Overland Park, KS turned out to be a great location for a convention, speaking as one who travelled comparatively speaking a short distance to get there. But, KC as many of you know, offers its share of attractions and it was good to take in a few of those before the meeting got started. I have also learned that that this will be the site of the next gathering of American Baptists two years from now.
I am planning on putting some thoughts together to tell our church this upcoming Sunday, so while it is fresh on my mind here are a few takeaways from the experience in no particular order:
1. I thought the theme “transformed by the Spirit” was very appropriate for what has been going on among ABC people this last year, and indicated a desire for local congregations to experience the work of the Holy Spirit too. For anything meaningful to occur in our churches, the Holy Spirit must bring it about.
2. John Upton’s sermon about the three questions God asks was tremendous. He noted two questions in Genesis and one question from I Kings. That information was definite sermon fodder, but one point in particular related to the question God asked Elijah “what are you doing here?” Elijah’s prior victories were a non-issue when confronted by Jezebel, and he ran and hid in a cave with feelings of depression. Upton noted that many pastors and churches deal with depression, especially as they reflect upon their histories and loss of membership and influence. Some of the changes are part of the life cycle of the church, but there are ways the Holy Spirit is moving and we must be sensitive to that.
3. Alleh Yeh spoke during the International Ministries luncheon, and spoke on the subject “Embrace the Cause: ABC Missions Past, Present, and Future.” I don’t ordinarily take notes but I did during his presentation, and even purchased a copy of the DVD of his remarks afterwards. It is worth the cost to pick that one up. He mentioned “adaptations” the church must make in order to remain effective and there were at least 10 that I counted. Yeh’s remarks, along with the singing of the Myanmar choir members were tremendous.
4. The worship services were well planned and meaningful. The praise team did a wonderful job leading us into the presence of the Lord, and the songs, choruses and special music all related to the “transformed by the Spirit” emphasis. One highlight was hearing songs in a variety of languages, even though I couldn’t understand the words, the experience emphasized the reality of a global church and mission.
5. Missions should not be done alone. Partnerships and cooperation are essential but locally and abroad. This approach builds effectiveness and community.
6. If the intent of the convention was to get participants to consider the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church, I would say mission accomplished. There is a definite lack of emphasis on his work among Baptist congregations, and as the theme indicated, the only way real change can occur is by being transformed by the Holy Spirit. The only hope for churches to do anything meaningful is by trusting and relying on the Spirit’s leadership and power. This is especially true on an individual level.
7. American Baptists have a lot in common with Cooperative Baptists in terms of their views of ministry, missions, and focus on the local church. It will be worth watching to see whether or not these national bodies have more formal connections with one another in the future.