Archives For Midwest Leadership Summit

Summit gathers 1,000 church leaders for learning, encouragement, and reminder of shared mission

MLS main session

Springfield | Ministry in the Midwest has ups and downs, successes and struggles. The work of advancing the gospel in a diverse, large region requires creativity, perseverance, and a willingness to sacrifice personal preference.

With their common calling in mind, more than 1,000 leaders from 13 Midwest states gathered in Springfield Jan. 23-25 at the Midwest Leadership Summit, a meeting organized every three years by Southern Baptist state conventions in the region.

“We share the same love for our communities and vision to see people come to Christ,” said Tim Burgess, a pastor in Mt. Vernon, Mo., “and getting together is a great reminder that we are not working at this alone.”

The large-group sessions and more than 90 breakouts tackled specific ministries—college campuses, church planting, missions, women, youth, and Disaster Relief, to name a few. Underlying each session was the need to advance the gospel in a culture that’s moving farther away from biblical truth. In our culture of change, one thing has stayed the same, said Detroit’s Darryl Gaddy.

“You look around and notice that nothing stays the same,” said the urban church planting specialist in his keynote address to open the Summit. “Nothing is as it was ten, five, or even two years ago.

“But actually there is one thing that does stay the same. Sin. Oh, the consistency of brokenness. It never takes a vacation. But friends, we are the church. And we, like Peter who raised the lame man up in the name of Jesus Christ, are called to speak into the brokenness.”

Gaddy urged Midwest leaders to be “agents of change” in their communities, which will require obedience when it’s not convenient, becoming less so others can become more, and giving up their rights to someone else—Jesus.

“We have received information for our heads, inspiration for our hearts, and implementation for our hands,” Gaddy said. “Let’s not leave here the same way we came.”

God at work
Like the Midwest itself, leaders in Springfield for the Summit represented a wide variety of contexts, including places where new churches are making inroads into previously unreached communities. North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell facilitated a discussion with four planters who took to the main stage to talk about strategy, cooperation, and the power of prayer.

“There is a quote that I always go to when I think about our church,” said David Choi, pastor of Church of the Beloved in Chicago. “When men work, they work. But when men pray, God works. The great church planter is the Lord. Recruit prayer warriors to lift up your ministry because that’s truly the secret sauce.”

In a few years, Choi’s church has grown from one—himself—to encompass hundreds meeting for worship every weekend. He credited God for the growth, and the prayers of people who live far from his city but have made it a point to lift up Church of the Beloved.

Ezell also introduced Paul Sabino, pastor of Candeo Church on the campus of the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. Sabino is part of The Salt Network, a family of next-generation churches working together to plant churches in major university cities.

“We are seeing the power of God on us and it’s like holding a Dixie cup; it’s overflowing and we can’t contain it,” Sabino said. “Jesus said he would make us fishers of men. The fish are on college campuses and they are hungry. They are crying out for the living God to impact their lives.”

The focus on church planting was encouraging for Christine Watkins, who came to the Summit as a member of Jachin Baptist Church, a 10-month-old church plant in Flint, Mich. Her husband, Derrick, is pastor of the church named for a word found in 1 Kings 7:21. Jachin means “the Lord will establish,” Watkins said.

“I think attending this summit and hearing all the great knowledge and stories of how God has blessed young church plants is part of how God is opening doors and giving direction in how he is going to establish our church.”

‘Pray bigger prayers’
Jeff Iorg, President of Gateway Seminary in Ontario, Ca., understands what it means to advance the gospel in difficult environments.

“Much of what you are experiencing now in the Midwest we experienced 30 years ago in California,” he said during the Summit’s final session. “It seems like an impossible task with formidable obstacles…Yet, I’m here to tell you the gospel is advancing on the West Coast, and healthy churches are growing with denominational influence and cooperation.”

Iorg said the reason for the gospel’s advancement, especially in a hostile cultural environment, can be found in John 14.

“Jesus said in verse 12, ‘I assure you: The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.’

“‘And he will do even greater works than these’—that is quite a sober declaration of Scripture,” Iorg said. “Do you believe the word of God? Do you believe Jesus meant what he said?”

