Executive Director’s Annual Report for the NWBC, November 2015

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Among the most moving and challenging passages of Scripture are those in which the Apostle Paul speaks personally about his life and ministry. One reason these passages are spiritually and emotionally powerful might be that Paul often wrote from jail. He wrote about his suffering, his fighting “the good fight” and finishing “the race” well.

I have noticed that when Paul speaks personally about his life that he often references the “day of the Lord.” As he served Christ, and when he suffered for his service, never far from his thoughts was the certainty of the coming day when “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor. 5:10). He even anticipated that he would “boast in the day of Christ” that he “didn’t run in vain or labor for nothing” (Phil. 2:16).

Paul’s belief that he could labor in such a way as to “boast in the day of Christ” is something I’ve been thinking about quite a lot. Almost daily we hear new accounts of brothers and sisters giving their lives for Christ in North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. Occasionally we are privileged to learn that they died boasting of Jesus, praising Jesus, with anticipation that they will soon look into the face of Jesus. As the Bible says, “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8).

If you are able to attend the annual meeting of the NWBC on November 10-11, 2015, I pray that the reports you hear represent a faithfulness to Jesus about which we can boast in the day of Christ. The frontline work of disciple-making, baptizing and teaching believers to obey Christ is the work of each local church. Still, we believe that only through believers and churches working together, supporting one another, cooperating in the great missions task before us, can we accomplish all that we hope to boast about in the day of Christ.

Consider some of what we have accomplished in the Northwest as we have worked together. Together we have engaged new language and ethnic groups through planting churches among Mandarin, Spanish, Korean, Bhutanese, Native-American, African-American and other peoples. More than 130 of our 466 churches worship in a language other than English. Increasingly we are seeing second-generation churches formed. These are churches comprised primarily of ethnic peoples who worship in English. One of the “miracles” of cooperation is seen in the diversity of our convention of churches.

In leadership training we have seen well over 1,000 people participate in various regional and convention-wide training events. This includes over 200 pastors in pastor cluster groups, transitional pastor training, mission and evangelism training, Contextualized Leadership Development (CLD) and other specialized opportunities. The greatest single evangelism ministry of our churches is Vacation Bible School. This year 552 leaders were trained in VBS and hundreds of professions of faith were recorded by our churches.

MY316 Evangelism Training is used by many of our churches, with some of the curriculum now available in Spanish and Korean. The impact of helping each new believer learn how to share their faith, and identify those in their life who are unchurched and most likely lost, is the single most important thing a church can do for a new Christian. Well, it’s difficult to put anything above teaching new Christians to pray and meditate on Scripture, but you get the point. And remember, MY316 Evangelism Resources are available to all of our churches without charge. Your Cooperative Program gifts have already purchased those.

In 2015 many of our churches continued the westward journey until they arrived in East Asia. Our partnership with the IMB has blossomed as Northwesterners travel to faraway places where there are few believers and little access to the gospel. Our IMB leaders have asked the NWBC to bring 200 Northwest Baptist people to serve 1,300 IMB missionaries and their children in Pattaya, Thailand from August 1-10, 2016. What a privilege!

Although the Northwest is not immune to the financial struggles and disappointing evangelistic results of our greater Southern Baptist family, we are thankful that we experienced an increase in baptisms and church attendance last year. From the reports we are receiving, we anticipate experiencing growth in baptisms this year as well. In addition, missions giving through the Cooperative Program saw the largest increase in our history last year, with NWBC churches giving $185,000 more in 2014 over 2013, for a 7.47 percent increase. Through the first nine months in 2015 we are $44,867 ahead of last year, for a 2.27 percent increase. With a strong fourth quarter we could make budget for the first time in almost 20 years.

It is no empty slogan to say that Northwest Baptists serve Christ from our neighborhoods to the nations. Our pastors and churches are engaged in the joyful task of loving their neighbors, blessing their communities as “salt and light,” and sharing the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ. In addition, we are sending and sustaining missionaries the world over. Many Northwesterners are even joining them on mission in foreign lands.  And increasingly we are serving the nations who have come to us. International students and immigrants from many lands are now our neighbors. For this we are grateful. It truly is a good day to serve the Lord in the Northwest.

As I meditate on Paul’s references to “the day of the Lord,” I am moved to consider that day myself. Will my life and work stand scrutiny on that day? Am I stewarding my witness, gifts and finances in a manner worthy of Christ? As I consider the coming “day,” I am less concerned about the opinions of others and more committed to pleasing Christ, and Him alone if necessary. On “that day” nothing else will matter, which means, in fact, that nothing else really matters today.

Northwest Baptist Convention 2015 Annual Meeting Information

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The 68th Annual Meeting of the Northwest Baptist Convention and Pastor/Layman Conference is only weeks away, November 9-11, 2015.  Our theme is From Your Neighborhood to the Nations and we have wonderful things planned as we celebrate God’s work among us.  Did you know that three of our Northwest pastors lead the national fellowship of their ethnic group?  We plan to hear from these three men.  Others will share testimonies of God’s work where they serve.

Those preaching include Dr. Frank Page, Chief Executive Officer of the SBC; Dr. Jeff Iorg, President of Golden Gate Seminary; Dustin Hall, Kennewick Baptist Church pastor will bring our annual message; and Dale Jenkins, Airway Heights pastor will bring the president’s address.  I am excited about the message God has laid on my heart for the Executive Director’s report (It’s a work in process!).

