Illinois | Just three months into the new year, 115 churches have accepted the Pioneering Spirit Challenge. That’s more than halfway to IBSA’s 2018 goal of 200 or more churches. But for those churches—and for all of us—the work is just beginning.
The Pioneering Spirit Challenge, timed to coincide with Illinois’ bicentennial year, seeks to bring frontier fortitude to Baptist work today. Our forebears lived in trying times, meeting danger head-on, and forging a new state. Many of them brought solid Christian faith to the hard-won territory, and many of those first Illinoisans were Baptists.
If the concepts of wilderness, lostness, and battle seem familiar, it’s because they describe our spiritual frontier today—200 years later.
“It will take as much courage for today’s believers to bring the gospel to the millions in our cities, suburbs, and crossroads communities as it did for first founders to carve out those communities starting at the time of statehood,” said Van Kicklighter, IBSA’s associate executive director for church planting. “Winning over wilderness has gotten no easier in 200 years.”
Against the reality of at least 8 million lost people in Illinois, Pioneering Spirit engages IBSA churches in church planting, baptisms, missions giving, and leadership development.
Kicklighter and his team have identified 200 locations in Illinois in need of an evangelical church. So far, 82 churches have accepted the challenge to “Go new places,” praying for or partnering with a new church plant.
In addition, 111 churches have said they will “Engage new people,” taking steps to increase their church’s annual baptisms. The “One GRAND Sunday” emphasis on April 8, encourage 1,000 baptisms statewide, is one aspect of this “engagement.” It is led by Pat Pajak, associate executive director for evangelism. (See “Baptisms” article on page 5.)
Another 66 churches said they will “Make new sacrifices,” by increasing missions giving through the Cooperative Program. And 111 churches will “Develop new leaders,” preparing tomorrow’s pastors, missionaries, and church leaders to continue the work in the decades ahead.
In all, 115 churches accepted one or more of the challenges since the Pioneering Spirit initiative was announced at the IBSA Annual Meeting in November.
“We have been encouraged by how many pastors and churches are taking this commitment—and the critical challenge to advance the gospel in our perilous times—seriously,” said Kicklighter.
One example in the church planting area: Community Southern Baptist Church in Clay City has taken on the challenge of planting a church in Carroll County. That is one of 10 counties in Illinois with no Southern Baptist congregation. Pastor David Starr told Kicklighter that his church began praying about making the commitment after seeing IBSA’s “blue map” that illustrates lostness in the state.
To learn more about the four Pioneering Spirit challenges, and to register your own church’s commitment to one or more of them, visit PioneeringSpirit.org. Together, we will:
Go new places – praying for or partnering with a new church plant
Engage new people – taking steps to increase your church’s annual baptisms
Make new sacrifices – increasing missions giving through the Cooperative Program
Develop new leaders – preparing tomorrow’s pastors, missionaries, and church leaders