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Ill. Baptists emphasize reaching lost for Christ

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (BP)–With the theme, “Thy Kingdom Come,” speakers at the 100th annual meeting of the Illinois Baptist State Association urged messengers to reach the 8.2 million people in their state who do not know Christ as Savior.

More than 500 messengers and visitors attended the Nov. 8-9 meeting at the Crowne Plaza in Springfield.

David Dockery, president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn., led the meeting’s Bible study, warning messengers about “flexidology.”

“The church wants to be as flexible as the shifting currents of our society,” he said. “But we are called to teach the truth. Be prepared to refute those who oppose it.”

Dockery told messengers God’s people “must be a people of unquestioned integrity marred by no obvious disgrace, no loophole for an out.”

“Leaders must be prepared to refute those who distort the Gospel,” he said. “We must realize the false teachers today in the 21st century are not new. They are merely the heirs of those who have gone before, merely a different package of old errors.”

Pat Pajak, pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Decatur, delivered the annual convention sermon, underscoring the Christian obligation to share the Gospel.

“The main thing is reaching a dying world with the message of Jesus Christ,” he said. “If we do everything in church right but do this wrong, it will not matter.

“You have to be willing to go to people who don’t talk like you, look like you,” Pajak added. “… If we’re going to be what God wants us to be, then we’ve got to be willing to love people who are not like us. Let’s leave this place with a holy urgency in our hearts that says, ‘When I leave I will be willing. I will be able to share Christ with others.’ Let’s reach our state to share the life-changing Gospel.”

Nate Adams, executive director of the IBSA, led the messengers in corporate prayer Wednesday evening for the millions of unsaved people in Illinois. Pastors were asked to stand alongside their directors of missions to pray for them and for each local mission field. The directors of missions in turn prayed for the pastors.

Adams urged Illinois Baptists to declare their dependence on God.

“We lift this Judea mission field to You and consider this our declaration of dependence on You to empower our churches to be rivers of living water that bring life to where we are,” Adams prayed.

Fred Winters, president of the IBSA and pastor of First Baptist Church in Maryville, urged messengers to live with purity, passion, purpose and perseverance to reach the lost.

“What people are going to remember is how you end,” Winters said. “Is ours an example that keeps people in God’s Kingdom or one that keeps them out?”

Dennis Dawson, IBSA associate executive director for missions, reported that multiple opportunities are available for Illinois Baptists to serve through the IBSA partnership in New York. The Oklahoma partnership is continuing with many groups visiting Illinois, Dawson said, and Illinois groups are needed in Oklahoma to engage unreached people groups. And Dawson reported that several groups have gone to East Asia to participate in that partnership and more opportunities are available.

During the business session, one point regarding the budget drew some disagreement. The board-recommended budget increased the number of items to be excluded from the ratio of Cooperative Program dollars sent to the Southern Baptist Convention. The action was recommended due to decreases in CP giving and as a means to allow greater promotion of CP within the state.

Jerry Day, president of the IBSA board of directors, noted that Illinois is one of the leading state conventions in CP giving.

“At 42.25 percent sent to the Southern Baptist Convention, Illinois is fifth among 40-plus state conventions,” Day said. “The average among all state conventions is 32.5 percent. Most either send less than 40 percent to SBC or utilize preferred [shared] items.”

The recommendation then was open for discussion. Supporters of the recommendation expressed confidence in the board’s process. Those who objected were concerned that churches would view it as a way to decrease their own CP giving.

When asked if the shared items would be permanent if they were approved, Day said, “The plan is to move toward a 50/50 ratio and eventually no longer use shared items.”

A budget of $5.9 million, including shared items, passed by an overwhelming margin with only a handful of dissenting votes. The approved budget is a 6 percent increase over the 2006 budget, with a majority of the increase to be used for increased CP promotion. Anticipated CP giving from Illinois churches for the coming year is $4.3 million, and 42.25 percent will be forwarded for national and international missions and ministries.

Messengers re-elected Winters as president, and they elected Mike Davis, pastor of Logan Street Baptist Church in Mt. Vernon, as vice president and Tommy Cupples, director of missions for the Metro East Baptist Association, as recording secretary. None of the nominees were opposed.

Resolutions condemned gambling and called for a continued focus on personal integrity.

Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 6-8 at the Hilton Hotel and Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield.

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  • Lisa Sergent