Archives For Nate Adams

HEARTLAND | Nate Adams

It feels like I have had more than a few challenging days of ministry recently. But today is an especially good Sunday, and I’d like to tell you about it.

I leave home very early, to drive almost 200 miles to an IBSA church where I know the pastor, but have never attended on a Sunday morning. It’s their 70th anniversary, and I have a nice plaque from IBSA to present to them. In all those regards, it’s not really an unusual Sunday.

Nate_Adams_July28What’s a little more unusual is that my wife, Beth, is traveling with me. Our youngest son Ethan is leading the worship team at our home church in Springfield, and Beth would like to be there too. But by evening we will be at the church where our middle son Noah is youth pastor, and so she has decided to come along. So it’s already an especially good Sunday.

We drive past one, two, three IBSA churches, and eventually past the one where I recall speaking three years ago when my oldest son Caleb also shared his testimony. He had just returned to the Lord after years as a prodigal. And as I realize that today my wife is with me, and that all three of our sons are worshiping and serving in an IBSA church, I realize that this is an especially good Sunday.

At the church celebrating its 70th anniversary we are greeted warmly, with appreciation for both IBSA and for our long drive that morning. I watch as an effective pastor loves his people, and they love him back. I meet a 93-year-old former church planter and pastor, who tells me he helped plant one of the first SBC churches in northern Indiana. He’s surprised I don’t recognize his former supervisor’s name, until I remind him I wasn’t born yet.

Later when I’m presenting the plaque, I tell both the 93-year-old church planter and the 70-year-old church that my wife and I are on our way, after church, to IBSA’s first “ChicaGO” student camp at Judson University. It’s a pilot church planting camp that we hope will continue to produce church planters, church plants, and eventually 70-year-old churches. And as I describe this picture of church planting across the generations – I realize that this is an especially good Sunday.

We arrive at Judson University late in the afternoon, and help greet students and chaperones from 11 different IBSA churches. Then a bus-load of IBSA All State Youth Choir students unload, and I remember they are there for a couple of days too, to join the ChicaGO mission week, and share a couple of concerts in the area.

That night the choir sings at Calvary Baptist Church in Elgin. In addition to being my mom’s and son’s church, this is also the church where Wilma and Jack Booth are members. During the concert, IBSA Worship Director Steve Hamrick reminds us that Wilma was one of the leaders that started the IBSA All State Choir 36 years ago. And as I reflect on the blessing of tomorrow’s worship leaders being equipped for churches across the generations – I realize that this is an especially good Sunday.

I will have to wait until my next column to tell you about the “week in the life of church planters” that follows this special Sunday. But let me punctuate this account by telling you that as the All State Youth Choir led us in singing “Jesus Messiah,” I found my eyes welling up with tears. God was reminding me that, though there will be challenging days, He is steadfastly building churches and growing leaders across the state and across the generations here in Illinois. And whenever I can see that as clearly as I do today, well, it’s an especially good Sunday.

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

Nate_Adams_July7HEARTLAND | Nate Adams

We have a fairly small front porch. We don’t spend much time there, partly because we live on a cul-de-sac, and our front porch doesn’t offer much privacy. It looks directly into the yards, and lives, of several other families.

We spend much more time on our backyard deck. That’s where we can see most of our flowers and our garden. It’s where we grill during the summer time, and where we enjoy the privacy provided by a number of mature trees.

Last weekend, though, our son Caleb brought over his lawn trimmer to see if I could help him make it work, since it used to be my lawn trimmer. When he arrived, I met him on the front porch, and for some reason we sat down there to work on it. Soon my wife, Beth, joined us, and noted that the only other person who seemed to be outside that beautiful Saturday was our neighbor who has cancer. Let me call her Cindy.

Cindy was out tending to her beautiful front yard flowerbeds. Suddenly Beth exclaimed, “Oh my, Cindy just fell.” Caleb and I then looked up from our work, and saw Cindy lying on her sidewalk.

“Maybe she’s OK. Let’s see if she gets up,” we said. “We don’t want to embarrass her by running over there if she just lost her balance for a minute.”

But as we watched, Cindy just laid there for a few seconds. Then, with great effort, she raised one hand and began waving it slowly in the air.

We all then sprinted to her side. Cindy was relieved to see us, and asked if we would help her try to get up. She had fallen on her hip.

Our first, careful efforts to help her brought her so much pain that we all agreed we needed to leave her where she was and get some medical help. We found her husband inside, who called an ambulance and then scurried around to prepare to go with her to the hospital.

