Archives For Missions

Our journey together

Lisa Misner —  September 13, 2018

MIO Logo 500pxBy Nate Adams

I suppose the most self-indulgent car I’ve ever owned was one we purchased just after Beth and I were married. It was a sporty little Honda Prelude, with barely any back seat and just enough trunk space for the two of us.

Then, as our family grew, we found we needed cars with bigger back seats and more trunk space. The arrival of our third son pushed us into a mini-van, and longer trips even required a cartop carrier for all the stuff that tended to go with us. Last spring, with two daughters-in-law now in our family troupe, our family vacation required the rental of something called a “people mover,” with nine seats plus cargo space.

Yes, it costs more and more and takes extra effort for a growing family to travel together. But it’s worth it. Sure, things like your destination and everyone’s comfort are important. But just as important are the relationships that grow, and the experiences you share, as you travel together.

Our journey

That’s also how I feel about our journey and mission together as churches, here in Illinois. Sure, where we are going together is important: We want to reach people with the gospel, and to develop disciples and leaders who can help our churches grow, and start new churches, and go to the mission fields of the world.

But the relationship between and among churches and leaders is important too, and somewhat unique to state and local missions. Here we are close enough, not just to do missions together, but to grow together, and sometimes hurt together, as family.

State missions isn’t only about evangelism and church planting and training leaders, though we certainly invest a lot in those priorities. It’s also helping one another through pastoral transitions, or church conflict, or legal issues. It’s doing camps together. It’s planning mission trips or experiences for multiple leaders, or kids, or students, or churches, when one church can’t do that alone.

It’s answering the phone when a church has a need, and sometimes jumping in the car to bring some help or encouragement or resources. It’s celebrating big church anniversaries together, or the long tenure of a devoted pastor. Sometimes it’s crying together at a funeral.

When churches throughout a state decide not to travel alone, but to band together, and work together, and put a state staff and ministries in place, they are doing more than giving money to send missionaries, as important as that is. They are deciding to journey together in a shared mission field, and to do life together, for better or worse, in a way that isn’t really practical in North American missions or international missions.

I would never take anything away from the challenges that our sister, southern state conventions face. But I will say that when a few hundred Southern Baptist churches that average 75 in attendance take on a northern state like Illinois, with mammoth cities like Chicago and St. Louis, and with a population that is 175 times the total worship attendance of our churches, our journey together is a little more uphill than most.

But this is our mission field. This is where we journey together. It’s not always easy or comfortable. But it’s worth it.

This week, churches across our state will receive a special offering, the Mission Illinois Offering. It helps provide what we need for the journey together. Please consider a generous gift, through your church or through the IBSA.org website, if your church isn’t receiving the offering. Every year we travel together brings new challenges. But, for the sake of the lost here, and the glory of our God, our journey together is worth it.

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

Leading women 2

Halsey (at the mic) leads at panel discussion at the 2018 Priority Conference.

Carmen Halsey has a passion for educating and empowering godly women. As IBSA’s director of women’s ministry, she organizes leadership training cohorts, large equipping events, and mission trips in Illinois and abroad. Her desire is to help women find their God-given gifts, and to bring those gifts to build up the local church and carry the gospel to the marketplace. “We’re investing in you,” she tells women as they grow into leaders, “so you be ready to invest in others.”

 

Halsey (second from left in photo above) said she tends to see where “God has women versus where he doesn’t have women.” According to the U.S. Department of Labor, almost 47% of the country’s workers are women and 70% of mothers with children under the age of 18 are in the workforce.

One of those women is Andrea Cruse. “When I met her, she was already a young mother, she was already a pastor’s wife, but one of the things that intrigued me about Andrea was re-engaging the workforce, and wondering where she was going to fit,” shared Halsey.

Cruse, who is married to Adam Cruse, pastor of Living Faith Baptist Church in Sherman and has three young children, has been the recipient of Halsey’s leadership through Illinois Baptist Women (IBW).

Andrea Cruse

Cruse

“Carmen has taught me to be a leader in the marketplace and my church by just allowing me the opportunity and inviting me to participate in the cohorts that are available,” Cruse said. “I’ve just gained valuable knowledge on those foundational leadership skills that have proved significant in my own personal marketplace.”

 

Cruse began sharing the leadership skills she was learning with her supervisors at work, and when an opportunity for advancement came up, she was tapped for the position.

She credits Halsey and IBW, saying when she expressed doubts about accepting the new management role, her supervisor told her, “Andrea, we can teach you what you don’t know, what we need is your leadership skills.”

