Archives For legacy

It’s been 10 years since the murder of Maryville First Baptist’s Pastor Fred Winters. Illinois Baptists were shocked when the beloved pastor was gunned down while preaching the Sunday morning message from the pulpit.

Serving on the IBSA staff, I first got to know Pastor Fred when he served two terms as IBSA vice president and then another two as president. He was always easy going and willing to answer questions for articles in the Illinois Baptist. I remember running into him and his wife, Cindy, one year at the Southern Baptist Convention where they were planning to hand out water to gay rights supporters protesting the convention. He talked about how it would be a good way to show Christ’s love.

First Baptist Maryville recently held a memorial service to mark the anniversary of his death. I was among the hundreds who attended the service, looking on as old friends came together to remember the pastor who grew the church from 35 to over 1,200. Illinois pastors have often said how Pastor Fred’s teaching from his experience “breaking the barriers” enabled them to grow stronger churches. Fred was always willing to share of his experience and himself.

In video testimonies, friends, church members, and former staff bore witness to the difference Pastor Fred had made in their lives, how his burden for the lost became their burden for the lost, how his vision became their vision.

The most poignant moment of the evening came when Cindy addressed the assembly. She shared how she and her daughters, with God’s help, journeyed through their grief and continue to do so. Their faith has been made stronger having learned not to give up.

Still, she likened the evening to biting into a chocolate tomato—“sweet at first on the outside and kind of sour and bitter on the inside.” Such a strange comparison and yet, such a truism. Isn’t that how we all feel in some way? Not only about Pastor Fred, but our own lost loved ones remembered? Whether through death, divorce, separation, or other kinds of loss, what a taste remembrance can leave in your mouth.

Winters’s life and legacy of faith was worthy of celebration. At the end of the service, it was easy to imagine Pastor Fred among the great cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 12, cheering Illinois Baptists on as they run the race sharing Christ with their friends and neighbors just like he did.

Luther movie

Joseph Fiennes as “Luther” (dir. Eric Till, 2003)

Before a few years ago, I couldn’t have told you the day or the month or the year (and probably not even the century) that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door. But now I know, thanks to a church history buff (and seminary grad) community group leader and the 2003 movie “Luther.”

Most years, on the Wednesday evening that falls closest to October 31, our group gathers in the living room to watch a scene or two from the film that chronicles the life of the most famous Reformer. We’ve cheered on Joseph Fiennes as his Luther, full of righteous anger, rebels against the corrupt religious practices of his day. We’ve seen his determination and grit (the movie, true to its medieval roots, even feels dusty). And we’ve learned what Luther was actually rebelling against — the sale of indulgences to secure pardon from sin—and marveled at how foreign that concept is to us in our modern-day church.

Watching those clips has become a fun way to celebrate Reformation Day, and to wink at that other holiday that falls on October 31. But what I haven’t appreciated until recently is the opportunity to learn about Luther with people who—with me—are inheritors of the revolutionary changes he and his fellow Reformers set into motion.

As we mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, maybe this is the year to settle in and reflect more fully on Luther’s legacy. Maybe this year, it’s time to finish the movie.

– Meredith Flynn

Lessons from Tom Adams

ib2newseditor —  March 31, 2016
Tom Adams

Tom Adams

It still surprises and moves me that so many people in Illinois Baptist churches fondly remember my father Tom Adams, or at least his writing. Dad entered his eternal life with the Lord ten years ago, just one month after I began my role here as IBSA’s executive director. Yet more often than not when I visit a church, one or more of its members will tell me how much my dad or his writing meant to them.

In fact, it’s not uncommon for one of those older church members to reach into their Bible and pull out a yellowed clipping of one of his columns because it met a particular, deep need in their lives. Dad wrote for the Illinois Baptist for 34 years, through columns such as “Problem Corner,” or “Ask Tom Adams.” So he became a sort of corresponding counselor to many.