We stayed with Cindy for several minutes, comforting her until the ambulance arrived, and then assured both of them of our prayers. As she was rolled into the back of the ambulance, Cindy raised her hand once again, and softly said, “Thank you for seeing me and for coming to help. If you hadn’t, I think I would still be there.”

It has occurred to me many times since that day how unusual and providential it was that we were even in a position to help Cindy. Like so many, we seem to be backyard deck people more than front porch people.

And I have also been convicted how true that is spiritually, in our relationships with our neighbors. How many of the people we know are down and helpless, at the end of their ropes spiritually, and quietly waving one last hand in hope of help? Are we even in a position to see them? Or are we comfortable in our own backyards?

Many of the people we know who have deep spiritual needs don’t even know what or Who they need. Cindy didn’t. She just suddenly knew she was helpless. But because we were in that rare position to see her fall, we were able to play a small role in getting her the help needed.

This summer, let’s all spend more time on the front porch. Let’s look for the frail waves of the people around us. And let’s help them call on the One who can meet them right where they are. We may see their soft wave of gratitude in eternity.

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
Christ.

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.

Mothers Day Offering 2014COMMENTARY | Nate Adams

I remember my dad writing once about an Easter Sunday that came long after we kids were grown and gone. None of us were going to be home for the holiday weekend that year, so my mom suggested that she and my dad volunteer to work in the nursery that Sunday.

In case my dad had doubts, my mom was ready with her reasons. “There are likely to be several young families visiting our church that day. Those who work in the nursery all the time deserve a break. We’re available, and able. Oh, and by the way, others took care of our kids on Easter for years. Even this Easter, others will be taking care of our grandchildren.”

And so those two grandparents who hadn’t needed a nursery nor worked in one for quite a while sat and rocked babies that Easter Sunday. As they did so, they prayed for the families of those babies, and for their own family. I remember my dad saying it was one of the most memorable Easter Sundays he ever experienced.

There is something especially sacred it seems, about giving to others out of gratitude for the way that you have received yourself. In fact, as Mother’s Day now approaches, I think of the countless ways I have benefited from a godly, sacrificing mother. And I think of how blessed our own children have been by my wife’s investment in their lives.

One way to “pay it forward” to others in gratitude for the mothers who have blessed our lives is to give generously to the Mother’s Day Offering for the Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services (BCHFS). Last year, BCHFS provided Christ-centered services to 1,417 individuals – 23% more than the previous year. Through residential care at the Baptist Children’s Home in Carmi, maternity services at Angels’ Cove, multiple Pathways Counseling offices, the Safe Families for Children program, and ministry to orphans in Uganda, BCHFS lives out this year’s Offering theme, “Families are Worth Fighting For!”

Sharing Christ is the central motivation for the services BCHFS provides. Of course they provide ministry and healing that help families through troubled times. But in doing so, the BCHFS staff also unashamedly shares the Gospel of Jesus with those they serve, and seeks to model His love daily to them. Last year alone, 16 children from the Residential Care program and from Safe Families made professions of faith in Christ.

The BCHFS does not receive state or federal contract for care funding, and does not receive funding through the Cooperative Program. Their ministry is completely reliant on the generosity of Illinois Baptist churches and individuals who invest in the lives of those they serve. That’s why the Mother’s Day Offering is so important.

From the BCHFS web site (www.bchfs.com) your church can download information and materials to help you promote this year’s Mother’s Day Offering. And if your church doesn’t receive an offering that particular Sunday, you can still use the web site to donate directly to BCHFS’s important ministries.

If you appreciate your own family, and especially your mom this Mother’s Day, I can’t think of a better way to demonstrate your gratitude to God and “pay it forward” than to support this important ministry to hundreds of hurting families. And remember, if your own family is facing challenges right now, the Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services is there for you too.

Our family will be supporting the ministries of BCHFS this year, and I pray yours will too. Whether it’s thanking our children’s workers with a turn in the nursery, or thanking our mothers by giving to help hurting families, it’s a good, good thing to “pay it forward.” As Jesus said in Matthew 10:8 “Freely you have received; freely give.”

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

Nate_Adams_blog_callout_AprilCOMMENTARY | Nate Adams

In churches both here and around the world, so much preparation goes into getting ready for Easter. Of course, that’s as it should be. Easter is arguably the church’s greatest single day of celebration. Though surrounded by distractions like bunnies, egg hunts and new spring fashions, it suffers far less
secularization than Christmas. And because Easter is always Sunday, it gives every local church a special opportunity to shine in its own community. Yet, in an effective, evangelistic church, Easter is only the beginning.