“And it was at that moment,” Cruse said, “I was just so thankful that IBW and Carmen were willing to invest in me and provided me with the resources to develop those skills.”

Halsey’s work is possible, in part, because of support from the Mission Illinois Offering & Week of Prayer. Collected annually in September by IBSA churches and designated exclusively for ministry in Illinois, this offering supports IBSA missionaries and staff in missions especially needed within the state. That includes Illinois Baptist Women, the group within the IBSA Church Resources Team that focuses on growing women in their roles as disciples, missions mobilizers, and leaders. Under Halsey’s guidance, that has grown to include leadership at home, church, mission field, and in the marketplace.

That’s one main theme of the annual Priority Conference Halsey organizes for Illinois women. “Priority provides a safe environment for us to come and learn together. We can ask questions. We don’t have to feel foolish; we don’t have to shy away from some hard conversations,” Halsey said.

Her conferences have approached hard topics such as assisting refugees, human trafficking, and sexuality. And leadership. “Women are influential folks, and sometimes they just need someone to tell them that.”

Growing influence
Another woman who has benefited from Halsey’s leadership is Becki McNeely. She is a member of Lakeland Baptist Church with a rich heritage.

McNeely is the wife of Brandon McNeely, Baptist Collegiate Ministries director at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. She is also the daughter of Lakeland’s pastor Phil Nelson and the granddaughter of International Mission Board missionaries Jack and Ava Shelby. Even with that pedigree, taking on leadership roles in her church could be intimidating. Until she met Halsey.

“I felt like I was thrown into being a leader until I met Carmen,” NcNeeley said. “She poured so much into me personally through leadership cohort groups. If it had not been for Carmen, I wouldn’t have had the tools I needed to lead.

“I couldn’t put a price tag on how much I learned from her.”

Jacqueline Scott

Scott

Jacqueline Scott, a member of Dorrisville Baptist Church in Harrisburg, may be retired, but the natural born leader isn’t about to slow down. Since becoming active in Illinois Baptist Women, Scott said, “Carmen increased in me a sense of urgency to be serious about the Great Commission. The world is going so fast, we’ve got to catch up, get into the game.”

 

Last summer Scott joined Halsey on a mission trip at the southern tip of the state in Cairo. Scott said the experience taught her, “We need to be ready, better equipped. The Cairo mission trip was a learning curve for me.” She described how many of the people they met while going door-to-door said they practiced other religions. They “challenged” her.

Halsey noticed.

“Jacqueline just saw oppression that her eyes had never seen before,” she said. “And what I loved is that her inner leader just came out. There was a boldness, there was a confidence there that can only come from God.”

Scott agreed. “When I went to Cairo, it was good for me to be there.”

Halsey’s work includes encouraging women in missions mobilization. Her team has led mission trips to Chicago and New Orleans, Europe and South Asia, and has urged Illinois Baptist Women to engage their own neighbors and communities with the gospel.

“It does make me proud—you know, godly proud—when I see somebody succeeding,” Halsey said. And that encourages her in her work with Illinois Baptist Women all the more.

A call to prayer
Please encourage your church to pray for state missions during the Mission Illinois Offering & Week of Prayer, September 9-16. Pray especially for women’s ministry and missions across the state, and the development of leaders through Illinois Baptist Women. Pray for Carmen Halsey and all the members of the IBSA Church Resources Team as they equip churches and leaders for ministry.

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering.

Families take an all-in approach to community transformation

Rodriguez Family

In one of their city’s most dangerous neighborhoods, the Rodriguez family is advancing the gospel by building relationships and trusting God to work.

On a family prayer walk, Edgar Rodriguez helped his children see their neighborhood in a new light. The pastor of New City Fellowship in Chicago’s Humboldt Park asked his kids what they saw as they walked.

“Our oldest said, ‘I see children,’” Edgar said. His response: “This is your mission right here.”

In the second-deadliest neighborhood in Chicago, Edgar and his wife, Sonia, are raising their seven children to play an integral role in transforming their community by sharing—and living— the gospel.

They’ve heard the questions about living in a dangerous place, Edgar said. “Why don’t you move out of there?”

“We believe that we have the solution to change their hearts, which is Jesus. Everything else is going to fall short,” said the church planter who launched New City Fellowship three years ago.

“We can’t leave.”

Sonia says, “If I’m giving my children the gospel, and they can give the gospel to another child, why wouldn’t I train them up for other people in the neighborhood to possibly know Christ?”

