Sunday, March 7, 2010

Our Annual Gathering


The 8th Annual Meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Missouri will be held Friday and Saturday, March 26-27, 2010, at the First Baptist Church in Lee's Summit, Missouri. The theme for this year's Annual Meeting is "God's Plans: Hope and a Future!" from Jeremiah 29:11. This is an appropriate theme for this year’s annual gathering. Last year our Board of Directors voted to begin a Strategy Planning Process designed to allow us to think strategically about the future of our cooperative ministry. This year is the final year of the current strategy which was approved in 2005. I have been working with a Task Force of 25 from across our state for the past eight months as we sought to understand God’s will for the future of our ministry.

This week our Board of Director’s will be receiving a report from the Task Force including recommendations, goals and strategies. I am very grateful for the input and leadership of those who served on our Task Force. I believe God used the process to help us better understand his plans for our ministry. The Task Force will be making some significant recommends which will help to share the nature of our ministry as we seek to “think in new ways” about denominational life and how we serve our churches. We are anticipating the Board will approve these recommendations, and we hope to share them with our churches and church leaders during our Annual Meeting.

The Annual Meeting is a “gathering” of the Baptist family from across our state. It is a time of fellowship, worship and decisions as we make plans for the future. The Friday afternoon session begins at 1:00 p.m., the Friday evening session begins at 6:30 p.m. and the Saturday morning session begins at 8:30 a.m. The Choir and Orchestra from First Baptist Church in Lee’s Summit will be leading our worship on Friday evening. The Concert Choir from William Jewell College will be singing during our Saturday morning session. Randy Buffington, Minister of Music at First Baptist Church in Lee's Summit, will serve as the Music and Worship Coordinator for our Annual Meeting.

Dr. William Shaw, Pastor of the White Rock Baptist Church in Philadelphia and past president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, will be our keynote speaker. Dr. Shaw was a speaker at the New Baptist Covenant Celebration held in Atlanta in 2008. Dr. David M. May, Professor of New Testament at Central Baptist Theological Seminary, will be our Bible Study Teacher. David is a gifted communicator and Biblical scholar. Our President, Dr. Randall Bunch, will deliver the President's Address.

Our Annual Missions Banquet will be held Friday evening at 5:00 p.m. at First Baptist Church. The menu will feature Jack Stack Barbeque and the cost is $10 per person. You may make a reservation by contacting Bettie Jo in our convention office (bettiejo@baptistgcm.org or 888-420-2426 extension 701). We hope to have a guest from Guatemala to share about our Mission Partnership. The Annual Gathering will also include an exhibit area and opportunities for fellowship. More information regarding the gathering is available on our website (www.baptistgcm.org). Everyone is welcome to attend. I hope to see you in Lee’s Summit!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Thanking God’s Servants

I wrote the following article for the BGCM e-message (our e-mail newsletter). You can sign-up to receive our monthly e-message here.

This past weekend I had the wonderful privilege of sharing a message at the retirement celebration for Dr. Richard Lionberger. Dick has been Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church in Savannah for 22 years. He is concluding 40 years of ministry and service to the congregations he has served and to the Baptists of Missouri. It was obvious that this congregation loves Dick and his wife, Linda. There was laughter and there were tears. The service included many memories and many words of appreciation, but it was also a worship service because that is what Dick wanted it to be. The wonderful music provided by the church choir and other musicians led us to remember we were present to praise the Lord.

Dick was licensed to the Gospel Ministry the same month I was—August 1972. He served congregations in St. Joseph, Stanberry, Salem and Savannah. In addition to providing outstanding pastoral leadership, Dick also served faithfully in his local associations and on a variety of Missouri Baptist agency and institution boards including Grand Oaks Camp, The Baptist Home, and the Executive Board. He also demonstrated courage and provided significant leadership by serving as the first President of the Baptist General Convention of Missouri. It was wonderful to hear about the lives that had been touched through Dick’s ministry at Savannah. He led the church in significant growth including a relocation of their facilities and three building programs. He was faithful pastor and shepherd conducing 263 weddings and 510 funerals during his ministry at Savannah. Most importantly 532 people came to know Christ during his ministry with the church. We praised God for the way he has used the lives of Dick and Linda.

Dick is a humble servant of God, and he was not really comfortable with all the attention he received. He knows, like all of us who serve in vocational Christian service, the praise goes to the Lord. All of us are unlikely candidates for any place in Kingdom service. But, it was certainly appropriate for this wonderful congregation to express their appreciation for his ministry as their pastor. I know God has plans to use these servants even in their retirement. I also know that God has great plans to build upon the foundation of the past 22 years as he continues to bless the First Baptist Church in Savannah.

As I have reflected upon the events of this celebration day, I thought about how wonderful it would be for churches to pause at times in their pilgrimage of faith to express their appreciation for their pastor and others who serve among them. Some churches have staff appreciation days, and others acknowledge special anniversaries. Whatever approach you use, let me encourage you to express your appreciation for those who serve among you. Celebrate what God is doing through their lives.