Monday, November 27, 2006

Posting Again

While many famous bloggers are participating in an intentional fast from the blogosphere, my lack of posting has been more the result of a lack of motivation to write about anything substantial or meaningful lately. I have continued to read and even comment occasionally on other blogs. In a previous blog I had commented on the irony of attending the West Africa Summit that was sponsored by the IMB and the Missouri Baptist Convention when our church was one of 19 that was ousted from the MBC that very week for not being singly aligned with the MBC. I felt obliged to leave a clarifying comment on John Stickley's blog about the MBC's action. John commented that MBC delegates voted to kick 19 churches out of the convention due to their violation of rules requiring “single-alignment” with the Southern Baptist Convention. The fact is that the MBC doesn't require single alignment with the SBC but single alignment with the MBC. Our church along with 18 others were excluded because in the exercise of local church autonomy, we have chosen to partner with groups in Missouri other than the MBC in missions endeavors.

While the exclusion was probably more symbolic in our case than in some of the other churches affected by the decision, given that we had decided as a congregation several years ago to designate the Baptist General Convention of Missouri as the default giving option among state groups, there was one casualty of the action by the MBC. For several months we had been hosting a Spanish Bible study on Sunday evenings in our facilities, led by an Hispanic pastor from Mexico. He was receiving a portion of his funding through the MBC and it was determined that since our church was no longer singly aligned with the MBC, he would have to cease his ministry with us. We are reassessing which direction to go with this ministry while our outstanding ESL program continues to function on Wednesday evenings.

I had the privilege of leading a young Hispanic couple to the Lord on successive Monday nights the past couple of weeks--the wife first as she came for some marital counseling and then the husband this past week as they met together with me. They are from a town some 10 miles southeast of Lee's Summit and I've encouraged them to attend the only Spanish-speaking services that I'm aware of at this point in the vicinity. I would have loved to been able to invite them to services in our church, but for the time being that isn't possible. The exercise of denominational politics certainly has some unforeseen negative consequences for kingdom work, but I trust that the Lord will continue to work in the lives of this young couple to help them grow in their new-found faith. The worship minister in the town where they live has befriended them, but her Spanish is extremely limited and the couple speaks very little English. I would appreciate your prayers on their behalf.

On a separate note, I'm trying to organize a group of BGCM pastors to participate in a missions trip to Guatemala the second half of January. That doesn't leave a great deal of time to finalize plans, but I'm confident that God will raise up those whom He desires to participate in a training event for leaders in 3 states near Guatemala's western border with Mexico. The trip will also coincide with a meeting hosted by WorldconneX with the leaders of the Guatemalan Baptist Convention and several entities that are currently working in or are considering missions opportunities in Guatemala.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

West Africa Summit update

I arrived safely in St. Charles, MO at midday and attended the afternoon and evening sessions of the first day of the West Africa Summit at the FBC of St. Charles. The church has done an outstanding job of preparing to host this summit and the IMB has really put together a great program. Many missionaries from West Africa have just returned stateside in the last couple of days to be a part of the summit. The purpose of the summit as Dr. Rankin communicated it very clearly this evening is not to be a typical missions conference with reports from missionaries about what they're doing and the state of the work. The goal is to motivate churches to become directly involved in one of three areas of the work in West Africa--as an exploring church that participates in an occasional mission trip as they seek where God would have them invest their time and energy long-term, as a partnering church to work with an existing IMB church planting team to reach a unreached people group, or as an engaging church that assumes the direct responsibility for taking the gospel to an unreached people group that currently has no IMB or other evangelical work in place.

I've had a chance to visit briefly with Randy and Kathy Arnett whom we were appointed with back in 1986. Randy is currently the Regional Leader for the IMB over West Africa. I ate dinner with Larry and Lucy Driggers who were in language school with us in Costa Rica since they were headed for the only Spanish-speaking country in West Africa--Equitorial Guinea. The wife of another couple we were appointed with is also here, but I haven't seen her yet. I was pleasantly surprised to see Steve Nolen who served with us in Argentina before transferring to the 10/40 window for a number of years. He's living in the Atlanta area now, serving as a missions pastor and also helping promote Hispanic involvement in the 10/40 region.

A couple of disturbing statistics were shared by Randy this afternoon and echoed by Dr. Rankin this evening. The number of career missionaries to West Africa has decreased each year by an average of 10 missionary units from 1997 to 2006. At the appointment service last night at the MBC annual meeting in Cape Girardeau, 67 new missionaries were appointed. Not one of them is heading to West Africa. The focus of today's sessions by Randy and Dr. Rankin were on the lostness of West Africa. Clearly the need is overwhelming and the response by S. Baptist churches has been "underwhelming." Prayerfully, the Lord will use this summit to awaken an interest in that region on the part of many. The attendance is very good and the majority of folks appear to be from outside of Missouri.