Frankly, I thought I would have my dad’s counsel for a few more years here in Illinois.  Instead I have needed to rely on the years I had to observe him as father, pastor, and associational leader. With his memory in my heart, here are some of the lessons I learned from Tom Adams.

1. Writing broadens and lengthens influence.
Dad never pastored a large church, nor held a position of great stature. But because he wrote down carefully considered thoughts at least every couple of weeks for decades, he touched tens of thousands of people he wouldn’t have otherwise.

2. Few words can be more impactful than many words.
Dad was a man of few words interpersonally, and the format of his columns gave him only a little room to express an opinion or idea in writing. But he demonstrated both in speech and writing that a few, carefully considered words can have great impact. Apparently they also fit better in your Bible.

3. Readers are better leaders.
My dad would be the first to admit that his wisdom didn’t come from his own deep intellect or extensive formal education. But he was one of the more widely read men I have ever known. Just ask my mom, whose house is still filled with an incredible variety of books, even after giving many away. I’ve never been the avid reader my dad was. But I’ve rarely gone in to a serious meeting or problem without doing my homework.

4. Face your fears with faith.
I didn’t know it until years later, but my dad was scared to death to move our family from Southern Illinois to the Chicago area. My mom tells me he became physically ill over the decision to follow God’s call there. What was very hard for him became very good for me, and in their own ways for the rest of our family. For reasons I can’t go into here, I doubt very much if I would be at IBSA today if he hadn’t made that move when I was fourteen. But his example helps me face my fears with faith, even today.

5. Invest fully where you are.
Dad was never a self-promoter, or a ladder-climber. I know he dreamed of another position or two in his life, but he always chose to invest fully where he was called, until God through others beckoned him elsewhere. Me too.

I jotted down some other lessons I learned from Tom Adams: Do what you know is right, and trust God with the consequences. Marry well and let your spouse be herself.  How you say something can be just as important as what you say.  Some burdens are best borne privately.  Leaders come in all personality types.

A few years ago my mom and I helped my dad organize some of his Illinois Baptist columns into a book, titled after one of his columns, “Speaking Out.” If you don’t have a copy and will write me, I will be glad to send you one. He would be pleased for you to have it.  And I will be pleased for his influence to touch your life, as it deeply has mine.

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

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.

Nate_AdamsCOMMENTARY | Nate Adams

Just a few days ago, my wife, Beth, and I finally got around to doing something we had promised ourselves we would do for years. We updated our wills.

It’s only the second time in our married life that we have drawn up wills, and this time around it was quite different. For one thing, our young adult sons are now old enough to play significant, legal roles in matters such as our future healthcare decisions and finances. Frankly, it felt a little sobering this time around to assign those responsibilities to our children rather than our parents.

We also discovered that the people and causes to which we wish to entrust our earthly possessions at life’s end have, at least in some cases, evolved. Our confidence in the effectiveness of some ministries has increased, while in others it has decreased. Even within the ministries we have always planned to support with our estate, we now have more specific causes we want to empower.

But by far the biggest difference in updating our estate plan this time around was in the help we had doing it. This time we had a wonderful tool from the Baptist Foundation of Illinois called the “Life Stewardship Navigator.” And we had the expert help of our friend and BFI Executive Director Doug Morrow.

The Life Stewardship Navigator is simply a do-ityourself document that walks you through the different types of assets and decisions you need to consider as you form your estate plan. It helped us pull together our records and documents, and talk through key decisions we needed to make as a couple.

With that information in hand, we were ready to sit down with Doug and discuss the best ways to both
take care of our family and invest in Christian causes well beyond our lifetimes. Doug called it “taking
care of both the kids and the Kingdom.”

With Doug’s office here in Springfield where we live, having that conversation with him personally was easiest for us. But the Foundation also has qualified attorneys all over the state who make it relatively
easy for any Illinois Baptist to have that same helpful conversation.

