Thursday, April 19, 2012

Fellowship, Blessing, and Challenge

This past weekend Churchnet gathered for our 10th Anniversary Celebration. Opening Day for the Cardinals and a series of strong storms may have reduced a crowd a little, but we had a wonderful and important gathering. As I reflected upon the meeting, I was reminded what this type of gathering accomplishes for our network. Like a family reunion it is a time when the extended family comes together for fellowship. It is always great to see Christian friends as church leaders gather from across the state. Like our families the Churchnet family does not get together frequently, and the gathering provides an important opportunity for fellowship. Fellowship reminds us that we are not alone. Fellowship provides encouragement. It does these things for churches and church leaders. This year we had some new faces at our Annual Gathering, and it was great to connect with some old friends. We also had the opportunity to connect with our institutional partners. Almost forty percent of our Annual Budget goes to help support our institutional partners, and the Annual Gathering provides an opportunity to get an update on their ministries. In a sense Churchnet is a family of churches. It is a family of church leaders. This fellowship is an important part of being a family.

I was also blessed by the Annual Gathering. The opportunity to come together with the Baptist family for worship is always a blessing. We were reminded during our worship that we are part of the larger Baptist family. The representatives from our Texas Baptist friends were a reminder of our partnership with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. George Bullard, General Secretary of the North American Baptist Fellowship, and John Upton, President of the Baptist World Alliance, reminded us that we are a part of the global Baptist family. I was blessed by the outstanding music we had for our worship. The Missouri Baptist University Chorale and Ringers and the Worship Ensemble from Southwest Baptist Church all provide leadership for our worship. The volunteers who shared at our Annual Missions Banquet blessed by heart as they shared about their experiences in Guatemala. I am always involved in a lot of preparation for the Annual Gathering. In a sense most of my work related to the Annual Gathering is over once the event begins. I was personally blessed as we gather for worship.

Maybe most importantly, I was challenged. I have been attending Baptist conventions and meetings since I was a young person. I have been in vocational ministry for 40 years. It would be difficult for me to summarize how God has used these annual gatherings of the Baptist family in my life. Sometimes, I have been encouraged and uplifted. Sometimes, I found a new resource or tool for ministry. Many times, I have been challenged. I was challenged again this year. I was challenged by the messages shared by John Upton and Doyle Sager. I was challenged by some of the reports and stories shared by those attending the gathering. I was challenged by the workshop leaders. I was challenged in a new and fresh way by the Spirit of God. Our theme for this year’s anniversary gathering was Share Hope: The Journey Continues. If there is any group who should be committed to sharing hope, it is the people of God. Our Share Hope emphasis is all about helping churches become more effective in sharing the hope they have found in Christ through relational evangelism, congregational ministry and community advocacy. God is still in the business of bringing hope to the hopeless. It is always good to pause and allow God to renew our commitment to Kingdom business. He reminded all of us that we need to share hope! Thanks for being a part of our Annual Gathering.

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