Iorg encouraged leaders to pray and ask God for what is worthy to be asked for in Jesus’ name and to surrender control to the Holy Spirit.

“Confess your powerlessness and ask the Holy Spirit for the filling, guiding, and directing,” he said. “So often, we start to rely on our own strategic plans. That’s not going to work. We must depend on the filling of the Holy Spirit to get the mission done.”

The last step to advancing the gospel in this cultural environment is to teach people to read, understand, and obey the Bible. Iorg said the only time he has seen people transformed is when they engage God’s Word.

“No games, no gimmicks,” Iorg said. “Pray bigger prayers in the name of Jesus. Work in the Holy Spirit’s power and trust him to do supernatural things in you. And find a way to teach people to internalize the Word of God. That’s it. Now let’s go home and do it.”

Kayla Rinker is a freelance writer living in Missouri.

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Church leaders from 13 Midwestern states gathered in Springfield, Ill., this week to share success stories and struggles—and to encourage each other through both—at the Midwest Leadership Summit, a meeting organized every three years by Southern Baptist state conventions in the region.

“We share the same love for our communities and vision to see people come to Christ,” said Missouri pastor Tim Burgess, “and getting together is a great reminder that we are not working at this alone.”

Watch the Midwest Leadership Summit recap video.

Over three days at Springfield’s Crowne Plaza Hotel, around 1,000 people heard from their Midwestern neighbors on a wide range of topics: collegiate church planting, urban ministry, church revitalization, women’s ministry, and a host of others presented in more than 90 breakouts.

In large-group sessions, North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell interviewed four Midwestern church planters who have seen God grow their congregations from as few as one, into churches that welcome hundreds of worshipers each week. Jeff Iorg, president of Gateway Seminary, spoke on advancing the gospel in the current culture. And church planting specialist Darryl Gaddy shared from his experience in Detroit, calling leaders to be agents of change.

IMG_5013“Being a change agent means you have to give up your rights to someone else,” said Gaddy (right). “That someone else is Jesus Christ.”

At a luncheon for Illinois leaders following the summit, participants reflected on the most helpful, encouraging, and challenging things they heard.

Gary West, pastor of North Benton Baptist Church and director of missions for Franklin Baptist Association, said he gained new insight into how to extend the gospel to Millennials, the generation generally categorized as people born between 1981 and 2000.

“I’m re-looking at the dynamics of church and the things you used to do that don’t work anymore,” West said. “It’s not about religion, it’s about relationships.”

Look for more from the Midwest Leadership Summit in the Feb. 5 issue of the Illinois Baptist, online at

The Midwest Leadership Summit Recap (2018) from IL Baptist State Association on Vimeo.



The Briefing

HHS division created to guard right of conscience
A new division within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is earning praise from religious liberty advocates. The Conscience and Religious Freedom Division will “more vigorously and effectively enforce existing laws protecting the rights of conscience and religious freedom, the first freedom protected in the Bill of Rights,” the Trump administration announced Jan. 18.

“I am thankful that HHS recognizes how imperiled conscience rights have been in recent years in this arena and is actively working and leading to turn the tide in the other direction,” said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “Health care professionals should be freed up to care for the bodies and minds of their patients, not tied up by having their own consciences bound.”

Christian student organization takes university to court
A student organization deregistered by the University of Iowa is fighting the school’s decision in court. Business Leaders in Christ (BLinC) was deregistered in November after a former member said he was not allowed to become a leader in the organization because he is gay.

Evangelist Palau shares cancer diagnosis
International evangelist Luis Palau announced last week he is fighting stage 4 lung cancer. Acknowledging healing “would literally take a miracle,” Palau also said he is “completely at peace.”

Parenting research: More kids, not enough time
Two recent Pew Research studies measure current family dynamics, both for moms, who are having more children now than a decade ago; and dads, who say they spend too little time with their kids.

Midwest Baptist leaders meet in Illinois
The Midwest Leadership Summit begins today, drawing Southern Baptist leaders from 13 states to Springfield, Ill., for plenary sessions and breakouts facilitated by ministry leaders in a variety of specialties. Follow along on Twitter with #mwadvance.

