Illinois churches prepare for new ministry frontiers

by Meredith Flynn, Lisa Misner Sergent & Eric Reed, posted Tuesday, November 21, 2017 (20 days ago)

DECATUR, Ill. (BP) -- The urgent need to get the Gospel to more people was a driving theme of the 111th annual meeting of the Illinois Baptist State Association, with churches challenged to make four "Pioneering Spirit" commitments in the areas of church planting, evangelism, giving and leadership development.

A log cabin in the exhibit hall at the Illinois Baptist State Association’s annual meeting pointed to the theme "Pioneering Spirit" in extending the Gospel throughout the state and the 2018 bicentennial of Illinois.
Illinois Baptist photo
The Pioneering Spirit theme also coincides with Illinois' 200th anniversary to be celebrated in 2018. In keeping with the state's bicentennial, IBSA is asking 200 or more churches to make each of the four commitments.

"We can't be satisfied with the status quo, because the status quo is decline," said Kevin Carrothers during his president's message during the IBSA's Nov. 8-9 sessions in Decatur.

Preaching from the book of Numbers, Carrothers, director of missions for Salem South Baptist Association, said no one remembers the names of the naysaying Israelites who didn't want to go into the promised land. Instead, the real legacy of pioneering spirit was left by Joshua and Caleb, the two spies who trusted God to provide.

"They recognized the will of God was more important to obey than the whims and the desires of men, even if the majority won," Carrothers said.

Executive Director Nate Adams outlined four "Pioneering Spirit" commitments for churches in the areas of church planting, evangelism, giving, and leadership development during the Illinois Baptist State Association's annual meeting in Decatur.
Illinois Baptist photo
In the meeting's final session Thursday morning, pastor Sammy Simmons voiced an annual sermon of encouragement for those weary from a difficult season of life and ministry. Rely on the Lord, said the pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Benton, Ill. And keep taking bold steps for the sake of the Gospel.

"The conditions are too rough, the lostness is too great for us to continue to do business as normal," Simmons said. "The cause of the Gospel causes us to make bold sacrifices for King Jesus.

"I'm all in for this pioneering spirit. Oh, how much our church needs it. Oh, how much I need it. Oh, how much our state needs it."

New challenges

During his report, IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams gave messengers a progress report on IBSA's four key goals:

-- Develop leaders: So far in 2017 more than 500 pastors and leaders have participated in IBSA-sponsored leadership development events, Adams said. About half that number is engaged in more in-depth leadership cohorts.

-- Inspire cooperation: Adams reported that giving through the Cooperative Program and the Mission Illinois Offering is up slightly from last year, and through October, IBSA staff has had direct connection or consultation with 70 percent of all IBSA churches.

-- Stimulating church health and growth: So far in 2017, training conducted by IBSA staff has encompassed more than 5,800 participants from 527 churches. Children's camp sessions have grown from three weeks to seven, Adams said, and IBSA has made major capital investments in both IBSA camps. The 75th anniversary of Lake Sallateeska Baptist Camp was celebrated with a special video presentation during the Thursday morning session.

Bryan and Marci Coble, who are planting a church in Irving Park on Chicago’s north side, were interviewed about their "Pioneering Spirit" to go to new places and reach new people during the Illinois Baptist State Association's annual meeting.
Illinois Baptist photo
-- Catalyzing evangelistic church planting and missions: It's been a busy year for disaster relief, Adams said, with volunteers responding to in-state disasters and hurricanes elsewhere in the country. IBSA anticipates long-term involvement in the Houston area hard-hit by Hurricane Harvey.

Fourteen new churches were planted in the state in 2017, Adams reported, and IBSA welcomed 17 new churches for affiliation during the annual meeting.

Adams also pointed to other measurements, including membership, Sunday School attendance, baptisms, missions volunteerism and missions giving that have remained relatively flat over the past several years. He ended his report by encouraging churches to embrace one or more of the four "Pioneering Spirit" commitments designed to challenge IBSA to courageously depart from the status quo.

Throughout the meeting, the "Pioneering Spirit" commitments were detailed through interviews with Illinois Baptists who exemplify faithful service in four key areas:

1. Go to new places is a church planting challenge, asking at least 200 churches to commit to pray for new congregations, partner with a church planter to assist his work, or to lead in the planting of a new congregation.

2. Engage new people is an evangelism challenge, which IBSA Associate Executive Director Pat Pajak described at the meeting. "We're praying that 200 of our IBSA churches will baptize 12 people next year," or more than the church's previous three-year average. The hope is that churches will turn the decline in baptisms by setting evangelism goals and equipping members to share their faith, and by engaging lost people through evangelistic events and mission trips.

3. Make new sacrifices. "We're asking churches to make missions giving a higher priority in your budget," Adams said. "We're asking would your church to be willing to make CP a greater percentage of your budget -- if the Lord would lead you to make new sacrifices to give through CP." The Pioneering Spirit commitment is for 200 or more churches to increase CP giving (for example, 1 percent per year) with a goal of reaching at least 10 percent of undesignated offerings.

4. Develop new leaders. Mark Emerson, associate executive director of IBSA's church resources team, urged pastors to commit to leadership development for current members and potential young leaders. The goal is for 200 or more churches to have intentional development processes in place.

Other business

-- Messengers approved the 2018 IBSA budget of $8.7 million, with projected Cooperative Program giving of $6.3 million. IBSA forwards 43.5 percent of Cooperative Program gifts on to national SBC causes, the 11th-highest among 42 state conventions.

-- Messengers approved a motion brought by the IBSA Board of Directors that all property currently held by IBSA for Baptist Children's Home and Family Services be conveyed by deed to BCHFS in its entirety. This includes 17 tracts of property (744.9 acres) that were acquired for use and are used by BCHFS but are currently titled to IBSA.

-- IBSA's ministry partners gave video reports throughout the business meeting, including Illinois Woman's Missionary Union (WMU) and President Jill McNicol. God has advanced the work of WMU and given new opportunities to reach new people, McNicol said, noting three places -- Southeast Asia, the Bronx and Cairo, Ill. -- where Illinois women have served on mission in the past year.

"To the women of WMU, missions is not just a thing. It's people. It's lost people needing a Savior. And it's teaching Christians how to live on mission for God, to reach those lost people."

-- IBSA's four officers for 2018 were elected by acclamation: Adron Robinson, president, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills; Adam Cruse, vice president, pastor of Living Faith Baptist Church in Sherman; Robin Mayberry, recording secretary, member of Bluford Baptist Church; and Sharon Carty, assistant recording secretary, member of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Carlinville.

The 2018 IBSA annual meeting is scheduled for Nov. 7-8 at First Baptist Church in Maryville, with Tom Hufty, pastor of First Baptist Church in Maryville, to bring the annual sermon.

Meredith Flynn, Lisa Misner Sergent and Eric Reed are on the staff of the Illinois Baptist State Association and its newsjournal, the Illinois Baptist.
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