Several years ago, I was part of a group that helped start a new church in the suburbs of Chicago. We decided to hold our first public worship service on Easter Sunday. We called it our church’s birthday.

Prior to that “launch Sunday,” we had prepared for a full year. For weeks, four families prayed and studied and planned. Then three neighborhood Bible studies grew into a core group of about 40. Then we met for weeks in teams to plan ministries and outreach strategies and worship services that would be relevant and inviting to our community.

In the days leading up to Easter, we stuffed envelopes, hung door hangers, and placed ads in the local papers. And on Easter Sunday, 182 people came to the grade school gym where we held our first Easter celebration.

But Easter was only the beginning. Because that first Sunday was our new church’s “birth,” we decided that birthday cakes would be great welcome gifts for all our first time guests. So we baked birthday cakes – dozens of them. And for hours after we packed up our portable church that afternoon, our core group delivered both a welcome and a friendly witness to those who lived in our Jerusalem.

Across North America, including right here in Illinois, new churches often still choose Easter to begin a new witness in a new Jerusalem. But even in churches like yours and mine that have been around a while, Easter can be preceded by special preparations that invite new people to come and meet Christ, and followed by tireless effort to make them feel welcome, both at church and in the family of God.

Do you feel comfortable, even enthusiastic, inviting your friends and neighbors to come to your church? Are you confident in what they will experience there? Is your church ready, not only to welcome and accept first time guests, but also to go the extra mile to understand their needs and questions, and respond with compassion to their imperfect lives?

It takes love and great intentionality to continually invite new people to church, and even more to be truly ready for them when they find the courage to come. The great thing is that Easter Sunday gives a church one of its best opportunities all year to welcome new people, and even churches that do little
inviting are often blessed with first-time guests on that special Sunday.

Let’s be ready this Easter. In fact, let’s be ready each and every Lord’s Day. Let’s be winsome and sensitive and compassionate and good listeners. Let’s
make sure we prepare and invite, and that the Gospel message is clear, and lovingly delivered in multiple ways. And let’s not let Sunday lunch be the end of it.

For the early church, Easter was not the grand finale; it was the start of something big. The risen, ascended, and returning Lord sent His Spirit to fill His
disciples with power, and with boldness. And He said they would be His witnesses, from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.

It’s the same for us today. The ends of the earth still really need the Gospel, and so do the people who live in our Jerusalems. Again this year, Easter is only the beginning.

Baptist_hymnalHEARTLAND | Nate Adams

Our youngest son, Ethan, recently mentioned to his mom and me that he had heard a couple of great new Christian songs he really liked. We asked what they were, hoping that we had been listening to enough Christian radio to perhaps recognize them.

Imagine our surprise when the songs he named were 100-year-old hymns.
We couldn’t help but show our disbelief. “Have you never heard those hymns before?” we asked. “Have you not been in churches that sang either of those?”

Perhaps he had, we decided, but apparently not often, or not at a time that he remembered. As we then reviewed the churches our family attended since Ethan was born, we realized that each of those churches had a contemporary worship style, or at least a blend of contemporary music and hymns. Therefore, hymns that I know by heart, sometimes even by page number, have become almost lost treasures to my son.

Music is just one example of the things in church life that sometimes need to change or evolve over time in order to stay relevant to new generations. But as my son’s new love for old hymns illustrates, sometimes we let treasures that have lasting value slip away simply because we have not properly maintained them, or passed them along effectively.

Nate_Adams_blog_callout_4Cooperative missions giving is one of those time-proven treasures that I fear we risk losing in the next generation if we do not more intentionally teach its value and practice its power. As with hymns, we may be assuming that what we have known so well by heart will always be with us, even if we’re not rehearsing it regularly with new church leaders and members.

That’s one reason many Southern Baptist churches set aside one special Sunday in April to inform and educate their church members on the incredible, week-after-week power of our ongoing missions support system known as the Cooperative Program. This year the national Cooperative Program promotion Sunday is April 13, but since that happens to fall on Palm Sunday, many churches may choose another nearby date for this emphasis.

