EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is supplemented with reporting from Baptist Press.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – One-hundred-and-sixty-five Missouri Baptists were among the 850 attendees of the Midwest Leadership Summit on January 18-20, which is held every two years. Associations were allowed to designate up to ten people they could invite to this event.
Over 1,000 church leaders registered but rising Covid concerns appeared to limit attendance to about 850 who traveled from across the region to Springfield for the fourth consecutive time. In its second day, the Summit offered 70 breakouts sessions in 12 specialized tracks. Church leaders could attend up to six sessions in the training event unique to the Midwest.
The conference is a partnership between three SBC entities and nine Baptist conventions covering 12 states. National support was provided by Guidestone Financial Resources, the North American Mission Board, and Woman’s Missionary Union.
The state convention partners are Dakota Baptist Convention, Illinois Baptist State Association, State Convention of Baptists in Indiana, Baptist Convention of Iowa, Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists, Baptist State Convention of Michigan, Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention, Missouri Baptist Convention, and the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio.
Some of the notable keynote speakers were: Hance Dilbeck (GuideStone), Ben Mandrell (LifeWay), Willie McLaurin (SBC Executive Committee), Sandy Wisdom-Martin (WMU) and church consultant Will Mancini. Several other church planters and mission leaders spoke throughout the three day event.
One Missouri Baptist was in the worship band, Pastor Jonathan Hayashi, of Northern Hills Baptist Church, Holt. He told The Pathway that the value of the conference was in the breakout sessions offered. “Current issues, small groups, questions that can be asked…” These were the things ringing Hayashi’s bell during the conference.
He was especially pleased that conference leaders were addressing issues surrounding race and diversity. “We’ve come off of two years of intense political and cultural strife,” Hayashi said. He was cognizant of many racial issues swirling in the culture and on social media.
Rayden Hollis, a church planting catalyst in the St. Louis region led a panel discussion on “How the Gospel Intersects With The Needs Of The Community.” Church planters and staff members of churches spoke of reaching people through meeting physical and emotional needs.
One church planter in Chicago spoke with great emotion welling up in his voice as he responded to a question about “how it is in the city of Chicago.” Kent Steiner of Chicago West, a church plant in that city, responded, “I love my city. There are problems but those police officers, the people in the streets, they are my people.”
Ben Mandrell, the President and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources spoke in a general session and also led a breakout group where he talked about “Soul Care of the Pastor.” He said the pastor’s emotional health is crucial. If the pastor is not healthy it can have a lot of effects on the church, families and a lot of people in the community. He cautioned, “Do not let your job become your identify.”
There was a track for directors of missions led in part by Ray Gentry of the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders in Georgia. Gary Mathes, DOM at Clay-Platte Baptist Association, also led a session in that track.
There were sessions for church planters, church revitalization, healthy pastors, missions, minister’s wives and the list went on and on. There were 70 choices for the people to enter into during the breakout schedule.
A Missouri pastor, Joshua Meranda of Open Door Baptist Church, New Bloomfield, rode to the event with his director of missions, Preston Thompson.
Meranda said, “It was helpful to me because I just stepped up to be a lead pastor for the first time and the sessions helped me clarify vision for the church.” He said his main take-away is “speaking into the need for revitalization (of the church) and reaching the community.” Where he serves there are lot of duplex apartments and homes and people are coming and going all the time. They have about 50-80 people attending the church there in New Bloomfield.
His DOM, Preston Thompson said they brought a “people-mover” vehicle so they could all talk and visit on the way over from the Heart of Missouri Baptist Association which is in the Columbia, Fulton and Mexico areas. They brought six pastors from four churches. “It is a good use of Cooperative Program funds,” he added.
A LifeWay bookstore exhibit, a prayer room and hospitality areas added to the atmosphere of learning and growing at this event which will be held again in January of 2024.