Editor’s note: This column is the second in a three-part series, interpreting IBSA’s 2013 state mission offering theme statement: Mission Illinois – Churches Together, Advancing the Gospel. Read Nate’s first column here.
Throughout September, and during the September 15-22 week of prayer in particular, churches across our state are joining together to focus on our Illinois mission field, where at least 8.2 million people don’t yet have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. In addition to praying, most churches participate in the “Mission Illinois Offering,” all of which goes to work right here in our state to push back lostness, and to assist missionaries and churches in disciple-making evangelism and church planting.
The theme statement we’ve chosen to describe Mission Illinois is “Churches Together, Advancing the Gospel.”
The second word of that theme – together – speaks of the multiplied strength, impact, and growth that happen when churches embrace cooperative missions. The power of what churches can do together far exceeds the power of what any church can do individually.
Individually, an Illinois church might work for years to help establish one new congregation somewhere else in the state. But last year, Illinois “churches together” started 28 new congregations.
Individually, an Illinois church might be too far away from a college campus to have a meaningful ministry, even to its own students there. But Illinois “churches together” provide Baptist collegiate ministries on dozens of college campuses.
Individually, an Illinois church might be able to equip a handful of its members to go on an annual mission trip or two. But Illinois “churches together” sent more than 27,000 missions volunteers last year, a 34% increase over the previous year.
Individually, an Illinois church might baptize five or ten new believers, or even a hundred if it were one of our larger churches. But Illinois “churches together” welcomed more than 5,000 new believers into the Kingdom of God last year.
Those kinds of results go beyond mere cumulative totals. They are the synergistic result of us believing together, praying together, giving together, and working together as a Baptist family of churches here in Illinois. But let me cite another noteworthy example, or rather examples, of what “together” means.
Individually, an Illinois church might be flooded, or lose its pastor, or be divided in conflict, or be confronted with a lawsuit. That church might simply not know how to respond to a crisis or traumatic event, or it might need help improving its Sunday School, or evaluating its facilities, or hosting its first Vacation Bible School in years.
Illinois “churches together” provide one another with our statewide staff and resources so that each church is only a phone call, e-mail, or visit away from getting whatever kind of assistance each one needs to remain strong, or in some cases, to survive.
One of the many catchy tunes embedded in my memory from childhood days of watching “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” is the song, “Everything Grows Together.” Mr. Rogers taught us that: “Your toes grow as your feet grow as your legs grow as your fingers grow as your hands grow as your arms grow as your ears grow as your nose grows as the rest of you grows, because you’re all one piece.”
How does everything grow, even in the ministry of our churches? Together. Why? Because we’re all one piece. We know the joys and benefits of interdependence. As you consider your gift to the Mission Illinois Offering this year, I hope it will be in part because you see the amazing value of what can only be done by churches together.
Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond to his column at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.