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By Nate Adams

MIO Logo 500pxLast Saturday I received three voicemail messages from the same number. I suspected it was a mistake or a telemarketer, because the number wasn’t familiar, and I recognized the area code as being from out of state.

Indeed, the first message sounded like an elderly lady, who simply apologized for possibly dialing the wrong number. But in the second and third messages, the same lady said that she was sorry for bothering me again, but she was trying to reach the “Illinois Baptist Convention.” She asked if I could call her back and at least let her know if she had reached the right number.

Though it was a Saturday evening, and I couldn’t imagine what this lady might need, the frequency and urgency of her messages led me to call her back. It was then that I met Miss Myra, a 95-year-old grandmother from Kentucky.

After a few minutes of conversation, I learned several things about Miss Myra. She had just moved into a new assisted living facility a month earlier. She was nearly blind due to macular degeneration. And years ago, she had served for a while on the board of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. That’s how she knew to call me.

But I learned all those things after Miss Myra told me the primary reason for her call. Her grandson Ben had recently moved to Chicago, and she was concerned that he wasn’t attending church in that new, big city. His parents had raised him in a different denomination, she said, but he hadn’t seemed to stay connected with that church. And she didn’t know anyone to call there anyway. But she knew Southern Baptists, and she knew that if she called “the state convention office,” someone there would help her find a nearby church for her grandson. And she knew that church would be Bible-believing and gospel-centered.

I probably receive 3-4 calls a year like Miss Myra’s, often from someone in the South whose family member or friend has moved to Illinois, usually the Chicago area. They frequently are afraid that Southern Baptist churches “up there” are few or non-existent, and that the city is huge, and probably dangerous.

With Ben’s address, I was able to go to our online database and quickly find several churches within a few miles of where he lived. I did need to filter the options, because some of the IBSA churches nearest him were Spanish-speaking, or Russian, or Vietnamese. After all, Chicago is an international mission field. But a large-print letter went out to Miss Myra the following Monday, with contact information for six churches and pastors, and my offer to contact them personally if she or Ben would like me to do that.

The calls and e-mails and letters I receive like that one from Miss Myra remind me why IBSA continuously plants churches, especially in population centers like Chicago. I didn’t need to find a Chinese, or Romanian, or Korean church this time. But I could have.

Miss Myra’s call also reminds me why we ask churches to collect a Mission Illinois Offering each year, and why we ask Illinois Baptist church members to give generously. That annual offering helps us plant new churches in places like Chicago, or in one of the 22 Illinois counties that still have one, or zero, Baptist churches.

At one point in our conversation, Miss Myra said to me, “You know, I’m 95 and almost blind. I can’t do much. But I can do this.” I will remember her words when I give my Mission Illinois Offering through my church this year. I hope you will too.

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

The Mission Illinois Offering and Week of Prayer, marked this week in churches across the state, focuses on ministry to kids and families. The crucial “4-14 window” is the best opportunity for churches to effectively share the gospel with the next generation. Use this daily devotion guide, and go to for videos, stories, mission study teaching plans, and ideas for prayer and worship.

oneDay 1: Scott Kelly, Pastor, Campus Minister
A century-old house in Evanston, Ill., is a home base for ministry to students at Northwestern University. Scott and Megan Kelly and their three kids open their home on a regular basis to students who come for parties, prayer meetings, or just dinner. “The students I meet are open to speaking with me about Jesus and what the Bible says, as we meet in the dorm or over Dunkin coffee at the student center,” said Scott, who also pastors Evanston Baptist Church. “But the best conversations I have with students are when they are around my family.” Pray for Pastor Scott as he leads his church and the campus ministry at Northwestern University.

twoDay 2: Tim Sadler, IBSA Evangelism Director
IBSA churches baptized just over 5,000 people last year, but more than 400 of our churches baptized no one. Tim says, “Generous giving through the Mission Illinois Offering allows me to assist churches taking the Gospel to their mission fields. I can provide resources such as Gospel tracts and training to churches who want to reach their communities for Christ. It allows me to do customized training and strategy development for IBSA churches.” Pray for Tim and for renewed evangelism in IBSA’s 1,000 member churches.

threeDay 3: Chet Cantrell, Christian Activity Center Director
Every day after school at the Christian Activity Center, kids in East St. Louis get a healthy snack and help with their homework. They learn Bible stories and songs, play in the gym, and spend time in the computer lab. It’s a world far removed from how this street—known as a center of prostitution—used to operate. “In the early days our mission was to keep our kids alive,” said Chet Cantrell, who directs the CAC, “but our mandate was bigger than that. We want to help them thrive, so they can be what God intends them to be.Pray for Chet, the ministry team at the Christian Activity Center in East St. Louis, and the hundreds of young lives they touch each year.

fourDay 4: Carmen Halsey, Mission Mobilization Director
There are 13 million people in Illinois, and at least 8 million of them do not know Christ. Carmen sees tremendous opportunity for the Gospel. “Our lives begin to make sense when we realize that they are a platform for God’s word to be demonstrated to others. Illinois Baptist Women are embedded into society all across our state. With our resources, we are developing women to recognize and seize everyday opportunities to share the gospel.” Pray for Carmen and Illinois Baptist Women who are mobilized to share Christ. Pray for spiritual awakening in Illinois.

fiveDay 5: Brad Pittman, Church Planter
Davis Junction in Northwest Illinois was a community of more than 3,000 people, but only one church. Until recently. In this town 15 miles south of Rockford, Brad Pittman and his family are planting Grace Fellowship Church. It’s the third location for a multi-site church that started in Ashton and also meets in Amboy.

