SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The hotel conference center lobby was buzzing with activity as over 1,200 Baptist leaders from nine states descended on Springfield, Ill., for a leadership training summit. Spencer Hutson, MBC Liason, reported 165 Missourians were at the event, January 21-23. It featured 80 breakout sessions and keynote speakers including J.D. Greear, Haydn Shaw, Dhati Lewis and Sandy Wisdom-Martin.
Hutson said the MBC wanted to give directors of missions “the opportunity to pick top candidates for leadership training” and send them to the conference. He said the feedback has been excellent. MBC contributed approximately $15,000 to pay for up to 150 rooms. The conference was sponsored by nine state conventions in the upper Midwest along with assistance from LifeWay Christian Resources, the North American Mission Board and the Woman’s Missionary Union.
Greear spoke in the Wednesday evening keynote session and gave “four game-changing convictions of churches that advance.” Referring to Luke 15, he said these churches have evangelism and discipleship as the core calling of the church. He asked, “Can we refrain from divisive political rhetoric to keep evangelism the main thing?” He also made the point that every year more and more people choose “none” as their religious preference. Greear said, “Don’t depend on improving the product of the worship service to gather in the people.”
He added, “Jesus’ promises of a rapid expansion of the gospel should compel us to go.” He talked about getting outside the walls of the church and impacting community. Finally, he said, “Life in the world only comes through death in the church.” His emphasis was on missional living and community engagement in order to win more to Jesus.
Other speakers included Haydn Shaw, author of the book Sticking Points. He is a corporate trainer and an authority on generational issues. Shaw wore a shirt with the phrase, “OK Boomer.” He explained this is a pop culture expression meant as a subtle put-down to Baby Boomer generation people who speak with an authoritative tone. Younger generations tend to use this to push back sarcastically. He then went on to give tips for Boomers and Generation X and Z young people to work together better. For all three generations he encouraged them to “listen to each other more.”
Phil Rector, DOM of Gasconade Valley Baptist Association, said they brought six people to the summit. “This is a unique opportunity. This setting is not offered frequently for the training of our leaders.” He misses the associational leadership training that used to be offered by the convention. He also mentioned the fellowship opportunities and the networking that took place in the three-day conference.
Richard Clouse, pastor of Carpenter Street Baptist Church, Moberly, said ,“I value this conference because it gives leaders a chance to dive in to a myriad of topics not found in any other gathering. The offerings are so diverse there is something for everyone. Most conferences are driven by the agenda of the host whereas this one is broad enough to meet a wide array of needs. And the chance to connect with others is always a plus.”
Other DOMs such as Walter Heyer, Meremac Baptist Association, Cuba, and Al Groner, Bethel Baptist Association, Hannibal, said they thought the networking was a great opportunity for leaders, plus the training was outstanding. Heyer said the conference met the needs of pastors very well as it was organized and focused well. Groner added it was a great emphasis on making disciples, and he thought that would be beneficial to their associational work.
Cheri Crump, from First Baptist Church, Rolla, said it helped her refocus on what she needed to be doing for her church and association in encouraging missions and discipleship.
She was pleased that the MBC chose to invest funds in the summit because “the concerns we have in churches are shared by others, and we have to problem-solve together.”
Hutson said the MBC will again be a co-sponsor of the leadership summit in January of 2022, most likely at the same location. directors of missions will be given opportunities to bring leaders from their member churches.