Life together
Edgar didn’t want to go back to his old neighborhood to plant a church. He was frustrated with the people—“his own people,” he said. Humboldt Park is undergoing gentrification, meaning coffee shops are popping up, along with more expensive housing. And a new demographic—hipsters—are joining large African-American and Hispanic populations.

Spiritually, though, religious tradition still had more influence than culture-impacting gospel ministry. But the couple sensed God was moving them back to the neighborhood where they both spent at least part of their childhoods.

“God, forgive me for being like Jonah,” Edgar remembers praying.

“We knew the mess that existed, but through prayer and counsel and things of that nature, we just kept telling one another that it makes sense. If the darkness in this neighborhood is what it is, and we’re light, it’s actually kind of foolish and cowardice to leave it like it is.”

Three years ago, the Rodriguezes started New City Fellowship in their apartment. Once they outgrew the space, they moved into the Humboldt Park headquarters of the Chicago Metro Baptist Association.

Planting a church in a tough neighborhood has its challenges, especially when you open your own home like the Rodriguezes have tried to do. They’ve invited drug addicts and dealers to share meals at their table. When a former friend reached out for help and a place to stay, they let him live with them for a while. That particular encounter resulted in Edgar sustaining a blow to the head when the man threw his phone at him in anger.

Months later, Edgar saw the man again. He walked up to him and reached out his arms. “Who would I be if I would not extend to you what Jesus extended to me?” the pastor explains now.

As they engage their neighbors, the couple exercises wisdom when it comes to protecting their children, but they say total security is an unreachable goal. They move forward holding out the gospel, and trusting God to work.

“Even at my best as a husband, as a father, as a protector, I can’t bullet-proof my family,” Edgar says. “When you look at Scripture, God didn’t avoid putting his people in the world. He gave his son knowing what he was going to face.”

New City Fellowship meets on Sunday for worship, but the church also gathers several times during the week for Bible study and meals together. It’s an approach they call “life on life,” which Edgar admits sounds a little cliché, even to them. But it’s a way to describe how they’re trying to integrate gospel-centered community into the everyday rhythms of life—eating, shopping, laundry, etc. What can their small group of Christians do together, so that the gospel goes forward as they disciple each other?

Some people would say it’s too much, Edgar says, and it could be, if you’re going out of your way. But the things their church does together, they’re already doing.
“It’s not a burden for us, and it’s not too much for us. And other families are starting to realize, ‘I need this.’”

The Marshes

The Marshes of Macon are renovating an old church building to create a gathering space for their neighbors.

Opening their doors
Marsh church renovationIn a small community three hours from Humboldt Park, Alan and Marie Marsh are creating a permanent space to welcome their neighbors. When the Marshes moved to Macon, just south of Decatur, they didn’t settle in a traditional house. Instead, they purchased a century-old church building they plan to transform into a community center.

“We believe that wherever the Lord puts us is where we need to reach out,” said Marie, who, as a baker and artist, has big plans for the former Presbyterian church that sits in a neighborhood of quaint homes.

The Marshes live in an office/classroom wing that was added to the original sanctuary, and the family uses the sanctuary to host a “life group” of people from their church, Tabernacle Baptist in Decatur. Eventually, the space could include a library, coffee shop, and other spaces for people in Macon to come together and, as Marie put it, take a little break from their world.

“One thing that I feel like I’ve learned throughout the years is that there are hurting people everywhere,” she says. People might not want to walk into a church they’re new to, but her family can offer their neighbors a place to sit and read and relax. “I look at that as kind of our ministry,” Marie says. “They can walk in the door and they’re going to be loved.”

The Marshes share the space with daughters Grace, 12, and KatieAnn, 22, both of whom are invested in their parents’ outreach to the community. KatieAnn “is the one that goes all in when there’s an outreach that I’m a part of,” Marie says, “like helping with Grace or making, decorating, and packaging 600 cupcakes for our church’s Easter outreach. She has a giving heart that doesn’t stop.”

Sixth grader Grace also plays a key role in building relationships. She was the Marshes first foster child placement, and the couple adopted her when she was three. “To her, there’s no such thing as a stranger,” Marie says of her daughter.

Because the Marshes have fostered several children during her lifetime, Grace is accustomed to people coming and going. “And now when children come into her life, they’re her immediate friends. She welcomes them,” Marie says. “Her role is just to be herself.”

