Daily Dispatches
A covered bridge in Bureau Country, Illinois.
Wikimedia Commons
A covered bridge in Bureau Country, Illinois.

The Great Commission in action in rural Illinois

Religion

Editor’s note: So often when churches are in the news it is because of something controversial—such as a scandal or a fight over doctrinal issues. That is not what our Church Life series on The World and Everything in It is about. Instead, we focus on positive things that happen in and through local churches. This series is less about theological emphasis or worship style, than it is about local churches trying to engage their communities and faithfully carry out their ministries.

Nearly 40 evangelical churches are sprinkled across Bureau County, a rural area about two hours southwest of Chicago covered in tens of thousands of acres of corn, soybeans, and wheat.

“In my experience, the church has not always functioned in the spirit of unity,” said Brian Strom, senior pastor of Christ Community Church in Princeton, the county seat. “We may have tried to feel a spirit of unity, and we may have given pats on each other’s back to say, ‘Hey, I love you, brother,’ but when it came to actual, functional unity, for us to actually accomplish that Great Commission together, I’ve not seen that.”

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Eleven years ago, Strom and a small group of local pastors in the area began gathering weekly to pray for revival in the church and for a great harvest of souls in the community. Out of that weekly gathering came a yearly corporate worship service at the Bureau County Fair. More than 20 local churches meet each summer in the fairground’s grandstand.     

Then a little more than a year ago, the local pastors were introduced to an initiative called The Go Project. Part of the national ministry Christ Together, The Go Project encourages Christians to pray for and witness to their neighbors.

“Our desire is, through The Go Project, that within the next 2-3 years, every man, woman, and child in Bureau County will have repeated opportunities to both hear and respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Joe Denner, senior pastor of Dover Bible Church and coordinator of The Go Project.

To do this, the participating churches share resources and their membership roles to tackle the task of the Great Commission by making connections between church members from the various churches living in the same neighborhood.

“The idea is that you’re bringing believers together, regardless of their denominational affiliation. You’re bringing believers together geographically where they live, where God planted them, where they are placed by God and living to reach their neighborhoods in a number of different creative ways for the sake of the gospel,” Strom said.

And while there is a focus on creativity and using technology to bring people together, Norm Femrite, senior pastor of First Lutheran Church in Princeton, supports The Go Project because it returns to the basics of evangelism in a technology- and media-saturated culture.

“The beauty of The Go Project is that it is relying on a method of communication that has been in practice and has worked well since the time of the early church, and that is by communicating by word-of-mouth,” Femrite said. 

More than six local churches are fully participating in The Go Project in Bureau County. A number of local parachurch organizations and ministries also are looking at how they can participate.

“We believe Christ Community Church is a part of the kingdom of God in Bureau County,” Strom said. “And we want to be whatever part God would have us to play so that his kingdom can come in its fullness here.”

Listen to more about The Go Project on The World and Everything in It:

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