A few years ago, I had an opportunity to write a book about Christian parenting. At the time, our three boys were 15, 13, and 10, and if I had waited until all those teen years were over, I might not have claimed any expertise at all. But with the experience I had at the time, I did my best to guide parents in how to protect, nurture, and equip a Christian family.
As I sat down to outline the big ideas and then chapters of the book, I tried to think about the big threats Christian families face, and what it takes to guard one’s family from them. Over and over I kept coming back to the word “together.” There are so many forces seeking to pull families apart. One of the main responsibilities of Christian parenting is doing whatever it takes to hold the family together, and to preserve faith through the strength of family unity.
By the time it was finished, the book was titled “The Home Team,” and was subtitled “Spiritual Practices for a Winning Family.” Its 12 chapters urged parents to “practice” faith daily, like a winning team, by reading together, eating together, playing and working together, worshiping together, serving and praying together, and more.
During this pandemic season, one of the greatest threats to our church families, and our family of churches, can be allowing separation to lead to isolation, and isolation to lead to discouragement. We must keep pulling together, for safety, for encouragement, and for strength.
That’s why we are making every effort to facilitate a safe gathering of our Illinois Baptist family for the IBSA Annual Meeting this year. We’ve abbreviated the meeting time to one afternoon, on Nov. 4, so most participants can make the trip in one day. We’ve changed the venue from a hotel in Springfield to Tabernacle Baptist Church in Decatur, where social distancing and other precautions are already practiced every week.
Though we will miss the opportunities for fellowship and resourcing that come with a large exhibit hall and breakout meals for various groups, we will pass on those this year. But we will gather. We will worship and hear preaching and encouraging reports of God’s work across the state. We will conduct the business of our cooperative work as churches here in the mission field of Illinois. We will pull together.
And in the process, I believe we will be encouraged. We will find hope in the midst of our shared struggle, and strength in the presence of our Savior.
Of course there are many who would normally attend the IBSA Annual Meeting for whom the wisest decision this year will be to stay home. We will miss those smiles and stories, but we will livestream the program online so it can be watched at home. We will record the program and produce a “highlights” summary a few days later, along with links to videos and reports and messages. The 2020 Book of Reports will be available for download at the IBSA website a week ahead of time, so those who can’t attend can e-mail or call in advance with any questions. In short, we hope many will be able to engage actively in the meeting, even if they can’t make the trip.
Among many pastors and church leaders these days I hear words of fatigue, if not discouragement. So Nov. 4, the day after a national election by the way, will be a great day to pull together. With masks and clean hands and waves instead of hugs, I hope to see you there, or to connect with you at home.
Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.