Check out our IBSA Annual Meeting and Pastors' Conference photo galleries at iB2news.org.
Springfield | The 107th Annual Meeting of the Illinois Baptist State Association brought messengers together Nov. 13-14 under one theme with three pieces: Churches, Together, Advancing the Gospel.
“Last year we introduced this as the ‘heart cry’ for our work together as churches,” IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams said. “Illinois is our mission field. The Illinois Baptist State Association is who we are, but ‘Mission Illinois’ describes what we must do!”
For two days at the Springfield Hilton, 455 registered messengers and 41 guests heard reports focused on the business side of cooperation, and celebrated how God is drawing people to Himself through the planting of new churches across the state.
Messengers gathered just blocks away from where, one week earlier, Illinois lawmakers voted to legalize same-sex marriage. The challenge of being the church in the current culture was a topic for speakers at the IBSA Pastors’ Conference and the Annual Meeting, and the subject of a resolution messengers adopted unanimously.
“The value system is shifting so we look like the bad guys, the outlaws, the bigots. We haven’t changed, the world keeps getting darker and darker,” said Gary Frost, the North American Mission Board’s Midwest vice president. Frost challenged Illinois churches toward boldness, and clarity in presenting the Gospel.
“If I’m going to have surgery,” he said, referring to Jesus’ life-changing message, “please don’t use a butter knife. Use a scalpel.”
"I’m proud to say that the churches in Illinois are alive and well.” Pat Pajak, IBSA’s associate executive director of church strengthening, presented one of three theme interpretations at the Annual Meeting.
The state association welcomed 12 newly affiliating churches into fellowship at the Annual Meeting. The IBSA Credentials Committee also recommended the association disaffiliate with 22 churches that have been non-cooperating for nine or ten years.
In his report, Adams told messengers that leader development is essential, and an opportunity previously thought closed may still be possible. The IBSA Board has authorized the study of development of a leadership center.
A 30-acre site including a 9,000 square foot house and a three-acre pond and gardens, located about one mile from the IBSA building in Springfield, is still on the market at a reduced price.
“The IBSA board and I are diligently asking the Lord if He has been preparing this place for spiritual renewal for IBSA pastors and leaders,” Adams solicited input from attenders at a table in the exhibit hall. The board is expected to make a decision early next year.
IBSA’s Resolutions and Christian Life Committee brought five resolutions to messengers, each affirmed without discussion. (See 11/25 Illinois Baptist for more.) The highest profile issue tackled by the committee: the definition of marriage. The resolution calls for the protection of religious conviction amid the changing cultural climate.
“Messengers call on all courts, legislators, and elected officials to affirm the religious liberty of local congregations and faith-based organizations to operate in accordance with their theological principles,” reads the resolution, making specific reference to the performance of marriage ceremonies and wedding-related celebrations.
Churches are also urged to revisit their bylaws concerning use of their facilities.
“We live in a culture that rewards ‘I’ and ‘me.’ In God’s plan, He rewards ‘we’ and ‘us’ doing things together.” IBSA’s Van Kicklighter introduced the Wednesday evening service focused on church planting by talking about cooperation.
Adams announced the formation of a new relationship with Judson University. Judson will offer a church planting certificate to students who partner with Southern Baptist church planters in Chicagoland. IBSA will also team with the Elgin-based university for “GO Week,” a student missions event next summer.
Eight planters, some in-person and some on video, followed the cooperation theme as they described how their churches are the products of much prayer and partnership by their families, leadership teams and fellow Baptists.
Messengers approved budgets from all three IBSA boards – the Illinois Baptist State Association, Baptist Foundation of Illinois, and Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services. IBSA’s Cooperative Program goal for 2014 is $6.6 million, an increase of $100,000. Illinois sends 43.25% of CP gifts to the SBC for national and international missions, the fifth-highest percentage of all 42 state conventions.
The annual Ministers’ Relief Offering, collected during the Annual Meeting for pastors facing unanticipated transitions, received $1,865.
Advancing the Gospel
Two Illinois pastors delivered fiery messages calling churches to engage lost people in their communities, and to work together to reach the urban areas of St. Louis and Chicago.
“God saves sinners with the preaching of the Gospel,” Jonathan Peters said in his final president’s message. “Wouldn’t it make sense that we need Gospel-driven, Gospel-preaching churches across our state?”
Tim Lewis, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Troy, pleaded with churches during the annual sermon to reach out to those in need of the Gospel, remembering their own former lostness. (see the Nov. 25 Illinois Baptist for more)
IBSA churches reported sending out more than 27,000 missions volunteers last year, a 34.5% increase over the previous year. Relief efforts after Hurricane Sandy drew younger people in particular, pushing the numbers of volunteers up significantly. “That’s something worth celebrating,” Adams said.
And many more churches have accepted the challenge to reach their Acts 1:8 mission fields. “I remember eight years ago before I came on staff, making a presentation on the Acts 1:8 challenge to about 20 IBSA churches,” Adams said during the meeting. “Today, 249 churches have embraced the Acts 1:8 strategy.”
But there’s much work still left to do, said IBSA’s associate executive director of missions, Mark Emerson. “There are 2.8 billion people in the 10/40 window alone that have not been reached with the Gospel.”