Archives For Prayer

New beginnings

Lisa Misner —  April 22, 2019 — Leave a comment

Streator churches merge for the sake of their town

By Andrew Woodrow

New Start

The members of two Streator churches credit God with uniting their congregations under a new name: New Beginnings.

When Mike Young first laid eyes on Streator in 2016, he saw a small prairie town in the midst of vast farmland. But he also saw a community in great need of the gospel. Young, who moved to town to manage IBSA’s northern Illinois camp facility, soon discovered that much of Streator was still unchurched. He started praying God would raise up a church to fill that void.

Mike Young

Mike Young

When Young started looking for a church to join, there was one that caught his eye every time he’d go into town. “I would pass a church right on the edge of town called Calvary Baptist,” he said. “The building looked rough, and there were bushes growing all around it. It just looked like it was closing down.” Many people in town confirmed what Young had thought—that the church was on its way out.

Still, every time he passed Calvary, something kept tugging at his heart.
Struggling churches

“Calvary Baptist Church was a long-standing church in the community,” said Mike Blakemore. “It goes way back into the ‘50s, I believe.”

Blakemore and his wife started attending Calvary in the early 2000s; he eventually became an elder. “It was a great church, great pastor, great fellowship,” Blakemore said. But after their pastor retired, “that’s when the struggle began.”

The Southern Baptist church went through a series of interims and people just to fill the pulpit, and Calvary’s numbers started dwindling. Soon, wear-and-tear to the church’s building became evident, with mold growing inside the walls and roof.

By the end of 2015, with finances running low and numbers still dropping, the auditorium ceiling caved in after a severe hailstorm. “After much prayer and a lot of discussion, we decided to vacate the building,” Blakemore said.

A few miles away, Streator’s First Baptist Church had its own problems. The Conservative Baptist church was founded not long after Streator was incorporated in 1868. Longtime member Linda Abbot speaks fondly of her church. “I have a great, great grandfather who helped start this church,” she said. “My mother was part of this church. And when I was born, I was brought into it as well. I’ve been here ever since.”

At 13, she dedicated her life to Christ at the church. She brought her childhood sweetheart, Ken, to First Baptist where he, too, came to know Christ and eventually became an elder. The Abbots married at First Baptist and have raised their own children there.

“But in the years that we had been coming here,” Linda Abbot said, “we noticed the numbers steadily declining. And we could just see things falling apart.”
The numbers continued to decline until they were down to almost 20 people, forcing the once large church to close down its main building and move worship into the fellowship hall, a stand-alone, neighboring building.

The move was made to sustain the church, Ken Abbot said, with the knowledge that if finances dwindled to a certain level, the church would dissolve and its Conservative Baptist denomination would take over the building.

Meanwhile, Calvary sat empty for almost a year while worshipers met in homes or rented spaces, praying all the while for direction. “We had just been going from place to place, and the fear that came along with that is, how long is this going to work?” said deacon Mark Martin.

But, he added, the church’s predicament drove them closer to God. “And that’s what it did to everybody that was involved,” Martin said. “Because God doesn’t bring about situations like these to drive you away from him. There might be problems, but they are meant to bring you closer to the Lord.”

Still, the uncertainty was unnerving. After months of worshipping in different places, Calvary gathered for a prayer meeting in a home one Wednesday afternoon, bringing their future and their tattered building to the Lord.

Moving forward

“From the very beginning, once we stacked hands and were ready to move forward with the merger, we very purposefully decided this was going to work,” Calvary Baptist elder Mike Blakemore (center) said of the union between his church and another in their town.

Answered prayer
It was that same Wednesday afternoon when Mike Young, unable to shake the tugging in his heart, decided to finally investigate the rundown church building on the edge of town. He pulled into the church’s parking lot, found a phone number on the door, and called. “I explained who I was and asked if there was anything I could do. I thought maybe they would need help with their building. I could help with that,” said Young, who has facilitated extensive renovations at the camp.

“Right then, they stopped that prayer meeting and they answered the phone,” Young said. “They didn’t have a pastor, they didn’t have a building, but they still had that core group of people.”

The group eventually called Young to serve as interim pastor, sparking a new beginning that would soon include First Baptist. That church was still without a pastor, and wondering what to do with their building. That’s when they heard about Calvary.

