinois if there were more future leaders in the pipeline.

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering at MissionIllinois.org.

The Briefing

Iceland Down syndrome abortions called ‘a tragedy’
Southern Baptists involved with special needs ministry are lamenting a report that virtually 100% of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in Iceland are aborted. According to CBS News, Iceland “has on average just one or two children born with Down syndrome per year” out of a population of 330,000. The reason for the lack of Down syndrome births is that genetic testing leads nearly all mothers whose children are expected to have Down syndrome to opt for abortion.

Illinois town shuts down VFW raffle over gambling
A drawing for a VFW raffle with a prize topping $1 million was called off hours before a winner was due to be picked, with organizers citing a legal snag. The VFW hall in the small town of Morris, Ill., said they “did not get shut down” and will resume ticket sales and the drawing “as soon as possible.”

Banned from Farmer’s Market for stance on marriage
The Tennes family joins a growing list of florists, photographers, filmmakers, and cake bakers who have lost a portion of their livelihood for upholding a Biblical definition of marriage. Last May, Alliance Defending Freedom filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the Tenneses, stating their religious views have no bearing on their involvement in the East Lansing Farmer’s Market and the city violated their constitutional rights.

New president on bringing back Baylor
Linda Livingstone, the newly minted president of Baylor University, inherited more than just the world’s largest Baptist university and its 16,000-plus students when she took the helm in June. A few weeks earlier, a former Baylor volleyball player filed what was then the latest in a long string of Title IX lawsuits against the university alleging she was gang-raped by members of the football team. A previous lawsuit alleged that 31 football players for the Waco, Texas, university were involved in as many as 52 acts of sexual assault against fellow students.

Muslim divorce law in India ‘unconstitutional’
For hundreds of years, Muslim men in India could divorce their wives by repeating the word “talaq,” Arabic for divorce, three times. Now, the Supreme Court declared the practice unconstitutional. A five-judge bench moved to block instant divorce for six months, pending a law banning the practice to be debated in parliament.

Sources: Baptist Press, Chicago Tribune, World Magazine, Christianity Today, Washington Post

Sharing Jesus everywhere

ib2newseditor —  August 21, 2017

Pat Pajak praying

Pat Pajak will make you cry. Why? Because he cries.

Whenever there’s talk about how many people in Illinois don’t know Jesus, you can count on Pat to get choked up. And whenever Pat tells how he had the privilege of sharing the gospel with someone—and that someone accepted Jesus as Savior—tears will flow. His shoulders shake up and down. His voice cracks. And for a moment, the story stops. But he catches a breath, and continues.

And invariably, the person he’s witnessing to agrees that they need Jesus, and prays to receive him as Savior.

The biker. The nurse. The couple at the gas station on the way to North Carolina. “I believe in witnessing opportunities wherever you’re at,” Pajak said.

Pat Pajak has a gift. Some would say his gift is evangelism, but that’s only part of it. Pat makes lostness in Illinois—vast, unfathomable, and seemingly almost too big to tackle—become real, and personal, and up-close.

“Lostness” is people, and Pat knows them personally. Even if he doesn’t, he’ll sidle up to them and ask if they go to church anywhere. And that leads to real conversation about knowing—and believing in—Jesus Christ.

Whether it’s 8 million people in a state of 13 million, or the nurse at the Decatur hospital where he had heart surgery, lost people matter to Pat, because they matter to God.

After three decades as a pastor of growing evangelistic churches, and another leading church strengthening in Illinois, Pat today serves as associate executive director of evangelism for IBSA.

Winning Illinois, one by one
For some people, simply walking across the room to start a conversation feels like taking a risk. Taking the next step—turning a conversation toward the gospel—may feel even riskier. But that’s what we’re all called to do. Share the gospel.

And for many IBSA churches and their members, that’s where Pat Pajak comes in.
Pat will train more than 200 churches in soul-winning this year. And through IBSA’s Pastor’s Evangelism Network, Pat will help mentor more than 100 pastors. Encouraging pastors who encourage their churches in faith-sharing is Pat’s specialty.

“The easiest way, I think, to impact lostness in Illinois, is to build friendships with people where they begin to trust you,” he said.

For Pat and his wife, Joyce, that level of trust was established in a crisis more than 30 years ago, when a house fire claimed their infant son and a pastor soon led them to Jesus. Not every conversion comes after crisis, but Pat finds opportunity to share Christ in tough times, even his own.

“After Memorial Day last year, I had a heart attack…and quadruple bypass surgery,” he said. And since he believes in sharing Christ wherever you happen to be, that included the ICU and later the cardiac rehab unit. Eventually, he led eight nurses to faith in Jesus Christ in a three-month period.

“I said, ‘Will you allow me to pray with you?’” he recalled from an encounter with Gina. “So I shared the Romans Road with her and asked if that made sense to her. She said yes, and she prayed and asked Jesus Christ to come into her heart.”

Pat wells up when he tells the story. “I saw her today and she hugged me and said, ‘I love you.’”

From complete stranger to sister in Christ.

“What a difference it would make if our church (members) decided, ‘I have the responsibility of sharing Christ, not just my pastor,’” he said.

With support from the Mission Illinois Offering and Week of Prayer, IBSA is equipping pastors, church members, and church planters to share the gospel. “Now is the moment,” Pajak said, because people in Illinois need Jesus Christ. “We just need to capture that.”

In other words, now more than ever.

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering at MissionIllinois.org.