By Bill Webb
If you are a Baptist in Missouri, you have multiple options for fellowship, training and various kinds of relationships. One organization that offers such options held its annual meeting a couple of weeks ago, and by all indications, it is finding its niche among Missouri Baptists.
The Baptist General Convention of Missouri annual meeting March 31-April 1 at First Baptist Church in Lee's Summit offered just about everything one would expect from such an event. The BGCM has come a long way since it was organized just four years ago. In fact, the convention has grown a good bit during the past year.
The highlights of the annual meeting are synonymous with the strengths of the organization. Here are a few:
Diversity of participation
An African-American pastor presented a pair of Bible studies, and his congregation's choir brought messengers and guests alike to their feet. Wallace S. Hartsfield, pastor of Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church in Kansas City, addressed the theme of the meeting: "All things to all people...for the sake of the gospel" (I Corinthians 9:19-23), at one point recounting a story his grandmother, a slave in Georgia, told him.
Anne Graham Lotz, like her evangelist-father Billy Graham, pulled no punches in calling each person present to personal repentance and extending an invitation, one of the high moments of the two-day meeting.
Brian Anderson, pastor of CrossRoads Fellowship in Jackson, gave the audience a taste of what they might experience if they visited a worship service at his church, complete with a dramatic monologue through the eyes of the rich young ruler.
Jim Hill, BGCM's part-time executive director, gave a report that featured the various "Priority One" team members who provide consultation to churches in areas of congregational health, leadership development, missions, church planting and communications.
Alan Stanford, general secretary of the North American Baptist Fellowship of the Baptist World Alliance, reminded the audience that they are part of a host of Baptists scattered around the world, some of them living with persecution.
Albert Reyes, president of the Baptist University of the Americas in San Antonio, Texas, called Missouri Baptists to be missionaries where they are because "God has brought the world to us."
Finally, Missourian Bill Miller, outgoing president and ongoing pastor of First Baptist Church, Farmington, challenged those who would relate to the young convention to be sold out to good workmanship and excellence as they helped BGCM move forward.
Expanding missions partnerships
In addition to membership in the North American Baptist Fellowship, the convention has been initiating strategic missions partnerships on several fronts.
The convention has formalized a relationship with a sister convention that has been supportive from BGCM's start, the Baptist General Convention of Texas. BGCT executive director Charles Wade pledged ongoing support marked by a reciprocal relationship between the partners.
A pair of representatives of the Guatemala Baptist Convention urged messengers and guests to enter that partnership with enthusiasm. Carlos Cerna, the executive secretary for Guatemala Baptists, said, "Guatemala has many needs, but we don't want to only be blessed but also to be a blessing to you." Added convention vice president Josue Marroquin, "We will show that Guatemalans and Missourians are one."
Missions ventures also will be facilitated through BGCM's relationship with WorldconneX, an organization that will link Missouri volunteers with missions opportunities around the world.
A move-forward attitude
It was obvious from the tone of this meeting that the convention is moving ahead to work with willing likeminded partners, to meet the needs of churches who desire BGCM assistance, to seek out and help members engage in evangelistic and missionary ventures, and to be a committed part of the larger Baptist family. It is attracting high quality leaders.
Many Missouri Baptists have watched to see if BGCM will be a flash in the pan or a significant fellowship with a purpose and a plan for doing kingdom business for years to come. This seems to be a convention equivalent to the little engine that could. It has chosen to remain lean, even as its resources and participation have steadily increased.
The Baptist General Convention of Missouri appears to have found its niche, positioning itself to serve Missouri Baptists for many years to come.