The pioneering spirit of more than 200 churches was on display during the Illinois Baptist State Association’s (IBSA) annual meeting Nov. 7-8.
This year’s meeting was held at First Baptist Church in Maryville. IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams helped lead a Wednesday evening service dedicated to the steps churches must take in order to reach Illinois’ mission field with the Gospel.
The vast spiritual need in Illinois, where at least 8 million people do not know Christ, was communicated most poignantly by the words of the state’s most famous pioneer. Delivered by renowned interpreter Fritz Klein, the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln echoed with new resonance in 2018, the year of Illinois’ bicentennial celebration.
“We are now surrounded by critical circumstances, well fitted to test our national faith. Indeed, to test our own individual virtue,” Klein said as Lincoln. In a presentation drawn almost entirely from Lincoln’s writing and speeches, Klein brought to life the words of a President who cited Scripture and talked about faith more often than he is credited for today.
A century and a half after they were first spoken, Lincoln’s words imbued the meeting with a sense of urgency. “We’re going through a trial, and this fiery trial through which we pass will light us down, either in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation,” he said. “We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, this last best hope on earth.
“We cannot escape history.”
It’s that urgency that has compelled churches in Illinois to embrace a pioneering spirit, which doesn’t always guarantee success, but meets critical circumstances with determination, creativity and faithfulness to the task.
Adjustments worth making
At the center of the Annual Meeting were “Pioneering Spirit” challenges that churches have embraced over the past year. At the 2017 gathering of Illinois Baptists, IBSA set a goal for at least 200 churches to embrace one or more of the challenges. At the final tally, 220 churches committed to go new places, engage new people, make new sacrifices or develop new leaders.
When a church pursues that kind of spirit, they often have to make adjustments, said Tom Hufty, pastor of FBC Maryville. Preaching the annual sermon to close the meeting Nov. 8, Hufty used an acrostic to highlight the steps needed to make those adjustments:
A: Check your attitude
D: Make wise decisions
J: Jesus is at the center of our adjustments
U: Understand your enemy is a spiritual one, not flesh and blood
S: Submit to God regardless of your preferences
T: Trust the Lord
Hufty used Philippians 2:5-11 as a backdrop for his message, calling his listeners to the attitude Christ showed when he humbled himself for the sake of his mission. Some adjustments we look forward to, Hufty said. Others, not so much. But when the prize is valuable, the adjustments required are worth making.
“We have someone to value,” he said. “His name is Jesus. He’s in the middle of all our adjustments.”
As churches seek to advance the Gospel, there will be growing pains, Adron Robinson preached in his president’s message Wednesday afternoon. The IBSA president and pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills described the early church’s struggle with division — he referred to them as “growing pains.”
Acts 15 finds the early church in the middle of a major dispute. Some leaders were teaching that the Old Testament law of circumcision was required for salvation. The line they drew separated Jews from Gentiles, and diluted the new covenant established by Christ’s death the cross. The leaders were feeling superior because they had been chosen by God. They were the gatekeepers.
These “growing pains” in the early church had to be resolved because of the urgent need to get the Gospel to more people, Robinson preached. He noted growing pains in churches today often result in racism, in division, in one group believing they’re superior over another. Our modern-day growing pains need resolution too, he said, for the sake of the Gospel.
“Salvation has never been about race, but it’s always been about grace,” he said. All believers in Jesus Christ have received the same grace –that’s why we should receive one another.
“It is amazing grace that saved wretches like us. It is amazing grace that God allows each of us to participate in the Great Commission to reach the world with the Gospel,” Robinson said. “Let us grow in grace, so that we can endure the growing pains and preach his great gospel.”
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Source: Baptist Press