Whether it’s April 13 or some other time, intentionally educating everyone in the church about Cooperative Program missions is extremely important. Church members need to understand that the Cooperative Program portion of their church budget provides
foundational support for thousands of faithful Baptist missionaries, throughout North America and around the world. They need to know that hundreds of people groups in more than 150 countries are receiving the Gospel through these missionaries, and that thousands of new churches are being planted as a result. Right here in North America, more than 900 new churches are being established each year, and coordinated ministries such as Disaster Relief help place thousands of Southern Baptist volunteers and chaplains right in the middle of people’s deepest physical and spiritual needs.

Cooperative Program giving helps make theological training at six world-class seminaries affordable for tomorrow’s pastors, church staff, and missionaries. And it gives us an important voice in the culture through the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and the SBC Executive Committee. Right here in Illinois, CP helps train more than 23,000 leaders each year, and start 25 new churches.

There are lots of good resources at http://www.IBSA.org/CP and http://www.sbc.net to help church members understand how the CP works, and, more importantly, how many lives are being transformed through it as the Great Commission is advanced. There are short videos to use in worship services or small groups, and well-designed print pieces ranging from bulletin inserts to multiple-page articles.

Many of us may assume that, like a treasured hymn, the Cooperative Program will always be there, always fueling the most effective and far-reaching missionary system in history. But that will only happen if we consistently and continually teach new
generations of church leaders to carry the tune.

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

Nate_Adams_blog_callout_3HEARTLAND | Nate Adams

I’ve recently found myself in several different settings where I have been asked to help clarify what Baptists believe, and how those beliefs may be distinct or different from those of other groups. Sometimes the question comes from Christians of another faith background. Sometimes it’s from a non-Christian who wants to understand if his or her perception is accurate. Occasionally, those from a different Baptist denomination simply want to understand why all Baptists aren’t alike.

I have to admit, dialoguing with that latter group sometimes has made me wonder if we Baptists aren’t too quick to stand apart from one another, or to divide into different groups over relatively minor issues. But in most cases, looking for the reasons that we stand apart as Baptists makes me glad that we do.

Late last year, my more frequent conversations along these lines led me to set aside 18 weeks of our weekly chapel at the IBSA building, and to devote one week to each of the articles in The Baptist Faith & Message. We only have 30-45 minutes for chapel, which includes worship and prayer. So we did not do an in-depth study. But each week, I asked the staff to look at a different article from The Baptist Faith & Message, and to ask with me, “What is distinct here? How are Southern Baptists different from other groups, even other conservative, Christian groups?”

Our staff agreed it was a helpful and enlightening exercise. Often we found ourselves saying, “Well, many Christians believe that, or certainly most conservative or evangelical Christians would say something similar to that.” But every week, on almost every doctrinal topic, we also found ourselves identifying distinct beliefs or practices that make our Baptist faith and message meaningfully unique.

After the chapel series was over, I sat down with my notes and jotted my own personal summary of the Baptist beliefs that, to me, seem to differentiate Baptists from others. This list will help me summarize our Baptist identity when I am asked to do so. And, with great love and respect for my many Christian and evangelical friends from other denominations, these are the reasons I will always look for a Baptist church when I move to a new town, or when I choose to declare a doctrinal identity.

My list didn’t simply include a high view of Scripture, or faith in Jesus as the only way to salvation, or a literal resurrection and second coming, because many Christians share those beliefs. But it did include things like believer’s baptism, by immersion and symbolic. It included local church autonomy and congregational governance, combined with passionate, organized cooperation in missions. And it included belief in eternal security, biblical marriage, and personal responsibility for evangelism.

This rich discussion of “What does it mean to be Baptist, and does it really matter?” has also contributed to the creation of a new feature, beginning in this issue of the Illinois Baptist. You will find it on pages 9 and 10. This new “Baptist 101” section will help clarify and reinforce what it means today to be Baptist, not just doctrinally, but also in cooperative missions endeavors and practical church matters. In fact, I hope it will help all of us who read the Illinois Baptist become more articulate proponents of Baptist, evangelical, Christian faith.

Of course the autonomous nature of Baptist churches and people makes it impossible, even undesirable, to try and paint everyone with the same broad stroke. Baptists are a diverse group! But while we are not uniform, we are strangely, almost miraculously, unified. Our best understanding of the Bible has led us to stand, with humility and respect for others I trust, on core Baptist beliefs and practices. If we believe these are important enough to protect and
preserve for our children and grandchildren, then we must continue to understand them and articulate them for others. Across the centuries, and I believe now and into the future, Baptist faith matters.

