“Brothers and sisters, ministry is not a sprint,” Adron Robinson preached at the IBSA Annual Meeting in Marion. “It’s a marathon.”
As runners in that marathon, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, Robinson urged Illinois Baptist church leaders in his final message as president of the state association. “Stop judging your effectiveness by last week’s attendance; stop judging your effectiveness by last week’s offering,” he said.
“It’s not your job to fix your eyes on the church. It’s your job to fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”
Robinson’s message highlighted the theme of the 113th annual meeting of Illinois Baptists, held Nov. 6-7 at Cornerstone Church in Marion. In order to “ReFocus,” churches first need a renewed view of God’s purpose, and a recommitment reach people with the gospel.
Pastor Michael Nave’s church has been in a process of refocusing and revitalizing its ministry through much of its 20-year history. The Marion church started in 1998 with 70 people, and has grown to more than 1,600 meeting in four worship services every week. Nave brought the Annual Sermon at this year’s meeting, sharing his church’s commitment to “long obedience in the right direction.”
“Our story has not been glamorous,” Nave said. “It has not been this big kaboom.” Rather, he said, steady growth has marked their history, amid ups and downs and difficult years. Over and over again, the church has watched God bring people to life through salvation.
“Our state needs hope, our state needs Jesus,” Nave said, “and the way that’s going to happen is when we are living Spirit-filled lives that display power, love, and self-control.”
In his report in Marion, IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams noted nationwide trends that point to the need for revitalization. At least 80% of American churches are plateaued or declining, Adams said, and many leaders struggle to know what steps to take.
IBSA is partnering with Corpus Vitae, an organization dedicated to helping churches take new steps of faith and obedience—ultimately, toward revitalized and renewed ministry that impacts their community. Rob Peters, founder and president of Corpus Vitae, introduced the ReFocus process during the final session of the Annual Meeting.
Noting declines in churches of all kinds, Peters said Southern Baptists have asked in recent years whether the denomination ought to focus on church planting or church revitalization. The answer, Peters said, is that while church planting plays an important role in building the Kingdom, it can’t be the only strategy.
“We need a new wave of church revitalization to sweep across America,” said Peters, founder of Corpus Vitae. “We need to see something in God’s churches that we haven’t seen in our lifetimes, and that is a renewal and revival that only God’s Spirit can do.”
In the coming year, IBSA churches are invited to engage in the ReFocus process designed to assess their place in God’s mission in their community, and any changes or new plans that are needed to better position the church to meet our state’s urgent spiritual need.
Look for more information about ReFocus in future issues of the Illinois Baptist newspaper, and coming soon to IBSA.org.