Frankly, the hardest part of the entire process was not filling out the Life Stewardship Navigator, or
walking through the paperwork with Doug. The hardest part was simply sitting down as a couple and
making some of the biggest decisions of our lives about our life stewardship as disciples of Jesus

Though we are lifelong tithers and seek to be generous with Kingdom causes beyond our tithe, we realized during this process that our estate plan would far exceed even our lifetimes of weekly giving
through our church. What we chose to do with the accumulated wealth of our lives, however large or
small that might be, would be our largest single opportunity ever to contribute financially to God’s
Kingdom on earth. So prayerfully, thoughtfully, we wrote out a plan that will care for our family, and that will support ministries that advance the Gospel and support Baptist churches and ministries, especially here in our Illinois mission field.

I realize now that the day I sat down with my spouse to outline our estate plan was, in effect, my own personal Memorial Day. It was the day I was able to intentionally choose the values that I want to
memorialize my life, and to stand the tests of time and eternity.

I know that my life is about far more than my material possessions. But I also know that where my
treasure is, there my heart is also. So I chose to communicate to God that the biggest giving opportunity of my life places His Kingdom as the top priority. We can all do that. After all, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

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

tableHEARTLAND | Erich Bridges, from Baptist Press

We hauled the old kitchen table out to the curb the other day.

My wife found another table she liked at a yard sale. The old one was battered and beat up, so it had to go. We called a charity group to pick it up. I was in a hurry to go somewhere. My wife had errands to run, too. So we left it there. No moment of silence. No fond farewell. When we came home that afternoon, it was gone.

I felt a pang of sadness when I thought about it later. That old table deserved a better send-off than we gave it.

It wasn’t an antique or a fine work of craftsmanship, just a pine table from a low-end furniture store. But it was the center of our home for nearly 30 years. It’s where we got to know each other, where we talked, argued and made up. The first time our infant son laughed out loud, he was watching an empty pop bottle roll across the tabletop (he thought that was hilarious for some reason). The kids spent countless hours wriggling around underneath it as toddlers — and countless hours doing school projects atop it. My parents, both gone now, rocked their grandchildren to sleep beside it.

How many meals did we eat together around that table? How many prayers did we pray?

“Things don’t matter; people do,” was the motto of Martha Myers, the late, great missionary physician who spent her life — and ultimately gave it — serving the people of Yemen. For her, things had significance only if they could be used to help the needy. She had little interest in personal possessions for their own sake.

Martha was right. Things don’t matter. But things do have meaning, if we use them for people. That’s the difference between selfishly accumulating stuff and blessing others with it.

A missionary in Africa broke one of his sandals recently. What to do? “I did what I have always done,” he wrote. “I went to what I considered a nice store, sought out a pair of sandals that I thought would be serviceable and purchased them for $24. An astronomical price for the Africans, I am sure. But I am an American. When things break we don’t fix them; we throw them away. My new sandals broke two days later. I asked a local friend what he would do.

“‘Fix them,’ he replied. Apparently there are men all over town who repair shoes for a living. He took my old sandals home. The next morning he brought them back, having sewn the sole of my favorite sandal to the upper part. Amazing! They still work. They feel great. Cost: $1. I had them fix my new sandals as well for the same price.”

The missionary also brought a new soccer ball with him from America, but it wouldn’t hold air.

“I went and bought another ball. The Africans with whom I was playing asked if they could have my broken ball. ‘Why?’ I asked.

“‘Because we can sell it,’ they replied. They were able to get $4 for it. Apparently one of the boys from the area took some glue and inserted it into the hole and plugged the leak. Who knows how long it will stay inflated, but some kid and I are each $2 richer!

“What have I learned? God is teaching me how to be a better steward of what He has given me. Can what I am about to throw away be repaired or used again in some other way? In America, when something breaks, you replace it. In Africa, we are learning to see things differently — and even find the value in something that looks ‘broken.'”

I wish I had done that with our good old kitchen table.