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

Nate_Adams_blog_callout_2HEARTLAND | Nate Adams

Last month Directors of Missions and other associational leaders from around the state gathered at the IBSA Building for a time of leadership development, fellowship, and strategic thinking about how best to assist churches. Dr. Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, was invited to speak to us on “Fostering a Positive Baptism Trend in an Association.”

To set the stage, Dr. Kelley reminded us that the number of baptisms in SBC churches overall has been on a 50-year plateau, and has now actually declined six of the past eight years. Nationwide data for 2013 is not yet available, but in 2012 baptisms declined 5.5% from 2011, to only 314,956. That’s the lowest level since 1948, when SBC churches reported only 6 million members rather than the current 16 million. In fact, to give those numbers some further context, baptisms totaled 445,725 in 1972, and 429,063 in 1959.

Here among IBSA churches, baptisms were actually up 3.1% in 2013 to 5,063, building on the previous year’s 2.6% increase. Still, 2013 is our churches’ first year above 5,000 baptisms since 2009. And in 2005, IBSA churches reported 6,499 baptisms.

While all of us were eager to hear what Dr. Kelley would suggest, none of us were really surprised when he said there are no easy answers to reversing the current baptism trend. I was personally grateful to hear him underscore that we shouldn’t seek to affix blame or pass the buck. Instead, we all need to focus passionately and sacrificially on the urgent need to reach people with the Gospel in an increasingly challenging environment.

While I don’t have space here to recap everything Dr. Kelley shared with us, I can share his alliterated outline. He said we need to Focus on Filling (of the Spirit, or revival), on Fruitfulness (intentional evangelism), on Faithfulness (a return to true discipleship), and even on Fighting (embracing the inevitable conflict that comes when change is needed, yet with Christ-like attitudes and righteousness).

All of these points hit home deeply with me, and couldn’t have come at a better time. Not only are we beginning a new year of ministry here at IBSA, and in all our churches, but we are also beginning our planning and budgeting for 2015. We can’t keep doing ministry as usual and expect a much different result.

As Dr. Kelley urged, we must persistently ask God to fill us afresh with His Spirit, and bring revival to our churches and spiritual awakening to our land. We must focus much more intentionally on fruitfulness, starting new Bible studies and Sunday School classes and evangelistic ministries, and equipping believers to courageously share the Gospel. We must more carefully embrace true discipleship, investing God’s Word deeply in those who will be faithful to live the Gospel and pay it forward into the lives of others. And yes, we must be so committed to a different level of fruitfulness that we are
even willing to engage the conflict that often seems to come with change, even in churches.

Those of us leading and serving churches today have lived most of our adult lives on the downwardly sloping plateau of this baptism trend. In many ways we have been maintaining our processes and doing church in comfortable ways, and if we simply continue our current patterns in the face of a changing culture, we will soon see the downward slope of the current trend steepen dramatically.

So as we prepare to plot one more year of baptisms on the chart of history, it is this urgency of reaching spiritually lost people with the Gospel that must compel us, and our churches. Baptisms may not be the only measure of fruitfulness, but they are a measure that we cannot be content to see in even gradual decline.

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

Nate_Adams_blog_calloutCOMMENTARY | Nate Adams

The Christmas and New Year holidays have passed, again. The decorations are mostly put away. The gifts have been placed into use, or into storage, or quietly returned. The various stresses of the season now finally seem to be subsiding, only to be replaced with something new – the stresses of returning to our regular routines.

One of the Christmas messages I heard last month focused on the shepherds. Before telling the story of how the angels came to announce Jesus’ birth, and how the shepherds left immediately for Bethlehem, the pastor went into some detail on how miserable the life of a shepherd was during that day. Their work was hard, and long, and dirty. They were poor. They had no status in society, no education, no real prospects. They were not only physically unclean, they were also considered spiritually unclean, at least by religious people. They had little hope.

As the pastor spoke, I began to think about how hard and thankless and frustrating work can be, and the drudgery of life’s routines. None of us have it as rough as first century shepherds. But I started thinking about the stacks of papers I had brought home from the office, and had not yet touched. I thought about my job’s most challenging problems, projects, and people, all of which would be waiting for me after the holidays.

Yes, leaving my own field of work for a break had actually sounded pretty good to me just prior to Christmas. The question was, where would I find my enthusiasm for returning to that field? Where do any of us find new hope and purpose for our work at the start of a new year, or a new week, or a new day?

We find it the same place the shepherds did. We find it in the presence of our King.  We intentionally pull away from our work, both its importance and fulfillment, and also its occasional drudgery and hopelessness. And we worship. We run to Jesus, and we realize again that He is our hope, that He is our strength, that He is our reason for living and that He gives purpose to our work.