Brad was a member of the Ashton location for 13 years before joining the staff with pastors Jeremy Horton and Brian McWethy. “We want to be an Acts 1:8 church that not only plants here locally,” he said, “but we’re going into our state, that we’re going into our nation, we’re also going into our world.” Pray for The Pittman family and all church planters in Illinois. Pray for the 322 places and people groups where new churches are needed.

sixDay 6: Chase Abner, Collegiate Evangelism Strategist
“God changed my life through a college ministry supported by IBSA,” Chase says. His salvation as a young adult at SIU Carbondale urges him forward. “Generous giving by Illinois Baptists helps me to assist churches as they reach out to students on campuses across Illinois. These campuses are home to nearly one million students. Before they leave school, we must share Christ with them.” Pray for Chase and the campus ministries he helps start and facilitate.

sevenDay 7: John Mattingly, Church Planting Catalyst
24 new churches were started in Illinois last year. And 13 are in progress in the northwestern region. “Our new church plants in northwest Illinois are building relationships that help bridge the gap of misunderstanding of who Southern Baptists are in the North,” John says. “They are also enjoying a harvest of souls that is due to the on-going relationships between planters and our established rural churches. It is a testimony of the power behind steady giving and praying.” Pray for new ministries to reach the 4 million people who live in non-urban settings in Illinois.

eightDay 8: Rex Alexander, Disaster Relief Coordinator
Rex is one of 85 IBSA missionaries, ministry staff, and church planters. This offering makes it possible for all the team to represent Christ wherever and whenever needed. “We provide opportunities for Disaster Relief workers to bring help, healing, and hope to victims of natural disasters in Illinois and North America,” Rex says. “God uses their skills, and the additional training IBSA provides, to help people physically and spiritually as they attempt to rebuild their lives.” Pray for all the IBSA team, including staff and volunteers. Pray that we will reach the $475,000 goal to keep them serving on our Illinois mission field.

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.

What churches do together

Meredith Flynn —  September 5, 2013

MIO_blogCOMMENTARY | Nate Adams

Editor’s note: This column is the third in a three-part series, interpreting IBSA’s 2013 state mission offering theme statement: Mission Illinois – Churches Together, Advancing the Gospel. Read Part 1 and Part 2 here.

When Beth and I were first married, she was a third grade teacher and I was director of marketing at a Christian magazine publisher. It was always easy for me to explain to others what my wife did for a living; everyone knows what a teacher does. But when people asked Beth what I did, exactly, at Christianity Today, she usually simplified my role quite a bit by saying “You know those annoying little cards that fall out of magazines when you open them? He makes those.”

Now to me, what I did for a living seemed much more important and complicated than that. But I had to admit that, in 20 words or less, Beth gave the average person a pretty clear picture of my job. It was to get subscribers to our magazines.

In fact, my task of creating those “blow-in cards” was very similar to the challenge Beth faced in quickly telling people what I did. In just a couple of square inches, we had to tell prospective subscribers why they should spend $20 or more on a magazine subscription. By the time you printed a picture of the magazine and gave the subscriber space to write their name and address, you only had a sentence or two to describe what the magazine could do for them. It’s not always easy to deliver an important or powerful message in just a few words.

As we looked for just a few words to describe what “Mission Illinois” is and why we should all support the Mission Illinois Offering, we chose the words “Churches Together, Advancing the Gospel.” In two previous columns I wrote about the significance of the words “churches” and “together.” Some churches tend to mind their own business and do their own thing. But Mission Illinois describes churches that believe the same core, biblical doctrines, and that choose to work together for both the fellowship and the effectiveness that cooperation brings. And the noble cause that our cooperation serves is the advancement of the Gospel, both here in Illinois and around the world.

There are lots of good phrases that could follow “Churches Together…” and that would be true heart cries of Illinois Baptists. With equal enthusiasm we could say, “Believing the Bible” or “Seeking the Kingdom” or “Making Disciples of Jesus” or “Growing Stronger and Multiplying.”

But in the phrase “Advancing the Gospel” we have identified, at least for now, the few words that best summarize why we as churches choose, even in our autonomy, to sacrificially work together. We want to see the good news of the Gospel delivered lovingly and effectively to every person in our home mission field of Illinois. We want to see Bible-believing, disciple-making congregations established in every community of our state. And we want devoted Christians from those churches to go boldly into all their Acts 1:8 mission fields. The “ripple effect” image of our third Mission Illinois icon symbolizes the advance of the Gospel from local churches, throughout Illinois, to the ends of the earth.

When we place “Mission Illinois” in front of that phrase, we declare who we are as an association of churches, and what we intend to do together. It is our five-word “blow-in card” to one another, and to the world. We are not independent churches; we are interdependent churches. We are not doing the Great Commission alone; we are doing it together. And even if we do a lot more than can be quickly communicated in a few words, we will seek to do these few words above all others.

We will advance the Gospel.

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