Church leaders from 13 states converge for regional Summit

NEWS | Illinois Baptist

“Listen to me, Midwest, the Father is seeking worshipers,” Frank Page intoned. “Every man woman, boy and girl on this globe needs to hear this message.”

The man who calls himself “the SBC’s Chief Encouragement Officer” rallied local church leaders to advance the gospel in a region where Southern Baptists are relatively few and often far between. “I’m not trying to build a bigger denomination,” the CEO of the Convention’s Executive Committee said, “I’m trying to encourage you to help bring worshipers to Christ.”

Spiritual awakening and church revitalization were main themes of the Midwest Leadership Summit held January 20-22.

“What we need, more than a strategy, more than a plan, we need a fresh awakening,” Kansas pastor Andy Addis preached in the opening session. “We want to see God do amazing things, we want to be his hands and feet, that’s why we’re here!”

More than 1,000 pastors and church leaders from the Upper Midwest convened in Springfield for the inspirational equipping conference held every three years. Called the North Central States Rally since its inception 50 years ago, the Summit was renamed this year as it expanded to include 10 Baptist state conventions representing 13 states, from West Virginia to the Dakotas.

The Illinois Baptist State Association hosted the event at the Springfield Crowne Plaza Hotel, providing a more central location as the Summit’s territory expanded on the western side. IBSA executive director Nate Adams chaired the planning committee.

“We drove 10 hours to get here,” one conferee from South Dakota said at the registration desk, telling how his association invited church leaders and brought them in a van.

“It took us two days,” a North Dakota pastor in a bolo tie responded, “but it’ll be worth it.” The buzz in the lobby was positive, as returning attenders told newcomers the value of meeting for leaders who share the challenges of ministry outside the traditional Southern Baptist stronghold.

Henry Hall has been attending the triennial leadership conference since 1984. The director of missions for Salem South Baptist Association said the event was originally designed “for the smaller churches, mission churches, where the pastors are spread out. And most of our churches in the southern part (of Illinois), we’re not as spread out,” Hall said.

“But around the rest of the country, you’ve got to go a long time to find another pastor. And by getting a group together that are all in the same boat, it’s very effective to help them in learning and being what God would have them to be.”

When Gary Frost led Summit attenders to intercede in small groups for children and youth, IBSA’s Pat Pajak (left) prayed with Ken and Kathy Schultz from Crosswinds Church in Plainfield, and a pastor from Iowa.

When Summit speaker Gary Frost led attenders to intercede in small groups for children and youth, IBSA’s Pat Pajak (left) prayed with Ken and Kathy Schultz from Crosswinds Church in Plainfield, and a pastor from Iowa.


Tony Manning lives in Fishers, Indiana, a community of 85,000 people, without a single Southern Baptist church—yet. “The need for everyone is the gospel, and that doesn’t change from East coast to West Coast,” said Manning, a church-planting and mission-teams strategist. “But what does change is how to do things. It’s important to understand the Midwest perspective and how to leverage that in sharing the gospel: How do you do it in Indiana? In Iowa? In Wisconsin?”

Woodie Ladnier has pastored in Iowa since 1991. Recently called to a new congregation, he came looking for fresh ministry ideas. “You know you’re not in the Bible Belt. People in the Midwest are friendly, but you have to earn their trust. You have to be more intentional, because your ol’ buddies aren’t just gonna go to church with you.”

The three-day summit was sponsored by the North American Mission Board, LifeWay Christian Resources, National WMU, and the 10
state conventions. Conferees attended three large-group sessions at the Crowne Plaza, filling the largest ballroom with praises. (“Bless the Lord, O my soul, O-o-o my soul,” they sang; and those three bass thumps ahead of the gutsy response “10,000 reasons for my soul to find…” echoed off the walls.)

Between worship sessions, leaders chose from 135 breakout sessions, state meetings, and affinity groups.

Plan to Pray for Evangelism
Robert Sterling
Imperial, Missouri

Robert Sterling knew his decision to attend the 2015 Midwest Leadership Summit was the right one after the first night. “I called my wife when I got back to the hotel room and said, ‘Well, I just got a spiritual ‘kicking’ and it was just what I needed,’” said the pastor of Windsor Baptist Church in Imperial, Missouri.

