Donna Samuels feeds hungry people in St. Louis five times a week. The ministry leader from New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in East St. Louis received some valuable help from Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers, who have partnered with her over the past two years to provide for communities in need.
“They have become like family to me,” Samuels said of the volunteers who have driven thousands of miles across the state to deliver food and supplies. Samuels shared her story in Springfield at the 2021 Annual Meeting of the Illinois Baptist State Association (IBSA). The theme of the Nov. 2-3 meeting, “Thrive,” focused on how churches are meeting needs and sharing the gospel, even in difficult circumstances.
Samuels was joined onstage by Disaster Relief volunteers John Danner and Roger Walker, two of the many leaders who have been instrumental in expanding the reach of Disaster Relief during the Covid-19 pandemic. When volunteers couldn’t serve in the usual ways, they pivoted to new avenues of ministry. They thrived, and in the process helped churches like Samuels’ to do the same.
“Churches that thrive are churches that thrive in community,” IBSA President Heath Tibbetts preached in his president’s message earlier Wednesday. Tibbetts, pastor of First Baptist Church in Machesney Park, urged IBSA churches to cheer one another on, and to see challenges as opportunities for strengthening.
“We, you, us, can thrive in community, in faith, and in impact,” Tibbetts said. “And you know what? When one IBSA church thrives, we all can celebrate.”
Challenges and opportunities
The Scriptural foundation for IBSA’s Annual Meeting was Acts 16:5: “So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.” Those churches had found their opportunity to thrive out of a season of challenge and change, Tibbetts preached in his president’s message. The past two years have been that kind of season for churches in Illinois and across the country.
IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams described some of those challenges in his report to messengers, noting a 2020 decline in baptisms as most churches temporarily shuttered in-person worship services during the pandemic. On the missions front, more than 1,300 people (representing 304 churches) engaged in IBSA-coordinated mission projects, and Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief pivoted to a food distribution ministry that has served thousands in need.
By the end of the year, Adams reported, 9-12 new church plants are anticipated, and 65 church plants are in some stage of development right now. The association also welcomed 16 new churches through affiliation.
IBSA began a new church revitalization ministry in 2020, and while many pastors found it necessary to postpone their plans for revitalization processes due to pandemic-related needs, 57 pastors and 47 churches have completed a revitalization readiness assessment. And 33 churches and 14 Illinois associations are actively participating in a revitalization strategy.
IBSA’s headquarters in Springfield was dedicated in 1971. To celebrate the 50th anniversary, Illinois Baptists gathered at the building for a tour and a special celebration of the milestone.
Resolutions and officers
Messengers to the meeting approved four resolutions brought by IBSA’s Resolutions and Christian Life Committee. The measures covered a range of topics including the Equality Act, the sufficiency of Scripture for racial reconciliation, the church’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the 50th anniversary of IBSA’s move to Springfield. A full summary of the resolutions is available here.
There were 361 messengers registered plus 53 visitors; 23 of those messengers were from newly affiliated churches.
Tibbetts was elected to serve as IBSA president in 2022, and messengers also elected Vice President Michael Nave, pastor of Cornerstone Church, Marion; Recording Secretary Brianna Trowbridge, member of Samaria Missionary Baptist Church, Albion; and Assistant Recording Secretary Charlene Moe, member of Chatham Baptist Church.
Messengers approved a 2022 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%.
Messengers also heard reports from Baptist Foundation of Illinois and Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services, as well as messages from Ben Mandrell, president of Lifeway Christians Resources, and Jeremy Byrd, pastor of Lincoln Avenue Baptist Church in Jacksonville. More about BFI, BCHFS, and the meeting messages is posted at IllinoisBaptist.org.
The IBSA Pastors’ Conference, canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, convened in Springfield prior to the Annual Meeting. During the gathering, which focused on the seven churches in Revelation 2-3, Adams recognized IBSA’s Bivocational Pastor of the Year, Bryan Coble of Sow Community Church in Chicago.
The 2022 IBSA Annual Meeting is Nov. 2-3 at Metro Community Church in Edwardsville.