Erich Bridges is an International Mission Board global correspondent.

pull quote_ADAMSjuneHEARLTAND | Nate Adams

I would love to have the privilege of worshiping in every Illinois Baptist church. When I began with IBSA, I remember calculating that if I visited two churches a week, it would take about 10 years to get to all 1,000 churches. Visiting one new church per week is probably more realistic, but that would require 20 years, longer than any IBSA executive director has served.

But after seven years, I’ve learned it is more than time that limits the number of churches I can visit in a year. For one thing, I need to be in my home church at least occasionally, even if it’s only once a month. And then there are weeks when I must be out of the state, such as at the recent Southern Baptist Convention.

What would help me most of all to get acquainted with more churches, however, is simply an invitation. Sometimes people assume IBSA staff members are too busy to come to their church, or that their church is too small or too far away. That’s simply not true!

I absolutely love it when I receive an invitation to a church where I have never been before. The reality is that some churches tend to invite our staff to come over and over again, and of course we’re glad to do that too. But what really gets me pumped to drive on a Sunday morning is to know I’m going to meet some new people in a new place, even if I have to look up the town on a map to figure out where it is!

When I look at where I’ve been the past few years, I realize I could have been in a much higher percentage of IBSA churches. In fact, I would like to devote the next several months to worshiping in churches where I’ve never attended. If you pastor or attend one of those churches, please just invite me to come!

It doesn’t matter to me whether you need me to preach that day or not. I would enjoy worshiping with you and hearing a good sermon from an IBSA pastor just as much, if not more. Just invite me to church like I hope you do your neighbors every week!

That’s what I’ve been thinking recently as I’ve been “looking where I’ve been.” But let me also challenge you as a church to look where you’ve been as well.

When I get ready to visit a church for the first time, my assistant Sandy prints out for me the statistical history for that church, as well as the association it is in and directions, etc. These help me know a little about the setting into which I’m going.

Recently our director of information and support services, Drew Heironimus, has completed 20-year statistical summaries for every IBSA church. In other words, we can send you a brief report that shows your church’s worship and Sunday School attendance, baptisms, church program enrollments, missions giving, and more for the past 20 years. Recently my son Noah joined one of our church’s staff, and it’s the first thing he requested from IBSA. I guess he knew it’s easier to figure out where you need to go once you understand a little about where you’ve been.

Looking at where I’ve been these past few years makes me want to come to your church, especially if I’ve never been there before. Maybe looking at where you’ve been as a church over the past 20 years will give you some new insights, and new desires as well.

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

pull quote_ADAMS_mayCOMMENTARY | Nate Adams

When our family went out for a celebration dinner recently, it was with a larger than normal group. In addition to my wife, Beth, and me and our three sons, we were accompanied by two grandmothers, two girlfriends, and one new daughter-in-law.

That made our party large enough for a reservation and special table at the local Olive Garden restaurant. And as the host led our tribe of 10 to its table, he asked, “So what are we celebrating tonight?”

We informed him that our middle son Noah had just graduated from college. Our host responded with congratulations, and another question, this time directed at the guest of honor: “So what was your major, son, and what comes next?”

Noah didn’t hesitate to tell the friendly man that he was a Christian Ministry major at Judson University, and that he would begin June 1 as the Youth and Associate Pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Elgin.

Our host’s final question took me by surprise. “And do I take it that you’re going into the family business?”

I looked again, more closely this time, at our host to see if I knew him, or if perhaps he knew someone in our family, but neither was the case. I guess he just noted the pride in my smile when Noah told him what he would be doing.

That didn’t stop my mom from treating him like an old friend. “Well, I would never have thought to describe it that way, but you’re right. His grandfather, my husband, was in ministry for years. And this is my son Nate, and he’s in ministry. So yes, I guess Noah is the third generation of ministers in this family, and that’s sort of like going into the family business.”

“I thought maybe that was the case,” our host replied with a smile, and then excused himself to leave us in the hands of our server.

That brief encounter left me thinking about what it means for someone to enter “the family business” of church ministry here in Illinois. My son and I certainly aren’t the first. From time to time I meet sons, grandkids, even great-grandkids of ministers here in Illinois who are now serving as pastors or other leaders in IBSA churches.

