SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (BP)–A sense of celebration alongside the theme of “Empowering Kingdom Growth” marked the Illinois Baptist State Association’s annual meeting in Springfield.
The Nov. 9-10 sessions, attended by 441 messengers and 70 visitors, included an update from the IBSA’s executive director search committee, chaired by Jim Rahtjen, pastor of the Chicago-area Glenfield Baptist Church.
Rahtjen said the committee has met each month since its inception and had put together a profile for a new executive director to succeed Wendell Lang, who left the post in April for a Tennessee pastorate.
Forty-seven recommendations from inside and outside the state have been received, including pastors, directors of missions and state and denominational leaders, 30 of whom consented to be considered for the position, Rahtjen reported, describing the quality of the candidates as “outstanding.”
“The field of 30 has been narrowed to eight, with whom we have had phone and/or face-to-face interviews,” Rahtjen told the messengers. “From the field of eight I’m convinced we’ll have a man of God, deeply burdened for the churches of Illinois, burdened for the 8.2 million lost in Illinois. I’m convinced it’s not so much of a search process as it is a recognition process.”
During the Wednesday evening worship, led by the association’s executive team, an original video celebrated baptisms that have taken place in 2005 in various Illinois churches.
“Illinois Baptists love the Lord Jesus Christ. We witness, we win, we baptized new believers by immersion,” Ron Hale, IBSA associate executive director and evangelism team leader, told the messengers. “This is who we are and this is what we must continue doing. Now we need to continue to raise high the banner in winning and reaching.”
Hale challenged Illinois Baptists to join in Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch’s “Everyone Can” challenge to baptize 1 million people during the coming year. “It’s a serious challenge for a serious time,” Hale said. He further challenged each of IBSA’s 34 local associations to host a least two baptism rallies in 2006 and to schedule a baptism of at least one person on Easter Sunday.
“With 30 percent of the annual church profiles still out, early indicators say we’re not going to double our baptisms in 2005, but we will be above last year. Many churches have doubled their baptisms,” Hale reported. In 2006, the association’s baptisms can be doubled, he said, noting, “With God’s help we can do it.”
A highlight of the gathering was a visit by Bob Adams, pastor of First Baptist in Bogalusa, La., his wife Jan and a few of staff members from the church to thank the Illinois disaster relief teams and all Illinois Baptists for their work in Bogalusa in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
“The small town of Bogalusa, La., is easily forgotten,” Adams said. “… However, those of us who live there love our town deeply and we affectionately call it ‘beautiful Bogalusa.’”
Recounting the devastation in Bogalusa from the hurricane, Adams said, “We were once a heavily forested place…. [T]he hurricane tore down our trees…. [I]t looked like a giant had picked them up and thrown them down in some sort of diabolical game of pick up sticks.”
When Illinois Baptist volunteers arrived in Bogalusa, Adams said, “They were a sign that we were remembered and help had come. It was not too much to say that in our small town the presence of the Illinois Baptist disaster relief team in our town was the catalyst for recovery…. [F]or many years to come, the people of my small city will tell the story of their arrival on a very dark night.
“I have asked the Lord to let me be present when He hands out the awards [in heaven] to the people who helped us,” Adams said. “I will then be able to say the perfect words that I can only say so feebly now, ‘Thank you.’”
Jack Shelby, IBSA associate executive director and Illinois Baptist disaster relief coordinator, presented Adams with a check for $50,000 -– funds specifically donated by Illinois Baptists for the people of Bogalusa.
Adams accepted the check with tears in his eyes and said, “Our whole city will know what you have done in the name of Christ. Think what that will do for our ability to say, ‘I love you in the name of Jesus Christ.’”
The Illinois gift will be placed in a fund created by the churches of Bogalusa named “Christ For Our City Reconstruction Fund.”
Nate Adams, vice president of missions mobilization at the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board and son of Illinois Baptist columnist Tom Adams, presented the annual meeting’s Bible study, focusing on Christ’s Acts 1:8 challenge to Christians: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends Lit the end of the earth” (HCSB).
“We have our own Samaria to reach,” Adams told the messengers. “It is a place that is near us and it has people who are not like us. Seven out of 10 people in North America do not know Jesus Christ. We have a lot to do in our Samaria.” Adams said “Judea” is the place where people live near us and are like us. “Cub fans, for example, represent an unreached people group,” he teased. “After all, they are downtrodden and depressed, but eternally hopeful.” He then exhorted the messengers to be part of a global plan to carry the Gospel to people in all places who have not heard it.
Ken Whitten, pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa, Fla., and a native of central Illinois, preached on the return of the prodigal son in Luke 15 and the reaction of his brother, the obedient son. Whitten cautioned against having a critical or resentful spirit.
“Proverbs 14:4,” he told the messengers, “says, ‘Where there are no oxen the stall is clean.’ … If your church wants to get out there and reach people, it’s messy, it’s not clean.”
Whitten also noted, “You can be doing the work of God without being in the will of God.”
The annual sermon was delivered by Carlos Jimenez, pastor of Cristo Es Rey in Bolingbrook, who urged the messengers to follow the advice of the Apostle Paul and not grow weary of doing good. “What does doing good mean?” he asked, then answered, “Everything that reflects God’s character.”
“God is a giver,” Jiminez said. “He gave us His best. He gave us His one and only begotten Son.”
In their business sessions, messengers adopted a new budget of $5,568,811, the same as the current year. They also voted to keep the Cooperative Program goal of $6,770,000 and the 57.75/42.25 ratio of allocating funds between Illinois missions and ministry and Southern Baptist Convention causes.
Resolutions to promote a biblical worldview, commend the Illinois Baptist disaster relief team and oppose judicial activism were adopted without opposition.
The only major issue discussed was the constitution committee’s request to move the process of downsizing the IBSA board of directors back one year. The request came as a result of a mistake at last year’s annual meeting when messengers voted to add the regular number of new members to the board, after voting to begin the reduction in board size immediately. The measure approved this year now puts the association into compliance with its constitution.
Messengers approved the affiliation of eight new churches to the association: Baker Street in Walnut Hill; Chicago Grace and La Mision y El Camino, both in Des Plaines; Love in Carbondale; New Bethel Missionary in East St. Louis; Open Door in Toledo; Iglesia Bautista Peniel in Chicago; and Tallula (Ill.) Baptist Church.
Larry Richmond, director of missions for the Gateway Baptist Association, nominated current IBSA Vice President Fred Winters, pastor of First Baptist Church of Maryville, for IBSA president. With no other nominations, Winters was elected, succeeding Don Sharp, pastor of Faith Tabernacle in Chicago, who has completed two successive terms as president.
Kevin Kerr, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Machesney Park was elected as IBSA vice president and Jeanne Mullinax, moving up to recording secretary after serving as assistant recording secretary.
Next year’s meeting will be held Nov. 8-9 in the same location, the Crowne Plaza in Springfield.
Lisa Sergent is assistant editor of the Illinois Baptist, newsjournal of the Illinois Baptist State Association.