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Ill. Baptists hear update in executive director search

O’FALLON, Ill. (BP)–Messengers to the Illinois Baptist State Association heard a search committee report about the progress toward hiring a new executive director during their Nov. 6-7 annual meeting at First Baptist Church in O’Fallon.

“During this last year, we have reviewed e-mails, letters and forms submitted from all over Illinois,” reported Kevin Kerr, chairman of the executive search committee and pastor of First Baptist Church in Waterloo, reported.

“Our process has included not only our search for a new director but the assembly of a set of procedures for selecting other executive directors in the future, a process that we hope will not be undertaken again for many years to come,” Kerr said.

The original pool of more than 70 applicants had been reduced to two finalists who are to be interviewed in Chicago in the near future, Kerr said.

“If all goes well,” Kerr said, “our new executive director will be on site by our March 2003 board meeting. If not, our committee will return to an earlier stage in our selection process, and set out again. However, it is our firm belief that we are on the brink of hitting a home run for Illinois.”

The governance committee of the association’s executive board recommended that the structure of the executive board be changed in order to improve the association’s effectiveness. The change would consist of creating a new position of associate executive director in order to parallel the structure of other IBSA boards, enable the IBSA executive director to relate to all boards in a similar fashion, and provide more flexibility for the new executive director.

After much debate, an amendment to remove funding for the new position from the 2003 budget was marginally passed.

Ken Spires, from First Baptist Church in Carlinville, said the association does not need to add new positions when it is in debt. “This past year, it was necessary to eliminate existing staff. IBSA is already top-heavy and does not need yet another administrative position,” he said.

A motion proposed by Pat Pajak, pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church of Decatur, calling for an ad hoc committee to explore the structure of the association with an emphasis on the need for an associate executive director easily passed.

A $5,825,730 budget was passed, a 1.47 percent decrease from the current budget with the elimination of funding for the proposed associate executive director’s position. The Cooperative Program goal, encompassing gifts from Illinois churches and other income, calls for $6,898,000, which will continue to be allocated 57.75 percent for Illinois missions and ministries and 42.25 percent for Southern Baptist international and national causes.

Larry Richmond, executive pastor of First Baptist Church in O’Fallon, was re-elected president without opposition. Donald Sharp, pastor of Faith Tabernacle Baptist Church in Chicago, remained vice president without opposition, and Lynn Martin of Springfield Southern Baptist Church in Springfield was re-elected recording secretary.

In his president’s address, Richmond attempted to answer the question, “Why aren’t we growing?” He suggested that Illinois Baptists have turned their attention inward instead of outward.

“We need to heed what the Scriptures have told us,” he said, “so we don’t drift away from evangelism, thereby drifting away from Jesus.”

Speaking from Romans 8:1, where there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” Richmond urged Illinois Baptists to examine what it means to be “in Christ.”

“Most of us know what it means to be ‘in debt,'” he said. Drawing from that analogy he continued, “For us ‘in Christ’ can mean ‘in church.’ My spiritual condition is ‘in Christ’ and others are ‘in Adam’ or not in Christ.”

The 611 messengers and 83 visitors welcomed 25 new churches into the association and heard a report from the director of the Baptist Children’s Home, which cited a 300 percent increase in the number of children served in the past seven years. Baptist Children’s Home has five locations serving 11 cities in Illinois and has plans to expand its residential care facility.

Andre Dobson, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Alton, delivered the convention sermon, titled “Let’s Roll,” with a look at the Great Commission. Recounting the story of Todd Beamer’s rallying cry to fellow members of Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001, Dobson called on Illinois Baptists to get out of their seats and be about the business of spreading the gospel.

“Jesus Christ gave us those marching orders,” he said. “They didn’t come from Springfield or from Nashville…. We are to be an army marching forward for Jesus Christ.

“We cannot remain stuck in neutral when there are 8 to 9 million unsaved people in the state of Illinois. It’s time to roll. We cannot be frozen by formalism or rusted in place by tradition. We need to be molded into men and women of action by the power of the Holy Spirit!”

Recalling the nursery rhyme “Humpty Dumpty,” Dobson said, “Maybe the king’s horses couldn’t put a broken person back together again. Maybe his men couldn’t do it, either. But I guarantee you, the King has the power to do the job. Almighty God has the power to heal broken people, and we need to tell broken people about it! We need not only pay attention to the power of the Savior but the purpose of the Savior.”

Dobson called on Illinois Baptists not to place financial concerns above concerns for lost people. “Our [board] president keeps reminding me that there are lost people in this state,” he said. “But if we came to church on Sunday, and we did not receive one dime in the offering plate for the first service, it would be unusual. By the time we got to the second service with no offering, I think word would have already reached our finance committee. And maybe they would think people would return to the evening service to give. But if still no money was given, there would be a meeting called to decide how to continue services and programs.

“But I know that if weeks went by and no one came down the aisle to accept Christ, I doubt anyone would hold a meeting to find out why because we have a tendency to worry more about budgets than lost souls.”

Prior to the association meeting, church planters gathered in a “New Work Celebration” to report on their progress and challenges. Common challenges included financial struggles, frustration with a lack of results and frequent personal attacks.

“Planting a church is hard,” Dave Roderick, pastor of Epic Church in Glen Carbon, a growing community in the St. Louis metropolitan area, said. “People are always asking me, ‘How many people do you have?’ And you wish you could report big numbers to prove what you are doing is worthwhile. But God has used this church planting experience to grow us spiritually, and it is remarkable how our little group has changed and matured during this first year.”

Despite the challenges, Roderick encouraged the church planters to continue to strive for the fulfillment of God’s plans.

“We need to remember that no matter how difficult this job is, we just can’t quit. There are too many people out there who still need to be reached.”

Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 5-6 at First Baptist Church in Maryville.

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