Archives For Nate Adams

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

Eleven Portraits

Lisa Misner —  March 7, 2016


In some ways I’m just getting started and just beginning to figure some things out.

Visitors to the IBSA office building in Springfield sometimes take note of eleven portraits displayed there, acknowledging the men who have served IBSA as executive director since its formation in 1907. Those portraits used to hang in the entrance lobby, and since our building renovation a few years ago they have been on display in our first floor Resource Room.

While it’s hard for me to believe, by God’s grace I have just celebrated 10 years in that executive director role. That milestone recently led me to a few reflective moments in front of those portraits. Four of those men are simply historical figures to me, but I’ve had the privilege of meeting the other six personally. They each served in different times and faced different challenges, but together they form the legacy of leadership on which I now gratefully stand.

I’ve been told by others around the Southern Baptist Convention that 10 years seems to be about the typical length of service in the state executive director role. Since years of service are noted on a little plaque beneath each of the IBSA portraits, I did the math and learned that indeed the average term of service here in Illinois has been just over nine years.

There are, however, two distinct groups of IBSA executive directors among my 10 predecessors. Six men served less than seven years, and four served 12 or more. The smaller, longer-serving group were four of the first five executive directors, all of whom completed their service by the 1970s. The larger, shorter-serving group represent the more current trend. And at 10 years’ service, I now stand in the middle.

There are many reasons why leaders stay in roles for a short time, including some which are beyond their control. So I wouldn’t second guess the Lord’s leadership or providence in any of the shorter terms of service. But after investing 10 years here at IBSA, I have a new appreciation for the men in the longer term group.

It takes time to establish relationships, and to build trust. It takes time to learn the many systems and traditions and landmines inherent in a thousand diverse churches working together. It takes time to learn the regional and ethnic and generational uniqueness of churches and their leaders. It takes time to take necessary risks and make unavoidable mistakes, and then to recover and learn from them. And I’m now discovering that it takes time to do it all again and again, as new pastors and leaders come on the scene.

After 10 years, I feel in some ways I’m just getting started and just beginning to figure some things out. Yet by the law of averages I’ve already had as many years as most executive directors ever get. It makes me admire the men who stayed 12, or 17, or 19 years.

And it makes me want to sprint right past this 10-year mark and see what might be possible in the company of these long-tenured men that preceded me.

It’s certainly possible to overstay your welcome, or to outstay your effectiveness. And it’s always best when a leader can recognize that time long before anyone else does. But for the most part, it can be very good for an organization and its mission when a leader finds favor and stays.

So if you are wondering whether to stay and persevere where you are, let me encourage you to do so if at all possible. One day you will take your place among the portraits of former leaders in your place of service. It may be less and less common for leaders to stay long in one place. But if God gives you grace and favor to do so, I believe you will find a unique influence that only comes with time.

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

In the Middle

Lisa Misner —  September 21, 2015


I am reminded lately of the song “Stuck in the Middle with You.” The song was written by Gerry Rafferty and Joe Eagan, and recorded by their band, Stealers Wheel, in 1972. The song was inspired when Rafferty and Egan were seated at a restaurant table with record company representatives on one side of them and producers on the other. The executives were talking across them, conducting business, and the singers were “stuck in the middle.”

Neither the IBSA staff and missionaries nor I feel “stuck” in any sense of the word, but I do feel we’re in the middle of something. As a middle-sized state convention here in the middle of the country, and now in the middle of a funding challenge, we are also in the middle of some crucial questions about how we do ministry, how we advance the gospel, and how we sustain our shared work financially.

Nate Adams

In the previous issue of the Illinois Baptist, I outlined reasons that inspire me personally to give through my church to the Mission Illinois Offering each year. (See

I unapologetically ask IBSA churches to receive an annual offering for state missions. But there are some additional dynamics that make the Mission Illinois Offering even more important this year.

For one thing, Cooperative Program giving in Illinois, the primary funding source of our missions and ministries, has not yet rebounded from what’s now called “The Great Recession” of 2007-2009. Yet expenses, especially “people costs” such as healthcare and travel, continue to rise. For example, IBSA’s healthcare premiums will increase 20% next year, or almost $65,000. Yet CP income planned in the 2016 IBSA budget is actually $340,000 less than we received in 2009.

Compounding the CP shortfall is a strategic shift by our partners at the North American Mission Board to focus almost exclusively on church planting in larger cities. Of course church planting is a top priority for us in Illinois too. But now funding for staff and ministries such as WMU and women’s ministries, collegiate ministry, IBSA’s church consultants and partnership with local Associations, and soon our funding of the Christian Activity Center in East St. Louis, must come 100% from the IBSA budget, rather than being shared by both NAMB and IBSA.

We appreciate the partnership NAMB provides for church planting, especially in Chicago and metro St. Louis. But we must ask how other Illinois ministries can continue to be funded. The Mission Illinois Offering is the single most important factor in answering that question.

Over the past five years, larger state conventions have downsized by a third or more. Smaller state conventions who are much more dependent on NAMB funding have needed to focus their attention more exclusively on church planting, often at the expense of assisting existing churches.

While we in Illinois have also downsized and economized, we’ve done so gradually, without layoffs or major loss of services or ministries. In a sense, we benefit from being “medium-sized,” with enough resources to be somewhat self-sufficient, and yet not so many institutional obligations that limit our options for trimming budgets.

You and your church can help through generous participation in the Mission Illinois Offering. If your church does not collect the Mission Illinois Offering, you can contribute directly. Visit and click on the “donate” tab. Or mail your gift labeled “MIO” directly to IBSA at 3085 Stevenson Dr., Springfield, IL 62703.

And for the record, there’s still no place in the world I’d rather be than here in the middle with you.

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

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

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 ( 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.