Whatever our life’s work may be, if we do it merely for a paycheck, or for status or success, or to try and give our lives meaning, we will constantly feel like hopeless shepherds. But look at how these shepherds returned to their fields after worshiping the Christ child! They were enthusiastic, they had hope, and they were eager to tell everyone about the Immanuel who had come and made all the difference in their lives.

Especially if you are a pastor or busy church leader, you may have allowed the holidays to come and go this year without pulling away for some genuine, personal, renewing worship time. If so, let me urge you to do that before returning to your ministry field’s routines for 2014. Gaze at Christ as if for the first time, and remind yourself what your life, and His, and your work, and His, are really all about.

In fact, throughout the year, let’s let the shepherds remind us that we can always return to the fields of our work and our ministries different, with renewed strength and purpose, after experiencing true, heartfelt worship. It’s true once in a lifetime, when we meet Christ. It’s true once a year, when we pull away for the holidays and then start a new year. It’s true every week, when we remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. It can even be true every day that we go to work, if we return to that same old field with a fresh view of the King.

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

I want you to know

Meredith Flynn —  November 4, 2013
MI_logo

The IBSA Annual Meeting Nov. 13-14 will explore the theme “Mission Illinois: Churches Together Advancing the Gospel.”

HEARTLAND | Nate Adams

Opportunities for our entire Illinois Baptist family of churches to be together at once are all too rare.  But the IBSA Annual Meeting each November is one of those precious opportunities.  This year the meeting returns to the downtown Springfield Hilton for the first time since our 100th anniversary meeting in 2007. I hope to see you there November 13-14, or perhaps earlier at the Pastors Conference or one of the other related gatherings.

Click here for more on the IBSA Annual Meeting.

But in case you can’t come, let me preview some highlights of the information that I plan to share during that meeting.

I want you to know that Illinois Baptists are going into their Acts 1:8 mission fields in dramatically increased numbers. After several years of our churches reporting around 20,000 missions volunteers, last year churches reported more than 27,000 volunteers, a 34% increase! And there is no indication of that rate slowing down this year.

I want you to know that 28 new churches were planted across our state last year, and through August of this year at least 19 more have been planted. During our Wednesday night worship session at the Annual Meeting we will be hearing from seven of those creative and hard-working planters, and you will be able to meet them and others in person during a dessert reception following the session.

Dr. Gary Frost of the North American Mission Board will bring a challenging message that evening, and you will also meet Dr. Gene Crume, Judson University’s new president, and hear about an exciting new church planting partnership we are working on together in Chicagoland.

I want you to know that our dedicated staff continues to crisscross the state helping churches, and that through September they have already delivered 17,000 trainings in strategic ministry and mission skills to IBSA church leaders and workers.  Baptisms in IBSA churches were up over 2% last year, and the continued momentum of evangelism strategies like “Choose 2” give us hope of another increase when all the 2013 Annual Church Profiles are tabulated.

Finally, in case you can’t come to the annual meeting, I want you to know that the IBSA Board is exploring the option of acquiring a new property in Springfield, a retreat-like facility devoted to leadership development and pastoral renewal. You can read more about that possibility in this issue of the Illinois Baptist, and there will be additional information on http://www.IBSA.org.

Last year when the IBSA Board was exploring this possibility, I invited feedback, both positive and cautionary, from IBSA churches.  The responses were relatively few, but were favorable toward the idea by about a two-to-one margin.

The cautionary and even negative responses were just as helpful as the supportive and enthusiastic ones, however. They helped lead me to recommend to the IBSA Board that we not make an offer on the property unless or until we had the cash in hand to acquire it, even though that probably meant missing the opportunity. And they helped me discover some concerns about developing our camp properties that I felt could be addressed in time.

To my surprise, the potential leadership center property we looked at last year is still available, now at a further reduced price. That doesn’t necessarily mean we should acquire it. In fact, I’ve been praying that someone else would, if it’s not God’s best for IBSA churches. But the IBSA Board and I believe it’s in our best interest to at least explore the option again, because leadership development and renewal among pastors and church leaders is such a strategic need, and we think this property might play a role in meeting that need.

So please let me hear from you again, certainly if you support the idea, because often we leave positive feedback unexpressed. But if you have cautions about the idea, please patiently express them as well. Either way, I want you to know I’m listening.  And I hope to see you soon.

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