Mission and Vision: The Illinois Conference exists to create healthy, disciple- making churches. Our mission comes directly from the words of Jesus, I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you (Matt. 28:18, 19).
This is the Great Commission, our marching orders, from the One who has all authority in heaven and on earth, Jesus Christ. The leaders of the Illinois Conference desire to be faithful to His command. This is our mission! Over the last four years, our yearly theme has focused on this God-given mission:
We are thankful that, despite our COVID-19 environment, our pastors, teachers and church members have continued to be faithful to the mission God has given us, to Go and make disciples. Being faithful to mission is one thing, but vision is something a bit different. Vision seeks to fulfill mission. Over the last four years, the leadership of the Illinois Conference has focused our vision on four areas:
We want our churches to grow. How? Community outreach and evangelism events have been our areas of focus. I am thankful for the multiple evangelistic efforts made by our churches, from holding bridge events such as health summits and conferences, to online evangelism series and seminars, to our evangelism caravans.
Church planting also continues to be an area of focus. Research shows that newly planted churches grow exponentially in their first five years. One of the main reasons is its members have a clear vision and focused passion to grow the church. I might add that, historically, our Seventhday Adventist church grew fastest when we focused on church planting.
We are called to Make Disciples, but you can’t give what you don’t have. First, we must be faithful disciples in order to lead another person to follow Jesus, to be His disciple. Jesus gave a clear definition of a disciple. A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher (Luke 6:40).
Jesus also said, A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34, 35). This is our goal in the Illinois Conference, to be known as people who are loving and loveable, to represent Him well in everything we do or say. The way I like to say it is by quoting Colossians 3:17, Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name (and for the sake) of Jesus Christ our Lord. The call of discipleship is always a call to mission. To share Jesus with others.
Ephesians 4:11, 12, says And He Himself gave some to be apostles, and some prophets, some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for edifying of the body of Christ. God’s leaders are to train and equip God’s people for the work of ministry. The pastor’s biblical calling is to train members to use their spiritual gifts to collaborate with the Holy Spirit in making and training disciples.
Local churches should be disciple-making training centers. Mature members need to mentor new members. If you are serving in a church, you are called to train and equip. I am thankful for the training and equipping being done throughout the Illinois Conference.
The Illinois Conference also has a vision for Adventist education. We want all of our schools to exhibit excellence in spirituality and academics. Adventist schools play a significant role in providing opportunities for our children to become disciples of Jesus.
For Adventist education to be truly excellent, it must help the estimated 20 to 25 percent of students who have learning disabilities. Our Conference uniquely offers a place for all our children to learn by providing special education services to our students. Testing is available to each student so that special needs can be identified, and appropriate learning methods and materials utilized. The Illinois Conference also has a full-time psychologist to assist our schools in addressing mental health challenges and needs of our students.
God is truly blessing the Illinois Conference. I am thankful for the wonderful team of pastors, teachers and faithful members. I look forward to the day of Jesus’ soon return, when we will, by God’s grace, hear the words, Well done, my good and faithful servant (Matt. 25:21).
Ron Aquilera, president, Illinois Conference