It is very important that you make certain reservations in advance of the event. The hotel and meeting space are located at 909 N Hayden Island Drive, Portland, Oregon.  Adjacent to the meeting space is the Red Lion Hotel which will be the headquarters hotel.  You may use their toll free number, (800) 733-5466 to make reservations.  Please identify yourself as being a member of our group (NWBC) in order to receive the special negotiated rates.  Reservations must be made by October 29.

Also, on Tuesday evening at 5:00, we will have a special Northwest Missions Banquet in the Red Lion ballroom.  To purchase a ticket please send your non-refundable reservation fee of $25.00 per person to Northwest Baptist Convention, Attn:  Missions Dinner, 3200 NE 109th Ave, Vancouver, WA  98682.  Please make your reservation by October 31.

The Ministry Wives luncheon is at noon on Tuesday.  To purchase a ticket for that please send your non-refundable reservation fee of $25.00 per person to Northwest Baptist Convention, Attn:  Ministry Wives Luncheon, 3200 NE 109th Ave, Vancouver, WA  98682.  Please make your reservation by October 31.

We’re anticipating a tremendous gathering this year, but it won’t be the same without you, so please make plans to attend.  We call it a convention meeting, but really it’s a Northwest Baptist family reunion.   I look forward to seeing the family.

Roseburg Reminds Us to Honor Our Pastors

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Last Thursday, October 1, several pastors in and near Roseburg, OR responded to the horrific murder of eight students at Umpqua Community College. Many others were wounded physically and many more were damaged emotionally, and, perhaps, spiritually. Like the hero first responders who advanced to stop the attacker and bind the wounds of the suffering, these pastors waded into an ocean of grief to pray for and comfort those whose hearts were ripped open by a wicked and violent act. And their work is not yet complete. There will be funerals, many home visits, and continued counseling. And when the community and the world turns its attention elsewhere, grief, anger, and depression will remain for months and years and even a lifetime for many, and pastors will continue to give care and comfort.

Fortunately, events like last Thursday are rare for a community, but ministering the love and presence of Christ to those who suffer is not unusual for pastors. If you are not a pastor, you probably can’t understand that many pastors say that they would rather serve a family suffering from the death of a loved one than perform a wedding. Among the reasons for this are that death provides a unique opportunity to point to the hope of the resurrection and the need to know Jesus Christ. A pastor’s heart is like that of the shepherd who leaves those who are safe and secure to seek for the one who is lost and hurting. The calling and work of the pastor is difficult. A pastor rarely rests his head, confident that he completed all of his work. Sunday is always coming, and there are always others to visit and counsel and with whom to share the gospel.

Each October churches are encouraged to honor their pastors and show them appreciation. Many reasons exist to honor a faithful pastor who labors to bring a fresh message from God’s Word each week, among his many other tasks. In addition to the burden of the church, many pastors are compared to other pastors who are deemed more “talented” and more “successful.” Within the last week someone told me that sometimes they stay home from church so they can watch their favorite preacher, a mega-church pastor, on his live internet feed. We preachers and pastors serve God first, and such things shouldn’t stab us like a knife to the belly. But pastors are human and they too can get hurt. Another person told me last week that a pastor friend of his, whose church had several thousand members, battled depression and felt he didn’t “measure up” because a nearby church had thousands more. His depression became so severe that he took his own life. Obviously he had problems. Faithfulness to his calling, and the joy of knowing God, wasn’t enough for him. But the fact is, many pastors battle discouragement.

Your pastor is God’s gift to your church and your community. He loves God and he loves His people. He was called by God to lead the church in the proclamation of the Word of God and in prayer. He is worthy of respect, love, and, yes, honor. Allow me to suggest a few ways you can show appreciation to your pastor.

Consider providing your pastor an extended retreat for prayer and study each year. Such a retreat should be a week at minimum, but there may be good reason to consider a two-week retreat, during which your pastor will plan sermons and seek God’s presence and direction for himself and the church. When I look back on my 19 years as a pastor, I preached too much and didn’t take enough time to retreat from the daily pressures of ministry. Many of my “breakthroughs” came when I was on vacation or doing a mission trip because the weekly routine was broken. But I should have retreated for extended prayer and study. Help your pastor to do this.

What else can you do to honor and appreciate your pastor? Some “dos” include: pray for him every day, tell him thank you, support him with your participation in ministry, encourage him to seize opportunities to attend pastoral trainings and other “iron-sharpens-iron” opportunities, send him on a mission trip (and don’t count it as his vacation), and forgive him when he makes a mistake (or when you think he makes a mistake). Also, respect his wife and family, understanding that their involvement in ministry will shift and change depending on the ages of children, work schedules, health issues, and other family dynamics.

Some “don’ts” include: don’t compare him to other preachers. Don’t expect him to spend all of his time in the church house, but help him connect with people and needs in the community. Don’t speak badly of him to church members, and certainly not to those who aren’t members of the church. Most who complain about their pastor don’t pray for him. Please don’t do that. Every day he is dealing with matters concerning heaven and hell and life and death.

I used to tell our church that I want to forgive others because I need forgiveness. I want to extend grace to others because I need grace. I want to be generous with others, because I need others to be generous with me. Everything that you need, your pastor needs. He carries a heavy burden. He cares about your children. He serves the young and the old. And he’s trying to lead the church to look to the fields which are ready for a spiritual harvest. You can be his friend. You can walk beside him in ministry. You can encourage him.

And know this, when tragedy hits home, when the need is great, your pastor will be there. He’ll be there whether or not you’re a “good church member.” He’ll minister to your family. He’ll love your kids. Just like those pastors in Roseburg are doing this very day.

God bless our pastors. Encourage them with Your presence and Your strength. Amen.