Andy Addis, lead pastor of CrossPoint Church, a video-driven multisite church with 11 campuses across Kansas, spoke during the opening session and based his message on Jesus’ parable of the barren fig tree (Luke 13: 6-9). “He reminded us that God expects His church to bear fruit,” Sterling said. “Not hopes; expects. Not wants; expects. That concept really resonated with me.”

Sterling came to the Summit with the intention of finding both guidance and practical tools to bring his church revitalization. He found what he needed in the event’s numerous breakout sessions. He chose sessions on revival, spiritual awakening, evangelism and leadership. He said each of them offered both insight and applicable advice.

“In one of the sessions the speaker said that more than double the baptisms occur in churches that offer evangelism training than those that don’t,” he said. He also learned that though a calendar full of events and programs may not be the best way to win souls to Christ, planning to pray is.

“We need to have more opportunities to pray,” Sterling said. “God uses whatever methods or means to reach people, but the opportunity to seek prayer is vital. Honestly, each of the sessions was very encouraging in terms of reminding us of truths we already
know, but often get lost or forgotten when you are in the middle of the forest.

“Probably my number one takeaway from this is that if I want the church to be revitalized and have a true love of God, I need to make sure that’s where my focus is, too. I need to become what I want them to become.”

Overcome isolation
Tim Batchelor
Princeton, Illinois

Tim Batchelor has pastored Bethel Baptist Church in Princeton, since 2010. Originally from North Carolina, he has found similarities between his upbringing (both of his grandfathers were farmers) and the rural northwest Illinois community he serves. But there are  differences too.

“In North Carolina, if you took the county that I grew up in, there are probably more Southern Baptist churches just in that county than in the entire northwest region of Illinois, and Sinnissippi Baptist Association specifically.”

When asked if his region of Illinois feels unchurched, Batchelor says yes.

“We were talking about that last night at dinner a little bit, and even on our way from our hotel to the session last night. Yeah, it does feel that way, and the need for church planting in particular.

“Sinnissippi Baptist Association has a really ambitious planting strategy; I think it’s just fantastic. But yeah, the need for church planting is huge.”

Second-gen strategies
Aidyl Lesada
Trenton, Michigan

Aidyl Lesada is from a Filipino congregation of about 100 people in Taylor, Michigan. “We are a mother church,” she says of Philippine International Church, which has planted several Filipino congregations in the area, and one just across the Canadian border.

There are about 20,000 Filipino people in Michigan, Lesada says. “Filipinos come here to work and pursue that American dream, and so they give their life, their time for that, and so I guess church will not be a priority. It will just be on the side for them, for them to feel good about it.”

Many have a Catholic background, so making the distinction between faith in Christ and cultural religion is important. Lesada’s church is reaching Filipinos who came to America to work in professional fields, and are now raising second- and third-generation children. Like her own son and daughter. Laughing, she describes them this way: “They’re Filipinos, but they’re not Filipinos.”

Social media for Millennials
Laura Chapman
Red Bud, Illinois

At Laura Chapman’s first Midwest Leadership Summit, the pastor’s wife from Red Bud attended breakout sessions that spoke some of her languages—statistics and social media.

Their congregation is medium-sized and located on the edge of the Metro East area. First Baptist Church of Red Bud, doesn’t have very many Millennials, she said, so a breakout on using social media to reach younger people was helpful.

“You know, there are a lot of people in our churches that don’t know what hashtags are, or keywords, or current things that reach people we’re not reaching,” Chapman said. “And I think just the how-to’s, the nuts and bolts of ‘you gotta update your website, you just have to do that…’ helps bring in generations that we’re not reaching. That was very helpful, and easy to implement.”

One breakout session leader at the Summit said if Millennials can’t find a Facebook page for a church, they wonder what that church is hiding. Chapman understands that kind of thinking. “Nobody in my generation and below trusts people…that’s kind of our thing. So, help them to know you.”

Urban challenges
Donald Johnson
Rock Island, Illinois

This wasn’t the first Midwest Leadership Summit for Donald Johnson, pastor of Destiny Baptist Church of Christ in Rock Island. He traveled to Indianapolis for the “North Central States Rally,” as it was called before this year, and was glad for a slightly shorter commute—three hours instead of five.

