Illinois Baptists commit to 5 evangelism challenges
Heal our streets and land,
Show your mighty hand;
Win this nation back…
Build Your kingdom here!
("Build Your Kingdom Here" by Rend Collective, ©2011, Thankyou Music)
Messengers were invited to commit to Gospel outreach in their own mission fields by placing a pin on a giant map of Illinois and investing in one or more of five commitments for Kingdom growth during the Nov. 11-12 meeting at First Baptist Church in Marion.
"Unhealthy churches are filled with people who know about God, but they don't know God," IBSA President Odis Weaver said in his address. "If the Kingdom of God is going to advance in Illinois, or anywhere, we've got to move beyond knowing about God to knowing God, and living that."
Weaver, pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Plainfield, urged church leaders to repent of complacency. "We have too often allowed our churches to become merely places of comfort and rest, rather than being fortresses against the darkness," he said.
Executive Director Nate Adams noted in his report that IBSA has narrowed its focus from 12 goals to 4 over a two-year period: develop leaders, inspire cooperation, stimulate church health and growth, and catalyze evangelistic church planting and missions.
"We are seeking to focus less on goals that simply measure IBSA staff activities and more on goals that indicate true, positive results in churches," Adams said. He charted positive results in most areas, and noted in particular that new church plants are up from 10 last year to 22 or more by year's end.
Of concern is last year's report that baptisms were down by about 500. The current totals are not yet available from 2014-15 Annual Church Profile reports but the previous figures prompted the focus on commitments that produce baptisms.
The annual Wednesday evening worship service was devoted to five evangelism commitments, each represented by a large Lego-style block on the stage: Expanded VBS, Witness Training, Outreach Events, New Groups and Evangelistic Prayer.
"The problem is not that we don't know what to do, the problem is that we're not doing it," Adams said. After he introduced each block, an Illinois pastor told how his church had seen God work through that specific ministry.
Roger Teal, pastor of Grace Baptist Fellowship in Benton, recounted, for example, how his church was called to pray for the salvation of lost people as it began a relocation project. Claiming the passages in Ezra 3 where the Israelites built an altar for a place of worship before the actual temple was completed, he decided, "We're going to do that."
So the congregation cut down a tree, went to the exact spot where the Lord's Super table would sit in their new building, and "started writing names down of people they knew they wanted to see come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior," Teal said.
Although the building is still not complete, the altar area is finished. The names written on it are seen every Sunday as people walk past. A young man named Garrett, whose name is written there, came to know Christ and was baptized by his grandfather. Garrett has since answered a call to ministry.
When someone at Grace Church comes to know the Lord, his or her name gets circled. With three so far, Teal said they have a lot more to go. "But, we've got three names that are circled."
At the end of the commitment service, Adams asked attendees to consider which of the five ministry challenges they'll take up in the coming year. He invited them to walk down the aisle and place a commitment card near a large map of Illinois, and then to use a post-it note with a large Mapquest-style pinpoint to indicate a location in the state, perhaps their own community, where they are praying God will build His Kingdom.
As the service concluded and people slowly made their way out of the sanctuary, the map remained as a reminder of that prayer.
Messengers approved a 2016 budget with an anticipated Cooperative Program commitment of $6.3 million. The ratio for distributing CP dollars remains at 56.75 percent for work in Illinois and 43.25 percent for SBC international and North American missions and ministry.
William Townes, vice president for convention finance with the SBC Executive Committee, reported that 107 IBSA churches had taken the "1% CP Challenge," raising their Cooperative Program giving by an additional 1 percentage point of their undesignated offerings, and that 15 of those churches had done so for a second year in a row. While CP giving in Illinois is down about 1 percent year to date, nationally the trend appears to have turned and CP giving is notching upward.
Messengers adopted five resolutions, including a call for "prayers, support, and advocacy" for Christians suffering persecution in various parts of the world. In a "Watchmen" resolution, messengers urged pastors "to preach the whole counsel of God, invite people to Jesus, and declare Biblical truth concerning the burning moral issues that are being debated in the culture and government." And in a resolution on "Public Legal Protection for Pastors and Churches in Light of the Supreme Court's Ruling on Same Sex Marriage," messengers underscored the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom. Sandy Barnard was honored for 30 years of IBSA service; Barnard currently serves as executive assistant in the executive director's office. The fifth resolution voiced appreciation to First Baptist Church in Marion for hosting the annual meeting; the church is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. Resolutions are available in their entirety at www.IBSA.org/IBSA2015.
In addition, an offering of $2799.36 was designated to assist International Mission Board personnel returning from the field due to IMB's staff reduction.
Odis Weaver completed his second one-year term as president and was succeeded by vice president Kevin Carrothers, pastor of Rochester First Baptist Church. Also elected: vice president, Adron Robinson, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills; recording secretary, Patty Hulskotter of Living Faith Baptist Church in Sherman; and assistant recording secretary, Teresa Ebert of Temple Baptist Church in Canton.
The IBSA annual meeting was attended by 504 registered messengers and 72 visitors, representing 215 churches.
The 2016 IBSA annual meeting will be Nov. 2-3 at Broadview Missionary Baptist Church in metro Chicago.