Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hill Brothers Plan 2010 Holy Land Trip

Three Hill brothers: Jim Hill (BGCM Executive Director), Drew Hill (Pastor of FBC, Sedalia) and Pete Hill — and some minister friends will be leading a trip to Israel in 2010. The group will leave on January 12, 2010, for an 11-day trip and return on January 22, 2010.

The trip is truly an investment in your spiritual growth. In Israel the tour will visit Caesarea (by the Sea), Haifa, Megiddo, Nazareth, Cana, Tiberias, take a boat ride to Capernaum, see the Mount of Beatitudes, Church of the five loaves and two fishes, Caesarea Philippi, Jericho, Qumran, the Dead Sea, Masada, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and much more.

The cost of the trip is $2,651 plus fuel surcharges and the cost of a light lunch each day. If you are interested in more information, a trip itinerary, or detailed cost information, contact Jim at or (573) 659-3838. We hope you can join us for this special trip.

A Heart for the Search

A few days ago I rented an underwater metal detector (a first for me) from a local scuba diving shop and helped my youngest son with an important search. He was swimming in a lake in a city park in Columbia where he lives and lost his wedding ring. It would have been difficult for anyone, but Josh has only been married for six weeks. Replacing the ring was not an option he wanted to consider. It was not just the replacement cost, but the idea that he would not have the special ring Sabrina had given him.

When we arrived at the city park and I saw the lake, I was not very optimistic. It was a pretty large swimming area filled with lots of children and adults enjoying the sun and water. It had been two days since the ring had slipped off his hand, and while he knew generally where we should begin our search it was clear the activity in the lake could have moved or buried the ring.

We spent almost two hours with the metal detector identifying pieces of ear rings and other metal objects. Sometimes we were never able to find an object even though the detector indicated something was there. The water was so dark that we had to have our snorkeling mask almost on the bottom to see. We took turns holding the detector and diving. We were both getting a little discouraged. I sent Josh down a second time to search a location that “beeped” loudly on the metal detector even though the first effort did not result in a find.

Suddenly, he began kicking and then exploded out of the water. He screamed, “I found it!” He said he was about to surface because he had been down as long as he could hold his breath. He brushed his hand over the area a final time revealing the outline of a ring, and when he grabbed it he knew it was his ring. We had a great celebration.

Our experience reminded me of the Parable of the Lost Coin in Luke 15: "Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.' In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

We called Josh’s wife and his mother to announce the ring was found. It was a great find and a wonderful celebration. The scripture says there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels over one sinner who repents. The angels are in the presence of God. I am not sure we always remember how important each individual is to our heavenly Father. I am not sure we always put much effort into the search for lost sheep, lost coins, and lost sons and daughters. But, when we lead a lost son or daughter to our Savior, it is a cause for celebration both here and in heaven. May God give us a heart for the search.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Thinking Strategically about the Future

Our Board of Directors voted to approve a strategy planning proposal during our June Board Meeting. It seems incredible, but we are already in the fifth year of implementation of our First Priority Strategic Plan. Our current 5-year plan was developed during a comprehensive process implemented during the 2004-2005 convention year. Since we are in the final year of the plan, it is again appropriate to begin thinking about the future.

Joel Barker in his video Leadershift says, leaders must focus the majority of their efforts on the future. I don’t know about you, but it seems to me the future usually arrives before I expect it and often before I am ready for it. The Baptist General Convention of Missouri is beginning its eight year. We are a young convention, but God has already blessed our cooperative ministry in a wonderful way. From the very beginning we have sought to be a different type of denominational entity. I have served in a wide variety of denominational roles, and I have come to realize that it is incredibly easy for these organizations to believe the churches exist for their benefit. Nothing could be further from the truth. The denomination exists to serve churches and to facilitate the joint efforts of local congregations.

Our current plan says the Baptist General Convention of Missouri’s mission is to serve churches and church leaders as they fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. Our vision has been to be an organization that gives first priority to serving churches. I believe we have taken some significant steps toward realizing this vision. Several years ago our board voted to serve any church desiring our assistance whether the congregation was supporting our ministries or not. Our convention staff is made up of practitioners who are located throughout our state as we seek to be accessible to our churches. Our team leaders include specialists in the areas of leadership development, congregational health, church planting and missions mobilization. We have put in place retirement and health insurance programs for church staff members. We also provide comprehensive search committee resources and services.

Over the last four years we have become members of the North American Baptist Fellowship and the Baptist World Alliance. We have become a part of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, and established partnerships and relationships with Baptist conventions in Texas, Virginia and the District of Columbia. Our have built a missions partnership with the Baptists in Guatemala and China. In addition to supporting all our Missouri Baptist institutions and agencies, our convention also supports the Baptist Center for Ethics, the Associated Baptist Press, and Central Baptist Theological Seminary. I am incredibly proud to be a part of the Baptist General Convention of Missouri.

However, as proud as we are of our early years as a convention, we know God has more in store in the years ahead. We are beginning the planning process for the next five years. A leadership team will begin leading the process in the next couple of months as we begin thinking strategically about the future. We want to “think outside the traditional paradigms.” What is the nature of the world where we serve today? What are the challenges and concerns of the churches we serve? How can we most effectively serve these churches? What new opportunities confront us today? What does God want us to be and to do in the next five years? I am very excited about the opportunity to gather with Baptists from across our state and explore the answers to these and other important questions. We will be providing an invitation to participate in an online survey as a part of our planning process, but I want to invite you to send me your suggestions and thoughts. Let us know how we can better serve your church.