“When we heard that Calvary’s roof caved in and they were without a building,” Ken Abbott said, “we started praying for them. And while we didn’t know it at the time, they, in turn, started praying for us too because of our situation.”

“It was a challenging year for all of us,” said Tim Walter, an elder at First Baptist. He and Abbot extended an invitation to Calvary to worship with them.

“We were two churches in need of each other,” Walter said. “They needed a church home. And we had facilities, but we weren’t using them because our building was pretty much all closed up.”

Calvary accepted the invitation, and the two churches held a worship service in First Baptist’s fellowship hall in January 2017. “Over time as we met,” Young said, “worshipping together became so sweet, and the fellowship was just excellent.”

At first, each church collected their own offerings and maintained separate prayer lists and bulletins. Church meetings were held in separate rooms. After a couple months of worshipping together, each church wanted a more long-term plan, and eventually took separate votes on whether to merge. The votes were unanimous—both churches were fully in favor.

Reaching

Pastor Aaron Jackson and his church are on a mission to proclaim Christ to their community.

Prayer, love, and willing hearts
Despite apprehension on each side that the other would want them to conform to their traditions, Blakemore said each church put aside their wants and traditions, focusing instead on God’s desire and Streator’s need for a thriving church.

Some described the experience as a marriage, with two parties making sacrifices toward a greater good. “When both churches came together, each naturally had their own tradition,” Young said. “But like any marriage, you have to give and take. And the two were willing to do that. They were willing to rely on God and trust him for the results. That is the most important part.”

“We had to come together as a new beginning,” Walter said. “The past is gone; First Baptist had to cease, and Calvary had to cease. As Dr. Dan Eddington told us, we had to have two funerals and a wedding for this to work.”

Both churches credit Young and Eddington, director of missions for Three Rivers Baptist Association, for guiding them through the merger. But overall, it was God, through prayer, that gave the churches their success.

“We had to bathe the entire process in prayer,” Blakemore said.

The Abbotts agreed. “From the beginning we were praying for Calvary and, without us even knowing, they were praying for us,” Linda said.

In September 2017, the two churches officially constituted as one, with a new name: New Beginnings Baptist Church. The church affiliated with IBSA last November.

“It’s new beginnings in a lot of different ways,” Martin said. “Not only is it a name for two churches coming together and a new start for a ministry, but it’s a new beginning for a work in Streator, as well as a new beginning to the lost who come here.”

Mike Young continued as interim pastor until the church was able to hire their first full-time pastor. Aaron Jackson has been serving as pastor almost a full year. “We’re already seeing what God is doing through ministries here at New Beginnings,” he said. “This is a very unchurched area and we’re doing as much as we can to get involved in the community.”

The church has moved back into the main building and has seen significant growth. They’re reaching out to Streator through multiple ministries. Walter describes the church as a family with a singular focus on Christ. “What is our mission? To preach the gospel and to proclaim Christ to a lost world. That is why we exist. And that’s our direction for the church: so that everything we do is to glorify him.”

Andrew Woodrow

Intercessors spend a day lifting up the needs of the city

By Andrew Woodrow

Hillcrest-departing

“A bus tour is a good way to see the neighborhoods we’ll be praying for,” said Cheryl Dorsey, prayer coordinator for the Chicago Metro Baptist Association. “As we travel between churches, we will review the social and spiritual profile of the neighborhoods, praying en route for those communities.”

This was the fifth year Dorsey and fellow intercessor Phil Miglioratti have drawn together a band of people to pray for Chicagoland, but this was the first time the prayer meeting was mobile.

The group of 20 who braved sub-zero temperatures on January 26 visited four church locations scattered across the metro area. Throughout the trip, pastors shared concerns for their churches and communities while Dorsey and Miglioratti lead prayer using a Chicago neighborhood prayer guide by John Fuder.

Stop #1
Hillcrest Baptist Church
Country Club Hills

“We are praying for you and with you as you go out and pray for your brothers and sisters across the Chicagoland area,” Pastor Adron Robinson told the prayer team as they met at Hillcrest to start the day-long journey. “Pray for us as a church,” he said, to fulfill the Great  Commission. “And pray for Country Clubs Hills. There are about 16,000 people in our suburb and many who do not know the Lord,” he added.

As they boarded the bus, Dorsey encouraged the team to sit next to a prayer partner and to be “sensitive to allow whatever site you see along the way to prompt a prayer”—whether it’s a school building, house, store, or a family in a passing car.

