Exceeded My Expectations
PLYMOUTH, MI – Save January 18-20, 2022! You will thank me twenty-four months from now. More specifically, make plans to attend the “Advance Midwest Leadership Summit” on that month in 2022. At the time of this writing, I just returned from this year’s event and I have to say it went far beyond my expectation! I am glad I made the climb in Springfield, Illinois. Why?
Two-year Rewarding Collaboration
Can I reveal a secret to you? From my observations, the state executives are still pastors-at-heart meaning they want to empower people to become all that they can in Christ. The state executives and the staff, from twelve states, worked hard during the past two years on this project. Twelve-hundred people registered. Over one-thousand attended setting a new record for the highest attendance despite cancellations and weather hindrances. More than one-hundred break-out sessions filled a forty-hour time period. Practitioners in every area of ministry offered proven solutions relevant to the Midwest. The hallways were noisy with spontaneous, meaningful conversations. New friendships and partnerships were created. There was a sense of family that surpassed the national gatherings.
J.D. Greear and Todd Unzicker
The president of the Southern Baptist Convention along with his personal assistant took time away from their ministry and family to share an evening with us. One day of travel to join us and another day of travel to return home or to another destination is what it cost them. Can you imagine how many tens-of-thousands of hours J.D. and Todd have spent away from wives, children, friends and ministry to meet all of us throughout the entire convention these almost two years? I am overwhelmed by the generosity of these two men.
I had the privilege of praying with J.D. before he entered the hall to speak to more than one-thousand people. His own humility and interest for ministry leaders is apparent all of the time. I watched and listened as people greeted J.D. and Todd with excitement in their eyes and voices, then watched as I saw J.D. make the conversation about the other person. He would ask, “Where are you serving?” Or he would wait patiently for the answer to “How is the ministry going?” I saw the esteem of weary leaders grow as J.D. and Todd listened to people’s stories.
Until the evening when Sandy spoke at the event, I was not aware that the executive director-treasurer of the Woman’s Missionary Union was a fellow-Midwesterner. When she talked about influence and looked out at the audience calling out the names of people from Illinois and other states I felt a lump in my throat. She said, “Sue, you’re a person of influence.” Little did those faithful servants who taught and guided Sandy as a young girl, or those who currently guide women and girls know the power of their lives; but, after Sandy spoke they clearly understood their mission, their calling, and their influence.
Lewis, Tovey, Vance and Shaw
Three men talked about new initiatives. Dhati Lewis, Vice President of the Send Network, wove a tapestry of his personal experiences with exhortations to demonstrate the good news of Christ. He offered examples to follow. His heart was open and his voice was strong. Josh Tovey, a church planter in Grand Rapids, Michigan talked about keeping Jesus in the center of all that we do. His laser focus destroys every excuse not to do better.
Mark Vance, lead pastor of Cornerstone Church in Ames, Iowa, stole our imaginations as he described the inspirational movement of new adults dedicating their lives to ministry and church planting in North America and throughout the world.
Hadyn Shaw, author and speaker, shed light on how generations can work together better so that the ministry of Christ can flourish. The benefits of understanding one another and overcoming our differences as we strive for harmony and unity in Christ and His ministry is well within our reach.
David Higgs and five others from Illinois and Missouri caused the hall of Midwesterners to raise their voices in song and praise to the God of the Midwest and the Universe. If there was one thing that I wanted more from the three days, it was worship. Wow! The NFL playoffs and the recent collegiate championships paled in comparison to the celebration I heard each time we met. The robust harmony from people in love with the Savior, and confident in His power to save is explosive and contagious.
The best Southern Baptists have open hands and generous hearts. Guidestone, the North American Mission Board, the Woman’s Missionary Union and LifeWay gave generously to the Midwest so that we could have this gathering more frequently, moving it’s frequency from every-three-years to every-two-years. Mere words are too weak to express my heartfelt gratitude as I watch volunteers, ministers, lead pastors and church planters dream of greater days in the Midwest. We love and appreciate our partners more than they know.
Two-years from Now
As all the participants departed this year’s event, we understood that the real measure of this event is answering this question, “How big of an impact can each one of us have in our respective communities during these next two years?” All I can say, is that I cannot wait until January 18-20, 2022 to hear what God has accomplished in the Midwest. Will you be there, with me, to hear what God has done?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tony Lynn is the State Director of Missions for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before coming on staff at the BSCM, Tony served as lead pastor for more than six years at Crosspoint Church in Monroe, Michigan. He and his wife, Jamie, also served with the International Mission Board in Africa and in Europe.