As I begin to write this article, it may be more correct to say travelogue, because as I begin I am riding in a chartered Greyhound-type bus along with many of your Missouri Baptist Directors of Missions (DOMs) and some of their wives. We are on our way to LifeWay’s Ridgecrest Baptist Retreat Center in North Carolina. I hope to take you along on the trip through this column.
I think I am the only one awake at this time. A couple of them sound like they are awake and calling geese—but I am not fooled, that’s just the sound they make when they are asleep. We left the Baptist Building in Jefferson City a little after midnight and it will be mid-afternoon tomorrow when we arrive at Ridgecrest. As a few east Missouri folks were boarding near St. Louis, I heard the comment “… this sounded like a good idea a year ago when we were just talking about it.” Later I will need to be reminded of why we tortured ourselves in this way. Right now, it is an adventure. It’s been a long time since I pulled an “all-nighter.”
We are traveling to Ridgecrest to attend the National Convocation on Associational Missions hosted by the North American Mission Board (NAMB)—subtitled Mission Strategists for the Twenty-First Century. It has been 20 years since there has been an event like the convocation, designed to help associations and DOMs find and fulfill their passion for missions and ministry in 21st century Southern Baptist life. Personally, I am using this event as a means to learn more about how your state convention can partner with your association to strengthen Missouri Baptist churches and fulfill the Great Commission. Fellowshipping with Missouri Baptist DOMs on the bus is a wonderful part of that experience.
That’s enough for now. I am going to try to enter the sleep zone with my fellow travelers.
I’m back. After more than 13 hours on the bus, we are here at Ridgecrest. Perhaps I should explain the trip. Almost a year ago, when we learned that NAMB would be offering this special event for DOMs, Jerry Field, Jay Hughes and I decided that, besides providing transportation to this extraordinary ministry event, the bus trip would be a good way to reinforce our relationship with the state DOMs. NAMB already had stated that they would host the DOMs concerning their lodging and meals during the event. We determined that we could charter a bus, therefore providing the transportation, offering Missouri Baptist DOMs this unique opportunity without cost. The convocation and the bus trip to Ridgecrest is a vivid demonstration of cooperation and partnership. I mention all that only to say thanks to you—to all the Missouri Baptist churches that give through the Cooperative Program. You provided funds through NAMB and through the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) to make this significant event take place. And you enabled your DOM to attend. I think I speak for all concerned when I say “THANK YOU!”
Again, I have to stop. The first plenary session of the conference is about to start and I don’t want to miss a minute of it.
I’m back again. This travelogue thing is unusual but interesting—at least to me. I am tired, but also overflowing with enthusiasm and excitement over what I have just experienced. The first plenary session of the convocation was invigorating. The speakers were excellent. David Meacham, NAMB senior strategist with the Associational Strategies Team, spoke first. I was struck by the fact that his challenge mirrors the current MBC church health emphasis. Meacham challenged the DOMs to:
• be Spirit-filled, Godly leaders themselves;
• lead associational pastors to also be healthy, holy men of God; and
• help pastors lead their churches to be healthy, daily striving to fulfill the Great Commission.
Richard Harris, who is acting interim president of NAMB, spoke next. The Lord spoke clearly through him.
The theme of the Convocation is The Greatest IMPACT for the Great Commission. I was impressed with his sincerity and his passion as he encouraged convocation participants to pray for the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, but also to be involved in a genuine and personal Great Commission resurgence. Harris made a statement that I want you to hear—I wish I could also transmit his passion when I repeat his declaration, that “… our problems in the Southern Baptist Convention are not organizational or structural—they are spiritual.” AMEN! He went on say that “… two minutes of Pentecost would do us more good than 20 years of reorganization.” AMEN!
Did he mean to say that we should not reorganize? Of course not. Or, that we should not seek to operate in the most efficient way possible? Not at all. Or, that our organizations and/or institutions are too sacred for the scrutiny of Southern Baptists looking for the best way to function in missions and ministry? No. But he did clearly and correctly say that Southern Baptists need a mission board that focuses solely on the lost of North America. That mission board is the North American Mission Board. I came away from the session tonight with a renewed sense of awareness and excitement concerning our MBC/NAMB partnership. Talk to your DOM—he will tell you that NAMB is an invaluable partner in ministry.
I am way too pumped to sleep—but tomorrow will be another great day and I want to be rested and ready. I have to stop for now.
I’m back … and I know, starting to sound like the Terminator?
Today was filled with breakout sessions and another inspiring evening plenary worship session. The breakout sessions were “think-tank” type meetings. Breakout session facilitators urged us to brainstorm about the past, the present, and most importantly the future of associational work. I shared earlier that my primary goal in participation in this event was to strengthen my relationship with Missouri Baptist DOMs. That happened. But more than that, I gained a renewed respect, even awe, for the mission and ministry of the DOM. Even more, I affirmed in this meeting that my work in the MBC is very much like the work of a DOM. The association and the state convention, both, exist to resource the local church.
I was impressed by a single statement made in the first breakout session I attended. One of the participants said, “The association was never designed to replace the ministry of the local church.” Our facilitator reiterated that statement, declaring, “In fact, the association must guard against the idea that, if the local church won’t do a particular ministry—we (the association) will.” Through this meeting I have reaffirmed that the state convention is not the church; should not attempt to be the church; cannot do the work of the church; and, must not attempt to replace the ministry of the church. The state convention, in partnership with the association, is intended to enable local churches to do ministry. I relearned that lesson at this National Convocation on Associational Missions.
I am so full—but I just have to stop for now.
We are back on the bus … and on the way home. The DOMs just finished a business meeting of the Missouri DOM Fellowship—I guess you could call that a bus meeting, that is a business meeting held on a bus. They are thinking ahead to GPS—God’s Plan for Sharing and how the NAMB evangelism strategy will be implemented in Missouri Baptist churches and associations. They are also planning for the upcoming Prayer Summits and the Biblical Reconciliation Seminars that will be held in 2010.
We have a long drive ahead of us. I will enjoy it with some of the dearest saints and invaluable ministry partners in Missouri Baptist life—the DOMs of your Missouri Baptist associations.