By Allen Palmeri
JEFFERSON CITY—Messengers to the 175th annual meeting of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) at First Baptist Church, Raytown, approved a partnership agreement that places the MBC in the midst of a vast, unreached wave of Chicagoans for three years.
Within a new partnership with the Associations of Northern Illinois that will run from Jan. 1, 2010, to Dec. 31, 2012, with an option to renew for two years, will be work inside four Chicago associations. Directors of missions from Lake County, Fox Valley, Chicago Metro and Three Rivers have all asked MBC Partnership Missions Director Rick Hedger for help should the overall agreement be approved.
“This will be a massive, overwhelming undertaking,” Hedger said.
North American Mission Board (NAMB) research on the huge Midwestern city indicates that more than 1,200 new Southern Baptist churches are needed to reach the current population.
One of the better ways to approach this partnership, Hedger said, may be to view Chicago as a gateway to many foreign countries. One of the local leaders has invited the MBC to include Chicago as a part of its international partnership missions strategy.
“Some of the best ways to reach the nations are to reach the nations, the peoples, that God has brought to our doorstep,” Hedger said, “There is a huge need in the Chicago area, and I’m praying that God will call out many Missouri Baptists to go.”
Illinois is a bit imbalanced in terms of Gospel penetration.
“In southern Illinois, there’s one Southern Baptist church for every 500 in population,” Hedger said. “That’s saturation in many ways, and yet there are still needs, ethnically, in people groups, in southern Illinois. When you get to northern Illinois, the statistics say we have one Southern Baptist church for every 39,000. So there’s a great need for new churches, but there’s also a great need to strengthen the existing churches.”