In a year no one anticipated, the Illinois Baptist State Association made necessary shifts in ministry while continuing to connect with leaders and develop the next generation.
“Pivot and Persevere” set the theme for the 2020 IBSA Annual Meeting, held Nov. 4 at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Decatur. The meeting was livestreamed for viewers watching at home. At the first seating of messengers, 126 were registered in Decatur; additional messengers from newly affiliating churches were seated later. Safety precautions, including temperature checks, face coverings, and social distancing, were in place for the one-day meeting.
It has been a highly challenging year to do ministry, said IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams in his report in Decatur. While state staff would have preferred in-person ministry to connect with churches across the state, 2020’s major vehicles were online—webinars, town halls, prayer gatherings, and leadership training.
“In spite of the weeks and months in varying degrees of shutdown,” Adams said, “by God’s grace, we can still celebrate many victories.”
Safety measures at the meeting included temperature checks outside Tabernacle Baptist Church.
Guests received a smiley face sticker indicating they'd already been through the checkpoint.
IBSA zone consultant Larry Rhodes (right) greets Pastor David Ratliff and his wife, Rachel, of Westview Baptist Church in Swansea.
Chris Gregg, worship pastor at Tabernacle Baptist, opened the meeting with a saxophone rendition of "Holy, Holy, Holy."
Gregg and Tabernacle's worship team led throughout the meeting.
IBSA Vice President Heath Tibbetts presided over the meeting as President Sammy Simmons, out of an abundance of caution, quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.
Chris Henderson Jr. attends the Annual Meeting with his parents, Chris and Emily, of First Southern Baptist Church in Mattoon.
IBSA recognized leaders of 10 churches affiliating with the state association this year.
Executive Director Nate Adams shares a report on IBSA's pandemic-related pivots in 2020, and a look ahead to next year.
Pastor Belafae Johnson of Purposed Church in Mascoutah closes the meeting's first session in prayer.
Annual Meeting attenders were treated to a cookie break hosted by the state association's two camp facilities, Streator and Lake Sallateeska.
Executive Director Denny Hydrick delivers a report from Illinois Baptist Children's Home and Family Services, including the agency's newest ministry, GraceHaven pregnancy resource clinic.
Executive Director Doug Morrow reported on the Baptist Foundation of Illinois's efforts to promote and inspire biblical stewardship.
Pastor Jacob Gray of Ten Mile Baptist Church in McLeansboro delivered the annual sermon on how to be certain in uncertain times.
Carmen Halsey, an IBSA director of leadership development, closed the meeting in prayer. Halsey said that on a mission trip to South Asia, she saw people reach out their hands to symbolically receive prayer. Some pastors in Decatur did the same.
Across Illinois, IBSA saw 14 new churches planted in 2020, and 60 churches are in some stage of planning or planting right now. The association also welcomed 10 new churches through affiliation. Adams reported more than 800 pastors and leaders have been engaged in leadership development in 2020, in addition to general ministry skill training delivered to more than 4,000 leaders from more than 500 churches.
Although most churches had to halt mission trip travel in 2020, IBSA is prepared to help churches find a place to serve next year. The association is facilitating affinity networks that help congregations know how to pray for a specific region of the world, and prepare to serve there in the future.
Messengers in Decatur approved a 2021 IBSA budget with a Cooperative Program goal of $6.2 million. IBSA will maintain its Cooperative Program ratio of 56.5%/43.5% (IBSA/SBC), excluding shared expenses not to exceed 10% of the Cooperative Program goal, and with Cooperative Program funds received beyond the budget goal to be distributed at a ratio of 50%/50%.
Adams noted the enthusiasm at the beginning of 2020 related to IBSA’s focus on church revitalization. Many churches found it necessary to postpone their plans in order to manage challenges related to the pandemic, Adams said, but IBSA believes there will be a strong renewal of interest in revitalization by pastors, churches, and associations in the coming year.
“We are poised for 2021 to be a year of comebacks.”
The association itself has also undergone a refocusing process with help from national consultants. From that work, Adams reported, IBSA has created a set of core values that will guide its service to churches in the future:
>Engagement with churches
>Helpfulness to churches
>Excellence for churches
>Advance through churches
IBSA has also drafted a statement that reflects its strategic direction: “Deliver network value that inspires each church to thrive in health, growth, and mission.” Through whatever challenges lie ahead, Adams said. “We love you, we’re here for you. We want to know you. We want to engage with you. Please call on us. That’s our heart.”
Reports and recognitions
Messengers to the meeting also heard reports from Baptist Foundation of Illinois and Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services, as well as messages from IBSA Vice President Heath Tibbetts and Jacob Gray, pastor of Ten Mile Baptist Church in McLeansboro. Gray preached the annual sermon on how to be certain in the midst of uncertainty. More about BFI, BCHFS, and the meeting messages, plus four resolutions adopted by messengers, will be posted at IllinoisBaptist.org.
IBSA’s four officers were reelected to serve again in 2021: President Sammy Simmons, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church, Benton; Vice President Heath Tibbetts, pastor of First Baptist Church, Machesney Park; Recording Secretary Sharon Carty, member of Emmanuel Baptist Church, Carlinville; and Assistant Recording Secretary Brianna Trowbridge, member of Samaria Missionary Baptist Church, Albion.
Adams recognized IBSA’s Bivocational Pastor of the Year, Robert Kirby of First Baptist Church in Tamms, and Pastor Paul Hicks, who has served 50 years at Murdale Baptist Church in Carbondale. Hicks is currently one of seven pastors in Illinois who has reached the ministry milestone.
The 2021 IBSA Annual Meeting is Nov. 10-11 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Springfield.