“But wherever it is, I’m willing to go, because of the value that we get out of it…We’ve been enriched,” said Johnson, whose church is part of Quad Cities Association.

Destiny’s vision statement is based in Isaiah 56:7, “to be a house of prayer for all races of people.” Their goal is to be multi-racial rather than multi-cultural, Johnson said. “There’s not going to be a segregated heaven, so I don’t want to have a segregated church.”

He was moved by Gary Frost’s closing sermon, which focused in part on the dangers children and teenagers face today. “He got into my neighborhood, which is the same neighborhood he has,” Johnson said. In his community, “We deal with the matter of significant fatherlessness.”

Frost’s message focused on returning to “the valley” after a mountaintop experience. Speaking on Jesus’ transfiguration in Mark 9, he noted how Peter wanted to build shelters for Jesus, Moses and Elijah.

“For me, it was good to be here,” Johnson said. “But I’m not going to be like Peter and John and say, ‘Let’s build three tabernacles here on the mountain and stay.’

“Because we gotta get back to the valley.”

Reported by Meredith Flynn, Eric Reed and Lisa Sergent, with Kayla Rinker and Nick Rynerson.

When leaders gather

nateadamsibsa —  February 2, 2015

Nate_Adams_February2HEARTLAND | Nate Adams

More than 50 years ago, a small group of leaders from six Baptist state conventions here in the Upper Midwest gathered to discuss how they could help churches reach people with the gospel more effectively. They recognized that, even in that day, our Baptist faith and message were counter-cultural, not only to the spiritually lost, but also to those who had been exposed to the religious traditions that dominated the region. Being Southern Baptist in the north was and is not easy. The Midwest is a challenging mission field.

Those leaders returned home, determined to work with local associations to invite 10 leaders per association to the first North Central States Rally. The objective was to encourage stronger evangelism and church planting, and to deliver highly relevant training along with the clear message that Midwest pastors and church leaders were not alone.

I remember the first of these that I attended, back in January 2006. I was serving with the North American Mission Board, and was asked to come and lead a couple of conferences on the Acts 1:8 paradigm for missions strategy in the local church.

Though I had been assured that it happened every three years, I have to admit that I did not expect to find many leaders gathered in snowy Indianapolis in late January. But I was wrong. Almost 900 pastors, church planters, associational leaders, and lay leaders from all over the Midwest came, and eagerly soaked in the training and inspiration provided by Midwest practitioners and state and national SBC leaders.

In the hallways, in small group gatherings, and around the lunch and dinner tables, two central messages were clear. We are all here to advance the gospel in this region, and we are not alone.

That 2006 Rally, and the 2009 and 2012 Rallies that followed it, were all hosted in Indianapolis, which is fairly central to the six state conventions whose leaders gather. But in January 2015, the gathering expanded to include 10 state conventions. It took on a new name, The Midwest Leadership Summit. It attracted more than 1,000 leaders, the largest ever. And we were blessed to host it right here in Springfield, Illinois.

An all too common mindset these days seems to be that it’s too difficult to attract people to meetings. It’s not just that people are busy and travel is expensive. There seems to be a spirit of independence, sometimes even isolationism that can easily creep in to churches and their leaders. It’s easy to convince ourselves that things will be easier, simpler, cheaper, if we just stay home and focus on our own church.

But it is autonomy pulled together into cooperation, not independence pulled apart into isolation, that has produced missions advance by churches over the years. Sure it’s challenging and costly to get together, especially for busy leaders. But when committed, missions-minded leaders gather and ask how they can work together to more effectively advance the gospel, good things are bound to happen.

In the days ahead, we at IBSA will be working more intentionally with associational and church leaders to facilitate key leadership gatherings that are focused on evangelistic, gospel advance. You will see some of those plans elsewhere in this issue.

Some will be fairly local, in the form of leadership cohorts. Some will be “virtual,” facilitated by webinars or other online tools. And yes, some will continue to be statewide, even though that can involve costly time and travel.

We believe the gathering of leaders is worth it. It’s when leaders gather that we can remind one another that the mission of reaching people with the gospel is urgently important, and bigger than any of our individual lives, or churches. We cannot, we must not, allow ourselves to grow isolated or believe that we are meant to do it alone.

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