Ill. Baptists recognize strength in cooperation
"For Southern Baptists in particular, the strength has always been in cooperating," IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams said. "Let's choose to cooperate, to be dependent on each other."
"Mission Illinois" was the theme of the meeting, attended by 418 registered messengers and additional visitors at Decatur's Tabernacle Baptist Church Nov. 14-15. The annual pastors' conference preceded the meeting and featured four speakers on the topic "Renew."
Illinois' major metro areas -- Chicago and East St. Louis -- took center stage at the meeting, as messengers heard numerous challenges to take the Gospel to the places where the most lost people live.
"Every believer in Illinois is responsible to reach the people of Illinois," IBSA President Jonathan Peters said. "And the people of Illinois, for the most part, still live in large urban centers."
'A heart for God's people'
Peters' president's message helped set forth the "Mission Illinois" theme to messengers as did the annual sermon from Marvin Parker of Broadview Missionary Baptist Church in Broadview, who was backed by his church's choir and worship band.
Several videos during the meeting also drew on the Mission Illinois theme, including the stories of two women -- one in Chicago and one in metro St. Louis -- who came to Christ through the ministry of local churches in those cities.
"My whole life is changed," said Deidre, now a member of Resurrection House Baptist Church in Chicago. "The sincerity, the love, the support, the encouragement -- they are truly people with a heart for God's people."
Peters, pastor of First Baptist Church in Columbia, spoke from personal experience about the importance of taking the Gospel to cities. A native of Chicago, he never heard the Gospel until he met students from the Baptist campus ministry at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. During the annual meeting, Peters, who now pastors in a St. Louis suburb, was elected by acclimation to a second term as IBSA president.
The association's other officers also were re-elected by acclamation: Odis Weaver, pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Plainfield, vice president; Nina Wilson, a member of First Baptist Church in Machesney Park, recording secretary; and Melissa Carruthers, a member of Lincoln Avenue Baptist Church in Jacksonville, assistant recording secretary.
IBSA's Resolutions and Christian Life Committee brought three resolutions before messengers, expressing appreciation for meeting host Tabernacle Baptist and to IBSA staff and affirming belief in God's triune nature. Messengers approved all three resolutions.
Budgets from IBSA's three boards (the state association, Baptist Foundation of Illinois and Baptist Children's Home and Family Services), were approved, as well as a Cooperative Program goal of $6.5 million, down from $6.7 million for the current year and including 10 percent in shared expenses with the Southern Baptist Convention. Illinois sends 43.25 percent of CP gifts to the Southern Baptist Convention for national and international missions, the fifth-highest percentage among 42 state conventions.
'1% Challenge leader
SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page gave Illinois Baptists an in-person thank-you for how they've responded to the Cooperative Program 1% Challenge he posed at last year's IBSA annual meeting and to churches across the nation.
"The state of Illinois has been one of the leaders in accepting the 1% Challenge," Page said of the initiative for churches to increase their Cooperative Program giving by 1 percent of their budgets.
In his IBSA board report, Adams said giving through the Cooperative Program and the Illinois Mission Offering is up compared to this time last year, not counting a large estate gift that was part of 2011's IMO.
The IBSA Credentials Committee presented 10 new churches for affiliation with IBSA and requested that Peters appoint a 12-member study committee to determine whether the IBSA constitution gives adequate guidance to their work of considering new churches.
The committee also recommended that eight churches be withdrawn from IBSA fellowship because they have been non-cooperating for at least 10 years. The churches are not affiliated with a local association and were non-responsive during a year-long reclamation process. The total number of IBSA churches and missions is 999.
In other meeting activity, $1,859 was collected for the annual Ministers' Relief Offering, used to assist pastors facing unanticipated transitions.
The 2013 IBSA annual meeting will be Nov. 13-14 at the Hilton Springfield.
Meredith Flynn is associate editor of the Illinois Baptist, the newsjournal of the Illinois Baptist State Association.