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Nate Adams: Churches Together, Advancing the Gospel (Part 1)

This column is the first in a three-part series, interpreting IBSA’s 2013 state mission offering theme statement: Mission Illinois – Churches Together, Advancing the Gospel. 

Recently I spoke with a pastor from another denomination who told me that his church would probably be leaving that denomination soon. As he explained the reasons behind his church’s impending decision, I had to admit I understood. 

First he pointed to a shift in the doctrinal positions of his denomination at the national level, positions that his church believed to be contrary to the Bible and conforming to the culture. Then he talked about the diminishing effectiveness of their churches in evangelism and missions, at least in part because of a focus on traditions and insider church issues. When I asked him if he wouldn’t miss the resources and fellowship of churches in his denomination, he simply replied that they could find those elsewhere. 

I left the conversation a little sad for both the church and its denomination. But I also left both encouraged and challenged. I was encouraged because positive feelings about those very same issues keep me strongly committed to our cooperative work as Southern Baptists here in Illinois. And yet I was challenged as well, because I realize there may be pastors and members in our own fellowship of churches who occasionally ask those same questions. 

That’s why we are increasingly using the phrase “Mission Illinois” to describe not only our 2013 state mission offering, but also the compelling cause that pulls us together as Baptist churches here in Illinois. And the very first word that defines Mission Illinois is the word “churches”.

You see, many of us naturally think of the word church in the singular, as in our own church. But Baptist churches choose to become plural, that is they look beyond themselves and work together, when at least three things happen. They share the same, strongly held, core beliefs. They share the same urgent priorities. And therefore they value the same trustworthy resources and partnerships. 

I find all three of those compelling motivations in our association of churches here in Illinois. The strongly held, biblical, core beliefs that bind us together as Illinois Baptists are clearly and courageously stated in the Baptist Faith & Message. It’s true those beliefs are becoming increasingly countercultural, but that makes them more important than ever. 

The urgent priorities that bind us together are disciple-making evangelism and missions, especially here in our Illinois mission field. We cannot get distracted into, or settle for, lesser top priorities. In fact, you’ll notice that the very first icon or symbol in our Mission Illinois logo is an image of a church steeple. And if you’ll look again, you’ll also notice that it is a wide path that leads to a narrow path, and that the narrow path leads to the cross. 

These core beliefs and priorities are so important that we as churches also place a high value on sharing trustworthy resources and partnerships. Our mission boards, seminaries, publishing houses, and state and local entities are passionately devoted to the mission of the local church. And so we support them, participate in them, and are loyal to them. 

I believe that IBSA churches – plural – continue to work together and give together and pray together and advance the Gospel together, for the same important reasons that no longer held a grip on my pastor friend or his church.

Mission Illinois, at its heart, is simply “churches together, advancing the Gospel.” As you consider your gift to the Mission Illinois Offering this year, I hope it will be because you believe that churches – plural –working together to share the gospel here in Illinois, are still a great investment with eternal benefits. 

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond to his column at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.

Last Published: August 9, 2013 2:58 PM
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