“Maybe you know my dad,” they often say. Or sometimes, “I don’t know if you knew my grandfather or not. He’s gone to be with the Lord now, but he served churches here in Illinois for years.”

When I meet multiple-generation Illinois Baptists like that, I usually find I’m in a church that is being blessed with a deeply committed leader, one who serves out of spiritual motivation, but also with a deep sense of family heritage. Their eyes twinkle with the idea that their dad or their granddad would be proud of their church leadership. They are building on the foundation of his life’s service. And they are often raising their own children with the hope that they will lead well in the church some day too.

Not every pastor’s child chooses to go into ministry, any more than every farmer’s child or every coal miner’s child or every teacher’s child chooses to follow in their parent’s footsteps. God leads us individually in our life callings, and the world needs devoted Christians in all walks of life. But there is something unique and meaningful, something to be uniquely celebrated, when church leadership becomes the multi-generational pattern of a family’s life.

Our server at Olive Garden that night didn’t know our family personally. But somehow he sensed that what we were celebrating that night was Christian, and church-related, and multi-generational, lasting, and special. And every time it happens here in Illinois, we should all celebrate.

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

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond to his column at

Turtle on a fence post

Meredith Flynn —  April 15, 2013

Turtle on Fence Post[3]HEARTLAND | Nate Adams

There is an old saying that if you ever see a turtle sitting on a fence post, you can be sure of one thing: It didn’t get there by itself.

As I begin my eighth year with IBSA, I identify very much with that turtle. On one hand, seven years is a long time, long enough for me to write more than 170 columns for The Illinois Baptist. On the other hand, my father Tom Adams wrote at least 850 columns here, over the course of 34 years. Like many of you, I read his insights on church life, Baptist life, and life in general for decades. So I still feel indebted to my dad for whatever perspective and service I have to offer IBSA churches.

It’s hard for me to think about my early days at IBSA without thinking about my dad. My mom tells me he was so excited about my coming back to Illinois, and to IBSA in particular, that he would fall asleep in his recliner with the Illinois Baptist in his lap, open to the article about my selection to serve here. And yet a month to the day after I started at IBSA, Dad passed away.

During these years since then, I have often thought how nice it would have been to have my dad around. He loved IBSA, and the Illinois Baptist, and the pastors and members of IBSA churches. Though he was basically quiet and introverted, he knew many, many people through his writing and ministry roles. He understood a lot about people and churches, how they work together, and why they sometimes don’t. Many times I have wished I could pick up the phone and ask him a question.

But it’s not like I’ve been without his help. Though my dad’s been gone for seven years now, I still rarely go into a church for the first time without someone telling me how much he or she appreciated his wisdom and his writing. Often they have a favorite column or two clipped and in their Bible. One dear lady told me she still has one framed and hanging over her desk at work. As often as not, these folks say they never met dad personally. But frequently they will say they felt as if they knew him.

Of course, if my dad ever heard anyone praising his writing, he would quickly point to Dr. Robert Hastings, who edited the Illinois Baptist for many years, and who was a wonderful writer as well. Dad frequently said that if Dr. Hastings hadn’t “taken a chance” on him as a young writer, he would never have had the opportunities or influence that he did.

And dad wouldn’t want to stop there. He would want me to point out that every column he scribbled by hand on a yellow pad of paper was typed up for publication by my mom, who added her own skilled editing and insight to the final product.

Of course my mom would want to point to her parents, and how they sacrificed for her education, and how their support of her made it possible for her to support my dad with her skills. And if my grandparents were here, well, I trust you get the point.

We are all turtles on our own fence posts, aren’t we? Whether it’s our parents, or the pastor or leader that served before us, or the faithful families that founded or sustained our church or that brought the Gospel to our area, none of us arrived at our places of service and opportunity without the help of others. We would do well to thank them when we have a chance, and to pledge to them that we will do the same for others. From my fence post today, thanks Dad.

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