I hope many hundreds of Illinois Baptists are planning to load up the car or church van and drive over to Marion for the IBSA Annual Meeting next month. If that describes you, or you’re at least considering the possibility, let me urge you to do something that could make the trip especially worthwhile: Don’t come alone!
Take an imaginary look over your shoulder into the back seat of your vehicle, and imagine bringing with you a brightly colored bucket, labeled “Buckets of Blessing.” These have been distributed this fall at Associational Annual Meetings or can be acquired from our IBSA staff.
Your bucket might be yellow, red, orange, green, blue, or even purple, because this year each of those bucket colors represents a different Baptist ministry in Illinois, including four ministries of the Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services, and also the Christian Activity Center in East St. Louis and an Immigrant Care Package ministry to migrants in Chicago.
Each of these ministries has ongoing, year-round needs for practical, everyday items that any of us could purchase at the grocery or discount store this week. Soap, paper products, toiletries, socks, first aid supplies – are just a few of the items these important ministries use all the time. Customized lists for each one can be found at IBSA.org/buckets-of-blessing.
Of course, donations don’t need to arrive in a colorful bucket. A box or a bag is fine! But this is a wonderful way to turn a meeting into a mission project, and I hope that together Illinois Baptists will fill another truckload of blessing for these important ministries.
By the way, when you looked over your imaginary shoulder, was there still some room in your back seat? Why not invite someone else from your church or association to drive over with you?
In addition to the worship, ministry updates, and business sessions of the Annual Meeting, there will be at least ten specialized ministry gatherings, for young leaders, church planters, disaster relief volunteers, worship leaders, and more. A full list can be found at IBSAAnnualMeeting.org. The exhibit area alone is a great opportunity for networking and missions cooperation.
Especially if you have a key leader or two from your church, or a new member who doesn’t know much about Baptist life beyond your church, or a young leader you’re seeking to develop or encourage, what a great opportunity to invest in them! Maybe your spouse will be in the front seat with you, or maybe not. But who could be in the back seat?
“Don’t come alone” is a great challenge for us to consider, and not just for the IBSA Annual Meeting. Imagine looking over your shoulder once more, this time into the backseat of your car as you leave for church. Maybe it’s on a Sunday morning, or maybe it’s for a fall festival, or a children’s program, or some other event at your church.
What if we were each investing in caring relationships with our neighbors and coworkers and friends, so that we could quickly recognize the best opportunities to invite them to come to church with us?
Friends in our church plant years ago had a third grade daughter who was an inviting machine. Her parents’ agreement with her was that they would offer to drive to church any friends she invited, and also invite the parents. Can you imagine what might happen if just five families in your church did that?
Whenever we’re going somewhere to worship or to serve the Lord, let’s remember to look in the backseat, and to ask ourselves what it would take to not come alone.
Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.