Ill. Baptists urged to cross cultural divides
BROADVIEW, Ill. (BP) -- Messengers to the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Illinois Baptist State Association voted to increase the state's Cooperative Program giving to national causes, met missionaries coming off the international field who have joined the state staff, and welcomed 10 new churches to the association.
During the business sessions, messengers approved the 2017 IBSA budget of $8.5 million, with projected Cooperative Program giving of $6.3 million. That included a quarter-point increase in giving to Southern Baptist Convention missions and ministry. Starting in January, 56.5 percent of CP giving in Illinois will provide for ministry, missions, and church planting within the state, while 43.5 percent will go to the SBC Executive Committee for distribution to national and international missions.
IBSA Board President Bob Dyer noted this was the first adjustment in the CP ratio in eight years, and reflected a multi-level approach to missions involving state, national and international partners.
-- In 2016, 257 pastors were engaged in personal leadership development, and 27 regional cohorts were facilitated by IBSA staff or one of several part-time zone consultants.
-- Nearly 5,500 leaders from 609 churches received training in areas that promote church health and growth. After last year's emphasis on the evangelistic building block of Vacation Bible School, participation in VBS training increased by 35 percent. Further outcomes of the "Build Your Kingdom Here" emphasis, which advocated five evangelistic commitments by IBSA churches in 2016, are expected on the next comprehensive report of Annual Church Profiles early next year.
-- The IBSA anticipates 16 new churches to be planted in Illinois in 2016.
A new dimension was added to IBSA missions involvement with three returning International Mission Board missionaries joining the IBSA staff: Jeff Deasy, associate executive director of the Church Cooperation Team, was a career missionary, along with his wife Kathy in Kenya. Dwayne Doyle, director of men's ministry and missions, served most recently in Greece; and Mike Young, camp manager of Streator Baptist Camp, served in the Czech Republic. All three joined the IBSA staff in 2016.
All four IBSA officers were re-elected to serve a second one-year term. President Kevin Carrothers, pastor, Rochester First Baptist Church; Vice President Adron Robinson, pastor, Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills; Recording Secretary Patty Hulskotter, member, Living Faith Baptist Church in Sherman; and Assistant Recording Secretary Teresa Ebert, member, Temple Baptist Church in Canton.
IBSA's Credentials Committee presented 10 churches for affiliation with IBSA, which were admitted without objection.
In a world of ever-increasing diversity, doing effective cross-cultural ministry is a daunting task. But maybe more daunting than it should be, said Gateway Seminary President Jeff Iorg during the meeting's annual worship celebration.
"Crossing culture with the Gospel is one of those things that I believe we over-complicate, to our detriment," Iorg said. But it can be as simple as sharing a meal or giving an English lesson. Then, he added, watch as God opens up opportunities to share the Gospel.
"Cross-Culture" was the theme of the meeting and the annual worship celebration, which featured Iorg and stories of Illinois Baptists reaching past their own cultural norms for the sake of the Gospel.
Lindsay McDonald and her husband John shared how her recent mission trip to South Asia lit a fire in their church to cross cultures in their own community. After hearing how she crossed barriers of language and tradition and worldview in Bangladesh last spring, their church, First Baptist Church in Casey, is working to reach across the economic divides in their own community.
"We see that as a great need," said John, who pastors the church, "so we're trying to cross that cultural boundary."
In the book of Acts, Iorg preached, it was through "everyday Christians" that God reinvigorated the spread of the Gospel after it halted because of cultural biases and limitations.
"Everyday Christians, anonymous evangelists, witnessing believers -- these people are the reason the Gospel first crossed culture," said Iorg preaching from Acts 11:20.
"If the Gospel is going to cross culture here in Illinois, it will be because everyday believers decide to make it happen."
Strangers and exiles
Preaching from the book of Jeremiah during his president's message, Carrothers reminded his listeners how God told the Israelites to pray for the prosperity of the city where they had been exiled (Jeremiah 29).
"God wants his people to pray for the city that pillaged and ravaged the holy city," Carrothers preached.
"He wants His people to be the Gospel light to the spiritually blind, and He wants us to thrive in clashing cultures and to thrive and grow where we have been planted. But it's hard. It wasn't going to be easy for the people of Jerusalem and God's people there in Babylon. But God said, 'I need you to take the long-term view of it.'"
During the meeting's closing message, the convention's vice president noted that what compels God's people to do so, even amid great hardship and sacrifice, is the same love that compels God's heart toward we who were once unbelievers.
Preaching an annual sermon titled "Love on Display," Robinson said real love takes initiative, just like God did with us.
"Sinners aren't looking for a savior, just like you weren't looking for a police officer when you were breaking laws," Robinson said. Sinners are looking to sin, he added, and unless we go where they are to tell them the good news, they'll stay in their sin. As we go, let us be compelled by how God demonstrated His own love, he preached.
"I tell my church all the time, we have to love the hell out of people. It's the only thing that's going to transform lives, is love."
The 2017 IBSA Annual Meeting will take place November 8-9 at Tabernacle Baptist in Decatur.
Sammy Simmons, pastor of Immanuel Baptist in Benton, will preach the annual sermon.