5 Challenges for the Illinois Baptist State Association: Introduction

Been putting this off for too long.  Last month, I had the honor of speaking at the weekly chapel service of the Illinois Baptist State Association (IBSA).  This is a small gathering of prayer, worship, and Bible study that the Springfield-based missionaries of the Southern Baptist Convention enjoy.  I was asked especially to share with IBSA from my experience representing them at Cape Town 2010, the 3rd Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization.
My goal in sharing was to seek to bring to these IBSA leaders what I felt that God was saying to our part of the Church.  In the end, I felt led to bring a series of 5 challenges to IBSA.  Though I felt somewhat intimidated in front of these leaders -- all sort of "outranking" me in our denominational structure -- I felt it was important to share with confidence and to avoid any hesitations.  This is, I believe, what God's Spirit is saying to us.  These are His challenges to us.

The feedback was very positive and I left deeply encouraged.  There was even something of an encore and plenty of fruitful conversations that followed.  Now that it has been a few weeks, I want to post these challenges publicly.  If you are a follower of Christ involved with the life of IBSA, you will be especially interested in my posts during the next few days, as I plan to simply post the 5 challenges as 5 posts over the next 5 days.  If you are not involved in IBSA, you may still be interested to know what our small segment of Southern Baptist brothers and sisters in Christ are talking about.  It is actually quite relevant to you as well.

Today, let me just close my post by directing you to a scripture that I brought before the IBSA last month as our launching pad.  It comes from 2 Corinthians 9:8--

"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work."

Of course, I presented this text in the wider context of chapters 8-9.  I would encourage you to reflect on these two chapters and consider how Paul speaks about the purpose of God for want and plenty in the Body of Christ.  Especially read 8:10ff.  Paul assumes association and collaboration in the body of Christ.  Paul believes that the plenty of the Corinthian Christians is designed by God for the sake of meeting the needs of Jerusalem Christians -- and vice versa.  His assumption is clear:

God has designed and decreed want and plenty in the body of Christ to demonstrate to us all, in an utterly convincing way, that there is one Body and that no single part of it has all the gifts necessary for advancing the gospel and finishing the Great Commission.  That is, if we want to be in the will of God, collaborative mission and kingdom partnership are non-negotiable.

Indeed, God is able to make all grace abound to us, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, we may abound in every good work.  But if that's not our experience, if instead we see only need, lack, inability to carry on the work of our mission for a lack of human, financial, or other resources what does this indicate?

The experience of perpetual want in our mission seems to point to a kind of disconnect between us and the body of Christ.  God's primary means of meeting our needs is through the Church.  But if our view of the Church is too small, narrow, weak, flimsy, or whatever -- well, we should not be surprised by our enduring neediness.  It isn't that God hasn't made provision.  It is that we are able or willing to connect with His means -- the body of Christ.

That's enough for now.  I would guess that most will not have read this far anyway.  But do take a look at the blog during the next 5 days.  I want to present 5 challenges to IBSA that flow out of the principle that I've just elucidated.  

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