Stop #2
Advent Church
South Loop

Gathered in the eleventh floor community room of a South Loop condo building, the prayer team learned about the up-and-coming community Dennis Conner serves as well as the barriers he faces planting a church in a high-rise. Conner called it a “very different mission field,” where “money and gatekeepers render door-to-door evangelism ineffective.”

The goal of Advent Church is to reach the working professionals in the city. “Pray for fruits for our labor,” he said, “because this is a place that until someone has credibility, gives you their credibility, you don’t have it.”

Stop #3
Chicagoland Community Church
North Side

Nestled in a tight squeeze of low-rise townhouses and multi-unit complexes is Chicagoland Community Church. Here, Pastor Jon Pennington of the Lakeview Community church asked prayer for the church’s success in sharing the gospel.

“We’re passionate to teach people in this neighborhood how to be Jesus-followers,” he said, “But what we really want to see happen in these next two years is 200 first-time visitors at our worship services who are curious about the gospel or our mission—and that at least 20 of them will become new members of the church.”

Stop #4
Iglesia Bautista Erie
West Side

Heading into West Town, snow began falling as the bus reached its last stop, where Marvin Del Rios serves as pastor. “Pray for our community,” he said. “The last several years our community has been going through a process of gentrification. Young professionals are moving back into the city while the working poor to middle class are moving out, changing our outreach strategy.

“The spiritual soil is tough at the moment,” Del Rios said. He hopes as these young professionals have families, “that might be the door to use for us to share the gospel – through their children.”

“Chicago is still a very divided city rooted in a history of prejudice,” Miglioratti said. “And the church of Chicago needs prayer because the church is also divided. So, as we pray for a greater unity in the church, that prayer will produce greater outreach which will lead to many more people becoming part of the family of God.”

Eight hours later, Dorsey described the excitement through prayer she encountered  “as though the Holy Spirit was tailoring our prayer to suit the needs in (each) location,” she said. “It opened our eyes that we pray without prejudice and bias. And being equal partakers of the inheritance of Christ Jesus is not going to happen if people don’t pray into the Kingdom. And that is what we are doing.”

By John Carruthers

October is Pastor Appreciation Month

Some church members looking at the calendar saw Groundhog Day coming up and asked themselves, “If a groundhog can have its own day, shouldn’t our pastors?” So they started Pastor Appreciation Day in 1992. Since then, the day has grown to an entire month of celebration—not in February, but in October.

While churches may recognize their pastors in many different ways, the thing many pastors say they would appreciate is simply to pray for them.

During the month of October, the IBSA staff will lift up nearly 1,000 pastors and congregations in prayer, both individually and as a group. Pastors are welcome to share specific prayer requests at https://bit.ly/2PBcR9U, or by calling IBSA Church Relationships Manager John Carruthers at (217) 391-3110.

Based on recent interviews with IBSA pastors, here are five ways churches can support their pastor(s) in prayer.

1. Pray for wisdom. These men are confronted everyday with many decisions and they desire clarity from the Lord. Pray for God to supply them with his wisdom.
Proverbs 3:5-6

2. Pray for protection. Temptations and attacks come from many different angles and are continuous. Pray for God to protect the pastor from the enemy. I Peter 5:8

3. Pray for his family. Isolation, attacks, and bullying are very common for a pastor’s family to deal with. Pray protection around his family to avoid the fiery snares. Proverbs 12:22

4. Pray for financial pressures. Many pastors are underpaid and some live below the poverty level. They continue to serve joyfully through financial stress. Pray for God to provide not only basic needs but additional resources to provide for times of celebration and comfort. Philippians 4:19

5. Pray for gospel opportunities. Being a pastor can open up gospel conversations, or sometimes it can shut them down. Pray for the pastor to have friendships with unbelievers, and to have opportunity to share the gospel this week. Psalm 105:1

John Carruthers is IBSA’s Church Relationships Manager

Praying with purpose

Lisa Misner —  August 30, 2018

How will you intercede for Illinois missionaries?

Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains, so that I may make it known as I should.
– Colossians 4:2-4, CSB

MIO Logo 500pxThe apostle Paul’s words to the church at Colossae are a blueprint for how we can pray for missions in Illinois, especially during this season when many churches will collect the Mission Illinois Offering:

1. Be devoted to prayer. MIO is more than a monetary offering; it also calls churches to a week of intentional prayer for missionaries and ministries across the state. Find daily devotions for the Week of Prayer Sept. 9-16 at missionillinois.org. Use one each day to remind you to pray for state missions, and read them together during your church’s worship service and small group gatherings.