Macon is a small community, and quiet—except on the school bus Marie drives, she jokes. When the Marshes moved to Illinois, she homeschooled Grace. Once she enrolled in public school last fall, Marie got her bus license and a job as a route driver. The job has given her an opportunity to meet families in town.

It’s Marie’s own history as a child in need of a home that motivates her and her family to reach out to others with similar needs.

“I looked at it as people opening up their home for me,” she says of her years as a foster kid, “so opening up my home to someone else is a way for me to give back to God.” Her voice breaks when she acknowledges, “You can’t repay, except to do unto others as it was done unto you in that sense.”

The Marshes are taking the long view of renovating their new home and future community gathering place. They envision family movie nights, craft sessions, and maybe a place for a church to hold a worship service again. For now, their mission is to be open to the possibilities.

“We invest in people’s lives,” Marie says. “And how we do that is just by opening up our lives and our doors to them.”

-Meredith Flynn

Growing up, letting go

ib2newseditor —  April 5, 2018

Growing up“I have to go to work.”

The 2-year-old in our house pushes her hair away from her face, shoulders a miniature pink backpack, and starts trudging to the back door.

“Don’t go!” we say. “Stay here with us. It’s almost time for dinner.”

She replies, dutifully, “No. I have to go.”

She’s growing up—fast. And she’s not the only one. Everywhere you look, young people are taking on big responsibilities previously reserved for people older than they are. High schoolers take college courses. Tweens have detailed social calendars, and the mobile devices to manage them. There is a 6-year-old who made $11 million last year marketing toys on YouTube.

Some kids are tackling the most pressing issues of our day, the most recent example being the Florida teens campaigning for an end to school violence like the shooting that devastated their community earlier this year.

As an adult, especially as a parent, it’s easy to want to lock the doors, pull down the shades, and resolve to just make life work inside our house for the next 15 years.

At Children’s Missions Day this month, I saw evidence that many parents aren’t parenting like that. Hundreds of mini-missionaries worked in 16 locations across Illinois, baking cookies, tending yards, delivering care packages, and visiting nursing homes—all in the name of sharing God’s love with people who might need to hear about it.

My 2-year-old went with me to take photos at one of the sites that day, and I watched her watch the older kids. On the way home, I heard her voice from the backseat: “When I get older and bigger, can I do projects?”

Her question begs an answer—and a commitment—from her parents. To let her grow up and exercise the faith we pray she’ll make her own one day. To trust that God has a plan for her life that may include going somewhere we’ve not been, and can’t go along.
In a scary world, it’s a heavy commitment. We have time to get used to the idea, but not as much as we once did. They’re growing up fast.

The Briefing

‘Great Commission’ lacks great understanding among churchgoers
51% of churchgoers say they haven’t heard of the Great Commission, according to new research from Barna that also shows only 17% say they know the meaning of the Scripture passage where Jesus tells his followers to make disciples of all nations. But the data doesn’t necessarily mean people aren’t sharing their faith, say the researchers.

“The data indicates that churches are using the phrase less, which may reveal a lack of prioritizing or focusing on the work of the Great Commission, but may also indicate that the phrase, rather than the scriptures or the labor, has simply fallen out of favor with some.”

FBC Sutherland Springs set to rebuild
The church massacred by a gunman’s attack last November will launch a new building project in May with the “primary goal…to lift Jesus up in the community,” said Frank Pomeroy, pastor of First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The North American Mission Board, a missions agency of the Southern Baptist Convention, will accept donations for the project and cover any remaining costs for the construction of the church’s new worship center and education building, Baptist Press reports.

SBC Executive Committee calls meeting to address leadership transition
Following Frank Page’s exit as president of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee, Baptist Press reports the entity’s chairman has called a special meeting April 17 whereExecutive Committee members will have the opportunity to discuss interim leadership matters and elect a presidential search committee. Page announced his retirement from active ministry March 27, citing a “personal failure.”

University event aims to combat ‘Christian Privilege’
Just four days after Easter, George Washington University will host a training session for students and faculty that teaches that Christians — especially white ones — “receive unmerited perks from institutions and systems all across our country.” The April 5 diversity workshop is titled “Christian Privilege: But Our Founding Fathers Were All Christian, Right?!”

Churches trending—slowly—toward diversity
The vast majority of Protestant pastors say their churches are still composed predominantly of one racial or ethnic group, according to data from LifeWay Research. But the percentage is lower than four years ago.

