By Brian Koonce
NEW BLOOMFIELD – Precisely 175 years to the day after 31 pastors and laymen from across Missouri gathered at Providence Baptist Church to form the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), pastors and laymen again met at the church Aug. 29 to remember the past and look forward to future ministry and cooperation.
John Gilbert, a former Missouri Baptist pastor and convention officer who now lives in Memphis, Tenn., spoke of the storied history of Missouri Baptists. He reminded the crowd of Moses’ teaching about remembrance in the fourth chapter of Deuteronomy. After reading the Law, Moses said to Israel: “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”
“Listen Israel, listen Missouri,” Gilbert said. “We cannot forget what those great men did 175 years ago, nor can we forget the great Biblical truths and vision they stood for. It didn’t take a million people or a thousand; it took a handful, but they had the vision that as big as Missouri was, that they needed to find a way to work together and preach the Word to the state.”
Gilbert said modern Missouri Baptists need to strive to share a common characteristic with those pioneers: humility.
“They were a humble, humble people,” he said. “I promise you they weren’t sitting there thinking about us gathering together 175 years later to talk about them. God uses the humble people to accomplish great things for his Kingdom.”
MBC Executive Director David Tolliver laid out a vision for the future at the site of the original Providence Baptist Church, next to the grave of the moderator of that first meeting in 1834, James Suggett.
“I’m convinced that Missouri Baptists have studied and learned from our past,” he said. “We are moving forward with Christ, in health and on mission.
“I want us to always honor the past. I just don’t want us to stay there. I’ll be the first to admit to you that the future is going to look a lot different than the past. The MBC is going to have to become a leaner, more streamlined and more missional convention as we press forward toward the future and the call of God.”
Tolliver said a thriving MBC begins with individuals and local churches.
“The only way our future can be as productive as our past is if we put Jesus on the throne of our lives and in charge of our churches.”
The New Bloomfield celebration was the last in a series of regional celebrations marking the 175th anniversary of the entity that would become known as the MBC. The finale will be during the annual meeting of the Convention Oct. 26-28 at First Baptist, Raytown.