2. Pray specifically. Paul urged early Christians to pray specifically for him as he preached the gospel of Christ. In Colossians, he asked for open doors. In Ephesians 6:19-20, it was boldness.

As you pray for missions and missionaries in Illinois, pray specifically—for open doors for church planters working in communities without a church, and for boldness for campus ministers serving at colleges and universities. Pray also for perseverance for missionaries who are currently seeing few results, but trusting God to transform lives and build his church.

3. Pray outside the box. In the passages in Colossians and Ephesians, Paul reminds his readers that he’s in chains for the gospel. Hidden in his prayer requests for the ministry is a personal request of sorts—remember me in prison.

Missionaries still need prayer for things that aren’t directly related to their work, said Kathy Deasy. She served with her husband, Jeff, in Kenya and Brazil before they moved to Illinois, where Jeff leads IBSA’s Church Cooperation Team.

“When we were serving overseas, we were constantly asking for prayers for the non-missionary work things that totally affected our ability to do our ministry,” Kathy Deasy said. Housing, transportation challenges, children adjusting to a new culture, marriage, money, diet, time—personal things everyone deals with are made even more challenging in a different cultural context than your own, she said.

When they asked for prayer on the field, the Deasys listed ministry challenges, goals, accomplishments, and progress, Kathy said, “but we felt ministered ‘to’ when people went above and beyond to pray for our families and our personal lives and walk with God to remain strong, in the midst of attempting to accomplish those things we felt called to do.”

Go to missionillinois.org to order free MIO prayer guides and bulletin inserts for your church.

PA-33C-3

By Rich Cochran, Director of Leadership Development

The personal commitment to us develop leaders for Kingdom expansion will expose our hearts and motives as a leader very quickly. It’s the heart of the pastor, planter, and church leader that will determine if we will identify, train, and send leaders out of our churches to build the Kingdom of God.

Great leaders multiply leaders to expand the Kingdom.

Multiplying leaders is a great need for churches across Illinois. As pastors, we struggle with multiplying leaders because we seem to always be struggling to find enough volunteers for our own ministries. We have to determine in our hearts that we are called by God to build his Kingdom not ours. When we invest in other leaders and launch them to lead, we are multiplying our influence and more importantly we are multiplying the Kingdom.

This month I talked with several leaders across our state that have committed in their hearts to invest in others.

David Smith pastors First Baptist Church Grayville. He spends time with a college-age man called to ministry. They study the Bible together, talk about church, and David even includes him during sermon preparation time.

Chet Daniels pastors Redeemer Church in Urbana and has been investing in potential leaders since the church was established. Chet leads an intensive preaching cohort where he is developing preaching skills and sending them out to smaller churches in the surrounding area.

Rayden Hollis recently planted Red Hill Church in Edwardsville. He spends time with upcoming leaders and releases them as partners in ministry. He knows they will go off and plant a church somewhere else. His time with them will be short, but he equips because he knows to reach Illinois, we need new work all over the state.

All three of these leaders serve in different types of churches—a new church, a church started about eight years ago, and a church that has been around a long time. Each of these are in different contexts and all are under 250 in size.

Being a multiplying leader is not determined by location, church size, or church type. It is the leader’s heart to multiply new leaders that is the game changer.

The commitment:

Pray and Identify — Ask God to raise up leaders in your church and invite them into a mentoring and coaching relationship to develop their ministry gifts and skills.

Train and Partner — Offer intentional leadership training and partner with IBSA and others to train and equip leaders.

Send and Repeat — Commission and ordain leaders from your church and send them to a place of service as a pastor, planter, missionary, or church leader. Then do it again!

Join us for our next Developing Leader webinar on May 16 and hear from David Seaton, pastor of Collinsville Community Church.

Great leaders multiply leaders to expand the Kingdom!

Learn more at PioneeringSpirit.org.

hands patterned with the US flag

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the National Day of Prayer. Many of us pray for America on a regular basis, but each time this year, we are able to join together across the nation and pray together in unity.

Whether you are joining a prayer gathering for the event or praying on your own throughout the year, here are some ways you can pray for America.

1. #PRAY4UNITY in America.

