by Dr. Tony L. Lynn
PLYMOUTH, MI – Churches, would you please make it a priority to send your pastor and his family away to the annual, national Southern Baptist convention every June? I urge you to set aside some specific designated funds in the annual budget that do not take away from the pastor family’s income or benefits. Would you think about starting with $1,000-$2,000? Conventions and gatherings for pastors encourage and refresh in ways that cannot be explained.
Let the pastor and his family represent the church then return home and give a first-hand report to the church during the summer about their experience. There is so much that takes place during the two-days of convention and the previous two-days of secondary meetings. This annual event is the only time Southern Baptists/Great Commission Baptists gather, as one voting body, to conduct business and address contemporary challenges.
Who else meets? The Woman’s Missionary Union, associational mission strategists, evangelists, pastors, and ethnic fellowships discuss important matters and spend time in fellowship. The six seminaries host meals and share visions about their futures. Agencies and entities of the convention host meals and give away bags of gifts. New friendships develop among messengers and relationships from the past are refreshed during free times like Tuesday evening.
Let the pastor’s family be your first messengers to the convention. Did you know that, based on the churches contributions to the Cooperative Program, that each participating Southern Baptist church may be allowed from 2 to 12 voting messengers. Other members from the church could travel with the pastor’s family for the convention then allow the pastor’s family to arrange a much needed family vacation on either side of the annual convention near the site of the convention.
Here is where the upcoming conventions are taking place.
Why would I make such a bold recommendation to your church? It’s because I believe that the members of our churches, in Michigan, will be emboldened when they see and hear from the pastor’s report what we attempt to do as we follow the Lord as a national convention each June and as a state convention each November.
It was 1984 when I attended my first annual convention in Kansas City, MO with a group of students from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The ludicrous Ghostbusters film came out that same month while what is known as the Conservative Resurgence was taking place within the national convention. I was sitting front and center having face-to-face meetings with key players at the actual convention, asking questions, and learning all I could take-in about how we functioned. It was exhilarating! Our host professor had arranged meetings with influential leaders from both extremes of the convention. I saw Christian statesmen who disagreed with one another exhibit respect and kindness despite their differences of opinion.
Here are some closing, personal thoughts. In recent years while at conventions, I have been impressed with the brotherhood I see during casual moments expressed in hallways, in restaurants, and on city sidewalks. On one occasion I watched as a pastor from a humble church in Missouri realized he was standing next to a well-known seminary president in the messenger registration line. The pastor fidgeted motioning silently to his wife trying to draw attention to the seminary president and his wife. I believe the president could tell the pastor was afraid to strike-up a conversation so the president squared-up and faced the pastor and his wife then warmly said, “Brother and sister, where are you from?” and after 4-5 minutes of conversation ended with a “Thank you pastor for all that you do. There is no greater calling than to be a pastor of a local church.”
I wish you could have seen the change in that pastor and his wife. The Missouri couple walked away from the registration table walking lighter and beaming with joy. It was not about who they met; it was about how they were valued by someone else for being recognized as a pastor and wife.
Churches, I hope you will find the resources to make it possible for your pastor and his family to attend the upcoming annual meetings for the national and state conventions.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Tony L. 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.