Leaders pray for personal renewal, Gospel advance at Midwest summit
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (BP) – Worship was warm on a morning when temperatures were in the single digits in Springfield. But most of the attenders at the Midwest Leadership Summit are used to cold weather – colder than this.
The session concluded the three-day event that drew 850 church leaders from 12 states to Illinois for the biennial conference.
South Dakota church planter Jeffrey Mueller ignited the crowd with his challenge drawn from four shifts his church made after a couple of years in existence – shifts in order that God might save the fledgling congregation, he said. Among them were disciplined prayer as a pastor and deeper connection to the Yankton community.
“We have to be part of the community and not a pocket community,” Mueller said. “Church planters all say we’re gonna be a different church, be part of the community. We said it, but we didn’t do it. Our outreach was only to get people to come hear me preach, and I wasn’t any good at preaching,” he said, drawing laughs.
“God said the command was to go to them, not for them to come to you.”
Restore Church in Yankton has started a second campus in nearby Crofton, Neb., and four ministry points. An indoor playground serving their financially challenged community, with a crisis pregnancy center in the basement below are located in a former church building.
Mueller and his wife returned to their small hometown after seminary to plant the church. “Our whole life, the community has cried out that there’s not enough free or affordable family fun. Most of the activities are drunken parties with the approval of the community.”
Restore Church responded with community connections that doubled as open doors for evangelism.
Mueller said his ministry changed when he took seriously this statement: The pastor should be well acquainted with the smell of the carpet in his office, not from being on his knees but from having his face on the floor before God.
A few moments later, Mueller was on his face on the platform at the Crowne Plaza in Springfield. “You might be one special shift away from discouragement to encouragement,” he said. Pastors and church leaders across the ballroom joined him in prayer with their faces on the carpet.
Willie McLaurin, vice president for Great Commission relations and mobilization for the SBC Executive Committee, brought an energetic message in the final plenary service. He focused on unity in the Southern Baptist Convention, drawing his message from Acts 1-2.
“We need to get on the same side of the rope and pull together,” McLaurin said after describing his childhood tug-of-war games.
He recited a list of differences among Southern Baptists, including theology, ethnicity and politics. “We don’t need to focus on a donkey or an elephant, we need to focus on the Lamb,” he said as the crowd applauded. “We have one enemy and he is already defeated!”
McLaurin delved briefly into the coming of Holy Spirit at Pentecost and its impact on the early church. Drawing comparisons to today’s church, he said, “Everyone wants a feeling, but what we need is the filling of the Holy Spirit. If we are filled there is a living, breathing Gospel urgency. We need to get busy getting people off the road to hell and on the way to heaven. …
“There is not one problem the church has that soul-winning cannot solve.”
McLaurin concluded, “Any way you slice it, we are Great Commission Baptists, because we are better together.”
The next Midwest Leadership Summit will likely be in 2024.
Providing medical care to Venezuela’s neglected leads to professions of faith
By IMB/Send Relief Staff
Venezuelan believer Zuleima de Rojas began an outreach after receiving medicine from Send Relief for a neglected community. This ministry has led to many in an assisted living facility coming to faith in Christ.
Rojas, Send Relief’s Critical Medicines Project coordinator, alongside Send Relief workers Alan and Gaudy Carlton, began reaching out to this community of elderly individuals and those with special needs after learning that none were receiving medicine, despite each patient having serious medical needs.
The team’s visits have become a monthly occurrence so that the doctors can provide care to patients in the facility and refill the medicine they need. While caring for and loving the people there, the Gospel has been shared, and many have come to Christ. Recently the group held an old-fashioned river baptism for some of those new believers.
One woman, Luz, could not be submerged because she has a prosthesis in her leg that is open to bacteria in the water. She also was in much pain and could not tolerate the strong current in the water. So the team baptized her by the river by pouring a bucket of water over her head.
After her baptism, Luz shared her testimony:
“When I found the Baptist church, I had my problems to find the medicines for me,” she said, “The church helped me to find my medicines, because in my country it is so hard to buy it. They are very expensive. The church helped me to find all, I repeat, all my medicines for the treatment I need.
“Since the moment the church first saw me, they haven’t failed me. Everything has been very beautiful and very good.
“Since I believe in Jesus, I have been studying the Bible, and then today I was baptized.
Everything was very pretty. In the beginning I was nervous, but thank God everything was great, and now I am feeling great.”
Luz was one of nine baptized that day.
“This year, our goal in working with the ministry of medicine is to reach out to more for baptism in June and make another effort and baptize again in December,” Carlton said. “Together as God’s team we can take more people to heaven!”