These 5 commitments will change your church—and Illinois
“Build your kingdom here,” pleads the writer of the popular song by the Christian group Rend Collective. With phrases such as “heal our streets and lands” and “set your church on fire,” the chorus captures the desire for IBSA churches in the year ahead. And for those who will attend the 2015 IBSA Annual Meeting, the anthem is a follow-up to last year’s Concert of Prayer for spiritual awakening in Illinois and revival in our churches.
“I like the song for several reasons, but I think above all it’s the way the song lets me boldly ask God for things that I think are on His heart as well,” said IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams. “This song gives me a bold, evangelistic prayer that challenges me to ask God for what He wants.”
And it’s a good summary of the prayers at the upcoming Annual Meeting. “We will be asking God together to move mightily through our churches, yes for our own revival, but beyond that to draw lost people to Christ,” said Adams.
The Annual Meeting, set for Nov. 11-12 at First Baptist Church of Marion, focuses on evangelism and key commitments churches can make to reach lost people in their communities.
“When the dust settled at the end of 2014, IBSA churches reported over 500 fewer baptisms than in 2013,” Adams said. “That breaks my heart!”
One focus of last year’s Concert of Prayer was the growing number of non-Christian religions in our state, where more than 8 million of Illinois’ 13 million residents do not know Jesus Christ.
“There are now more Muslims in Illinois than Southern Baptists,” Adams points out, a fact he finds disturbing. “I know we cannot ‘manufacture’ spiritual results. But even as we beg God to “Build Your Kingdom Here,” we want to challenge churches to commit themselves to the kinds of simple, evangelistic activities that have proven year after year to be most effective in drawing lost people to Christ.”
Mark Emerson and the Church Resources Team have led the way in development of these commitments. “Our thinking in the development of the five commitments came from two ideas. We realized that 342 IBSA churches reported no baptisms last year, and another 100 report one baptism each.
“Then I heard the statement from LifeWay’s Jerry Wooley at the VBS preview event that 25% of all baptisms are directly related to Vacation Bible School. According to the 2014 Annual Church Profile data we had 432 IBSA churches that didn’t record a VBS.”
The two concepts came together for Emerson and his team. “I started thinking, if I was the new pastor in a church that hadn’t baptized anyone, what would I do in my first year that would lead to more baptisms?”
One obvious answer: take fuller advantage of Southern Baptists’ best evangelism opportunity.
“We are committed to helping these churches that haven’t held VBS recently plan one for 2016,” Emerson. “We believe if they will make VBS a priority it will yield baptisms.”
And that commitment led to the full slate of five:
• Evangelistic prayer
• Witness training
• Expanded VBS
• New groups
• Outreach events
“David Francis, LifeWay’s Sunday School Director, shares that a new unit will bring (on average) 10 new people to a church in its first year,” Emerson said. “When the new unit keeps an evangelistic focus, a portion of these new attenders will make professions of faith and follow Christ in baptism.”
Adams, Emerson, and the Church Resources Team will present all five commitments in the Wednesday evening session at this year’s Annual Meeting.
The chapel area at FBC Marion will be set up as a resource room with large displays of “Building Blocks.” Look for the Lego-style blocks representing each of the five commitments.
How to prepare
“IBSA staff and resources are committed to coming alongside churches that make those commitments to help them in all five of those areas, and to link them to nearby churches that make those same pledges to renewed, zealous evangelism,” Adams said.
“I would invite those preparing to come to the Annual Meeting to simply ask God, ‘Who is within reach of our church that doesn’t know Christ yet?’ and ‘What could our church do to help them meet Jesus?’
“We can all grow complacent just going through the motions of our church routines week after week. I would hope that people would come to the Annual Meeting longing for God to turn them inside out into their communities. And I would hope they would leave the Annual Meeting on fire to join Jesus in seeking and saving the lost.”
After three years in Springfield, the Annual Meeting is on the road again. “This will be the first time in several years that the IBSA Annual Meeting has been as far south as Marion,” Adams said. “I’m hoping that will make it more accessible to many churches in that region, before we stretch north to Chicagoland the following year. And Marion First Baptist hosting the meeting during their 150th anniversary year makes it even more special.”
FBC Marion is one of four IBSA churches celebrating their founding in 1865. While at the church, look for their historical display just inside the entryway.
Get the Annual Meeting and Pastors’ Conference schedules, hotel information, and more at www.IBSA.org/IBSA2015.