SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (BP) – Church leaders from the central states engaged 12,000 hours of training, teaching and worship at the three-day Midwest Leadership Summit meeting in Springfield January 23-25. In multiple plenary sessions led by national SBC speakers and church-planting practitioners, and in 80 breakout sessions, almost 1,000 leaders shared and received equipping for ministry in their unique Midwest settings.
The biennial event brings together nine Baptist conventions covering 12 states. It is sponsored by Lifeway Christian Resources, GuideStone Financial Resources, the North American Mission Board and Woman’s Missionary Union.
In day two of the gathering, Vance Pitman, president of NAMB’s Send Network, encouraged pastors, “The size of the church does not determine the significance of the church. The size of the mission determines the significance of the church.”
Noting it might be controversial, Pitman said, “Church planting is not the goal. The church that you are planting one day is going to die. All the churches that were planted in the New Testament are all dead and gone. … But the kingdom of God is alive and well.”
Then where does the local church fit in? To introduce people to Jesus, disciple them, and launch them into serving Him. “We’ve made the local church the goal,” said Pitman. “We’re doing it wrong. The church is a tool for establishing the kingdom of Jesus.”
Pitman said, “The church being born isn’t the finish line of God’s activity. It’s the starting line.”
Church planter Aaron Taylor from Columbus, Ohio, said his congregation, Living Hope Baptist Church, runs 120 on a “banner day,” but is impacting its city in a big way. The church started a free furniture store, Finding Hope Center, three years ago with virtually no inventory or funds, only God’s calling.
When space across from the church opened up, Taylor asked the landlord to give the church 30 days. “It was going to cost $25,000 to pay rent for a whole year,” he said. “We did not raise $25,000. God did it in 22 days, and we raised $31,000.”
A year later Taylor received a call about connecting with a friend who had a storage unit with some furniture he wanted to give away. “We pulled up and it was the Midwest Distribution center for La-Z-Boy Furniture, and we found out the director of that facility loved Jesus a whole lot,” Taylor said. They were given permission take as much scratch and dent furniture as they wanted. Over the course of the last few years, the church has given away more than $700,000 in furniture and shared the Gospel with 350 families.
“We’re living in the middle of a miracle,” Taylor said.
GuideStone leaders addressed pastoral health in a luncheon the financial institution sponsored. President Hance Dilbeck picked up a theme he introduced at the Illinois Baptist State Association Annual Meeting in November – pastoral self-care. “If God is calling you to oversee the flock, you’ve got to oversee yourself,” he said, citing 1 Timothy 4:16.
Paul tells Timothy to guard the self and the doctrine. More pastors fail at the issue of the self than the doctrine, Dilbeck said. “If we mess up in these two areas, it’s all going down the tubes – if we get the doctrine wrong, or we don’t pay attention to ourselves,” he said.
This article originally appeared in the Illinois Baptist.