“Making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

The present spiritual crisis in America is calling us to pray for and take all necessary actions to come together in our nation. God is the only One who can do this, so we call upon Him to empower us to make every effort to live in unity.

2. #PRAY4UNITY in the church of America.

“Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, and that you be united with the same understanding and the same conviction” (1 Corinthians 1:10).

God is calling His Church in America to unify upon the authority of the Bible and centrality of Jesus Christ, the only Savior of the world. We must come together to make Christ known to the world by advancing the Gospel to every person in the world. Ask God for local churches to unify as one body of Christ and walk together in unity, harmony and oneness.

3. #PRAY4UNITY in the families, workplaces, communities and cities in America.

“Also, the power of God was at work in Judah to unite them to carry out the command of the king and his officials by the word of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 30:12).

God’s power upon us is the only source to unite our families, workplaces, communities and cities in America. Ask God to call families, workplaces, communities and cities to look to the only One who can unify us.

4. #PRAY4UNITY among all ethnicities and people in America.

“For he is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14).

Since each of us are made in the image of God, we bear His image regardless of the color of our skin or uniqueness of our ethnicity. Through the death of Jesus, He has torn down the wall of division among all people. In God alone, we unify and live in peace with one another, standing against all racial and ethnic division, denouncing it as sin.

5. #PRAY4UNITY for the security of our nation and for our schools, churches, and all public venues.

“The one who lives under the protection of the Most High dwells in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1).

Ask God to protect our schools, churches and all public venues. Plead with God to restrain all evil and secure our nation from all enemies. Ask God to move upon our government officials to work together to secure our schools, churches and all public venues.

6. #PRAY4UNITY that we agree clearly, unite visibly and pray extraordinarily for the next great spiritual awakening in America.

“They all were continually united in prayer” (Acts 1:14).

Ask God to convict the church of America to wake up spiritually, unite visibly and pray extraordinarily for the next Great Spiritual Awakening in America to occur in our generation and shape the future of America.

EDITOR’S NOTE: May 3 is the National Day of Prayer.

Ronnie Floyd is senior pastor of Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas and president of the National Day of Prayer. This article first appeared at LifeWay’s Facts&Trends (factsandtrends.net).

Why I miss Nellie

ib2newseditor —  February 15, 2018

Woman praying with her bible on table

Joe Oliver met me at the front door yesterday. One of our faithful zone consultants, Joe was in town for the monthly team meeting before returning to his ministry field in the Chicago suburbs. “We’re praying for you,” he said, helping me pull the door open. His wife, DeWanna, had said the same thing to me on the same spot the month before. And in that moment, I realized that I still miss my mother-in-law.

Folks at my house have been on the injured-reserve list for a while, and I took my turn recently. In this protracted season, I have witnessed Christ at work through coworkers and their wives who have fed us and cheered us and prayed for us. The same is true of church family, who prove they are truly family, when you need them. The soups and casseroles have been terrific, but it’s the assurances about praying for us that stick with us most.

“We’re praying for you” really means something when you know it’s true.

I used to call my grandmother on occasion and ask her to pray for me, especially during college exams. (Desperate times, desperate measures, you know.) And where she left off, my mother-in-law picked up. “Call your mother,” I’d say to my wife. Especially as a pastor in a troubled inner city, I knew we needed to send for back-up. And we got it from 600 miles away. She prayed faithfully, and she would call back wanting to know the results—because she expected results. Nellie has been with Jesus 12 years now, telling him more directly, I hope, that we need his help. Baptists don’t have a doctrine of the communion of the saints, but I hope in the Hebrews 12:1 cloud of witnesses, a picture of the packed stadium at an Olympics-style event, that there’s room for my mother-in-law and so many others still cheering us on toward the faithful completion of our own race.

And not Nellie only.

Over the years, I have counted on the prayers of Louise, Leo, Ruthie, Ethel, Pat, Pam, Carole, Sheila, Yvonne, Bev, Sherry, Millie, Bea, and Arlene, among others. And more recently Susan, Beth, Robin, Kathy, Tammie, Jean, Miriam, Ashley, Diane, and many, many others. And that’s just the women.

I’m beginning to understand why Paul’s “conclusions” to his short letters are so long. There are so many people who deserve a “thank you” for their faithful intercession. If I haven’t said it adequately out loud, please know I’m saying it in prayer.

– Eric Reed