Statewide offering goal is a new record, and very needed
By Eric Reed
The state goal for the Illinois Mission Offering is $475,000. That’s $35,000 higher than last year’s goal, and a new record. And it’s for good reason. The need in Illinois is growing, and the funding is shrinking.
“North American Mission Board funding has been reduced $265,000 per year,” IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams said. “And while we are grateful for the funding NAMB does provide, those dollars must now be more exclusively devoted to church planting. So the responsibility for assisting our existing churches must be borne more by the churches themselves.”
Baptists in Illinois rose to the challenge in 2011, giving $455,810. That was $65,000 more than the previous year, and far surpassed the 2011 goal of $390,000. Raising the goal this year is a bold move, Adams said, but one the situation requires.
“The down economy these past two to three years has resulted in lower Cooperative Program support from churches, and that’s understandable,” Adams said. “But IMO is a one-time opportunity each year to help make up that difference, and to devote it to ministries that strengthen and start new churches right here in Illinois.”
Churches will have that opportunity when the planning kit for the Illinois Mission Offering and Season of Prayer arrives this month. The first step is prayerfully setting a church goal.Adams hopes churches will pray about doubling their offering goal.
“Last year’s 17 percent increase in the IMO was wonderful, but only replaced about a quarter of the lost funding, so we really need three or four more years of that kind of increase to merely return to our 2011 budget level,” Adams said. “The Illinois Mission Offering is more important to our Baptist work here in our state than ever before.”
Many churches will observe the Season of Prayer and Illinois Mission Offering during the week of September 16-23. Among resources materials available in the kit and online are video profiles of IBSA missionaries and ministries supported by IMO gifts, bulletin inserts, a guide for the week of prayer, mission studies for all ages, and posters to promote the season when Illinois missions are in focus.
What’s at risk
With a population of 12.9 million people, Illinois is a vast mission field.Evangelism experts estimate at least 8. 2 million of our friends and neighbors do not know Jesus Christ.
With one Southern Baptist congregation for every 12,300 people, Illinois is vastly underchurched. Literally hundreds of new churches are needed to reach the state’s unchurched population.
IBSA church planters are planting 80 new congregations now, but the Church Planting team’s pin map is covered in potential new sites – as soon as the planters and funding are available. From Rockford to Cairo,Chicago to Carlinville, new churches are needed.
And with 4,648 baptisms in 2011, many of our existing churches need help reaching their communities with the Gospel.
Choose2 evangelism prayer strategy, featured in the 2012 IMO video profiles, is one example of a new IBSA work that helps churches take the Gospel to the streets. Others include Churches of Strength training conferences, Mission Spectacular events, Super Summer for students, Boys’ and Girls’ Mission Camps, and more. The list of IBSA equipping ministries aided by the Illinois Mission Offering is long, training more than 28,000 leaders in 2011.
In addition to that, the religious landscape in Illinois is complex. Our state is a fantastic patchwork of people groups in population centers and farming communities. Some two million people in Illinois were born outside the United States, many in countries where biblical Christianity is foreign.
Congregating in our cities, campuses, and college towns, international peoples represent a great opportunity to share salvation in Jesus Christ, and ultimately to reach their homelands with the Gospel, as they in turn share their newfound faith with family and friends back home.
Can you help ?
“If the churches would just see that God is bringing the nations to our doorstep, if we’re going to reach the nations, we’ve got great opportunity right here,” said Phil Nelson, pastor of Lakeland Church, which partners with IBSA in campus ministry at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.
“We can touch the world from this place,” said Van Kicklighter, IBSA associate executive director for church planting and missions, as he described the work of two church planters in northern Illinois. “As Southern Baptists in Illinois pray, as they give, as they get involved in volunteering, we can make a difference all over the globe from what happens here.”
IBSA churches rallied to IMO giving in 2011, but 2012 presents even greater challenge.
“I know this is a bold statement, but I believe what we really need is for IBSA churches to double the size of their Illinois Mission Offering goal, by faith, and ask God to help them meet it,” Adams said. “I believe this would show a sacrificial ownership of our Illinois mission field that God would honor and bless.”
But churches currently participating need back-up.
“If the IBSA churches that have not been promoting or receiving an Illinois Mission Offering would simply start this year, and give their people a chance to respond,” Adams concludes, “that could make an amazing difference as well.”
IMO kits will arrive at churches later this month.
Additional resources for the Illinois Mission Offering and Season of Prayer are available at www.IBSA.org/IMO.