Sources: Barna Research, Baptist Press (2), The College Fix, LifeWay Research

 

 

 

PA-33C-3

By Eric Reed, Church Communication Team

Pioneering Spirit logoThank you for accepting the Pioneering Spirit challenge to “Make New Sacrifices.” This commitment is about doing whatever it takes to advance the gospel through missions. Specifically, it’s a commitment to increase missions giving through the Cooperative Program.

After signing up, one Illinois pastor shared the challenge with his church. In recent years the church had faced some financial difficulties, and the result had been cuts in CP giving. When he shared the challenge with them, the church agreed to double their CP giving from 3% of undesignated offerings to 6%, with a pledge to raise it by 1% each year until they reach 10%.

For churches on tight budgets (and aren’t we all!), that represents sacrifice. But when the pastor made need known, the church rose to the call.

April 8 is Cooperative Program Sunday. That Sunday, or any Sunday in April, will be a good time to start making the need known: 8 million or more people in Illinois do not know Jesus, 5 billion worldwide are lost. And Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program is the most effective channel for sending missionaries and sharing Christ.

Encouragers: As you get started “making new sacrifices,” consider these ways to encourage your church:

  • Awareness of the need
  • Ability to make a difference
  • Actual stories through personal testimony and videos
  • Aspiration to greater service.

We’ll cover these topics in future newsletters. In the meantime, please think about how you will bring the need for sacrificial giving through CP before your church monthly, starting in April. Call on me, if we can help.

And if your church hasn’t made this commitment, please pray about it. God blesses those who support missions (Phil. 4:19).

Downloadable resources:

Meet Southern Baptists

Mission Illinois Bulletin Insert

Annual Report video

CP Rant video 2

PS banner

Just three months into the new year, 115 churches have accepted the Pioneering Spirit Challenge. That’s more than halfway to IBSA’s 2018 goal of 200 or more churches. But for those churches—and for all of us—the work is just beginning.

The Pioneering Spirit Challenge, timed to coincide with Illinois’ bicentennial year, seeks to bring frontier fortitude to Baptist work today. Our forebears lived in trying times, meeting danger head-on, and forging a new state. Many of them brought solid Christian faith to the hard-won territory, and many of those first Illinoisans were Baptists.

If the concepts of wilderness, lostness, and battle seem familiar, it’s because they describe our spiritual frontier today—200 years later.

“It will take as much courage for today’s believers to bring the gospel to the millions in our cities, suburbs, and crossroads communities as it did for first founders to carve out those communities starting at the time of statehood,” said Van Kicklighter, IBSA’s associate executive director for church planting. “Winning over wilderness has gotten no easier in 200 years.”

“We have been encouraged by how many pastors and churches are taking this commitment—and the critical challenge to advance the gospel in our perilous times—seriously.”

Against the reality of at least 8 million lost people in Illinois, Pioneering Spirit engages IBSA churches in church planting, baptisms, missions giving, and leadership development.

Kicklighter and his team have identified 200 locations in Illinois in need of an evangelical church. So far, 82 churches have accepted the challenge to “Go new places,” praying for or partnering with a new church plant.

In addition, 111 churches have said they will “Engage new people,” taking steps to increase their church’s annual baptisms. The “One GRAND Sunday” emphasis on April 8, encourage 1,000 baptisms statewide, is one aspect of this “engagement.” It is led by Pat Pajak, associate executive director for evangelism.

Another 66 churches said they will “Make new sacrifices,” by increasing missions giving through the Cooperative Program. And 111 churches will “Develop new leaders,” preparing tomorrow’s pastors, missionaries, and church leaders to continue the work in the decades ahead.

In all, 115 churches accepted one or more of the challenges since the Pioneering Spirit initiative was announced at the IBSA Annual Meeting in November.

“We have been encouraged by how many pastors and churches are taking this commitment—and the critical challenge to advance the gospel in our perilous times—seriously,” said Kicklighter.

One example in the church planting area: Community Southern Baptist Church in Clay City has taken on the challenge of planting a church in Carroll County. That is one of 10 counties in Illinois with no Southern Baptist congregation. Pastor David Starr told Kicklighter that his church began praying about making the commitment after seeing IBSA’s “blue map” that illustrates lostness in the state.

To learn more about the four Pioneering Spirit challenges, and to register your own church’s commitment to one or more of them, visit PioneeringSpirit.org. Together, we will –

  • Go new places – praying for or partnering with a new church plant
  • Engage new people – taking steps to increase your church’s annual baptisms
  • Make new sacrifices – increasing missions giving through the Cooperative Program
  • Develop new leaders – preparing tomorrow’s pastors, missionaries, and church leaders

– Eric Reed