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SBC DIGEST: Mandrell addresses Midwest leaders; SBC Pastors’ Conference update

Mandrell urges ‘fierce optimism’ at Midwest summit

By Eric Reed/Illinois Baptist

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (BP) – “I need some fellowship for sure,” said one pastor on arrival at the Midwest Leadership Summit. Others said they came to the three-day event for ministry ideas, for training as leaders, and to be charged up by good preaching.

They got it all.

“It’s good to be here, where people drink ‘pop’ and shop at Menards,” Illinois native Ben Mandrell told the crowd, who laughed at the regional references. Then he launched into a strong and revealing message.

Mandrell, president of Lifeway Christian Resources, told of his own experiences since taking his post, which has coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, continued financial downturns and the need to reinvent the ministry of the Southern Baptist publisher.

“Sixty-six percent of pastors say they are struggling to trust God,” Mandrell told leaders, citing recent Lifeway Research. But he called them to “fierce optimism,” another term for faith.

“There have been times in the last two years where I have struggled to believe, where I have cried, where I wondered what did I get myself into … where waves of fear overwhelmed me,” Mandrell said. “Anybody who leads in ministry right now has days like that.”

But, Mandrell said, the people of the church are counting on their pastor to exercise bold faith. “The leader, if he is to be stable, must believe that God has the power to reverse a trend, to overcome statistics,” he said.

The former Colorado church planter shared the hurdles he faced there that demanded unrelenting faith. Mandrell called this faith “the secret sauce” of Old Testament leaders. “Without a fierce optimism, the floor will collapse beneath you,” he said to “amens” from the crowd.

“Faith is what separates the men from the boys, the big from the little in Christian history.”

The executive directors of the nine midwestern state Baptist conventions partnering for the conference addressed the challenges of ministry in the region at a lunchtime panel discussion. The presentation was wide-ranging, but “outside the pandemic,” per instructions from Tim Patterson of Michigan, who moderated the panel.

“The objective of a network of churches is to focus on the common ground that churches have,” said Nate Adams of Illinois. In a discussion on the use of social media, several state executives pointed to the divisive nature of contemporary communication.

“We look for things that unify us and bring us together,” Adams said. “Let’s not go out into the margins where there isn’t so much agreement.”

The new convention leader of the Dakotas, Fred McDonald, talked about the distance between Southern Baptist churches in his part of the country and a resulting sense of isolation. “Loneliness is an issue in the Dakotas,” McDonald said.

“Our churches are very spread out from each other. It creates loneliness among pastors, discouragement, and loneliness among pastors’ wives separated from family who live far away.” McDonald’s observations drew nods of recognition.

Women’s ministry leader Kathy Litton, wife of current SBC President Ed Litton, spoke about the emotional stresses for ministry wives at a packed breakout session.

“It is our spiritual maturity that grows our emotional security,” she said. “When pastors and their spouses work on their own emotional health, it’s a real gift to the church,” she told the women, quoting author Michael Hyatt.

“We should lead our heart, not follow it. The heart can lead to a downward spiral (to) depression,” Litton said. “We can lead the heart to trust God.”

Read the full story here.

SBC Pastors’ Conference January update

By BP staff

The January update from 2022 Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference President Matt Henlsee includes a list of new sponsors as well as a unique announcement.

The International Mission Board, the North American Mission Board and GuideStone Financial Resources have joined the list of sponsors for the conference – a list that already included Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Samaritan’s Purse, Maranatha Tours as well as several state Baptist conventions, local churches and individuals.

Henslee, associational missionary for the Collin Baptist Association in Texas, also announced that the pulpit used for the conference sermons would be the “Bellevue Pulpit” from Bellevue Baptist Church near Memphis. Bellevue Pastor Steve Gaines agreed to loan the pulpit, which has been used by Gaines, longtime Bellevue pastor Adrian Rogers, R.G. Lee and Ramsey Pollard, all former SBC presidents.

“We are thankful for Bellevue Baptist’s generosity and willingness to allow us to add another page of history to their pulpit,” Henslee said in the update, “and are excited for our preachers to stand behind it to proclaim the Word once again.”

The SBC Pastors’ Conference will be held June 12-13 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, Calif., just prior to the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting at the same location.

Read the full update here.

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