This weekend, the network of churches I serve will hold their annual meeting in Westminster Maryland. In recent years, we've heard a lot about the decline of denominations in America. I understand the sentiment of that conversation, and sympathize with much of the criticisms that have been leveled against denominational entities, including my own. At the same time, if a denomination can be a vehicle in which churches find strategic opportunities to work together, they can continue to be a force for good in our culture.
At the Mid-Maryland Association, this is precisely what we aspire to be, and this Sunday night, we look forward to celebrating what our churches are doing together. Yes, there will be "business" discussed. Our 1.5 hour plenary session will include about 20 minutes in which we will appoint leaders for the next year, admit new member churches, report on significant actions of our Executive Board, and consider our 2014 operating budget. Those things are necessary in order to keep the ship moving. The rest of our time, however, will be spent in celebration, learning, networking and equipping. So, if you live in our area, and would like to join us, I hope to see you there! You do not need to be a member of a Mid-Maryland Church to join us for this meeting! Messenger cards have been securely mailed to our churches to separate those who are authorized to vote on business items and those who aren't. But we don't check those cards at the door. Mid-Maryland Church or not, Baptist or not, you are welcome! And if you come, here is what you will experience:
Informative and Useful Breakout Sessions: Starting at 5 PM, Pastoral staff are invited to a breakout session in which I will lead a panel discussion on "The Future of Pastoral Ministry." Four months ago, we put together a number of issues, and asked our pastors via social media and surveys to tell us what they would like us to discuss. As a result, we will talk about 1. The aging of the country, and the impact retiring baby boomers will have on church structure, staffing, budgeting, and mission. 2. LGBT issues and the church. The far right have treated these people as the enemy, and the far left has used them as a "cause." How can followers of Jesus treat them as human, and in the process, walk with them in life through the myriad of legal, ethical, and philosophical issues they face each day? 3. Technology and the church. What is the relationship between effective use of technology and the maintaining of sound ecclesiology?
Additionally, church leaders can attend a breakout called "Preserving a Sacred Trust," led by Tom Rodgerson and Kim Cook. Kim is the Executive Director of Centerpoint Counseling Services, one of our partner organizations, and Tom leads Pastoral Counseling for this ministry. The western church has seen more than its share of scandal over the last three decades, from sexual misconduct to financial impropriety to the abuse of children. Together, Kim and Tom will speak to church leaders about boundaries for the protection of pastors and leaders, as well as those they lead. They will also speak about why the church should respond firmly to pastors who "cross the line," and how to do this, as well as how to separate discipline over actions from condemnation of the whole person..
Food from All Over the World! Our churches worship in 9 different languages every single Sunday, and this Sunday night, you can sample food from nearly every one of those cultures represented in our network. Come and enjoy food from places like Costa Rica, India, China, Russia, and other places. Or if you are feeling particularly "American" we will also have sub sandwiches. Starting at 6:15 PM and running up until the start of our plenary session at 7, you can walk in, grab a bite, have a seat, and get to know others with whom you are in cooperation over some great food! Its like a buffet prepared by the United Nations!
Missions Displays and Opportunities to Join or Build Partnerships with Other Churches: Our display area will not only showcase everywhere we are at work here in our region and around the world. It will also give you opportunity to meet those who lead those efforts, and sign up for more information on how you and your church can join the effort. Additionally, if God is breaking your heart over a place or people group that we are yet to touch with Jesus' message, this is the place to make those feelings known. So come and be exposed to the work of our churches in human dignity (anti-human trafficking, prison ministries, et al), disaster relief (our work this year on the Gulf Coast, as well as Long Island, New York and Moore Oklahoma), and other mission work in Africa, the Caribbean, Asia, India, and here in our own region. Hear also about emerging work in China and Vietnam! Yes, these countries know we are coming, they know who we are, and its all "above the radar! Want to explore how you can contribute to this work? Tour this area and find out!
"Your Kingdom Come" Summit on the Missional Church: At 7 PM, we gather for an hour and a half of worship, celebration of what God has done and will do through our collective work, and a few items of business. During this time, you will see a couple of films that contain the stories of five people in our churches, and how God has used them and their skills to advance His Kingdom on earth. You will also hear from one of our local church planters, who will thank our churches for their support as he works in north Baltimore. And when this time is over, we think the challenges you will hear will drive you back to our display area to answer the call God has placed on your life to serve Him within your own sphere of expertise and influence.
This is going to be a great night, and its only about 55 hours away! So if you live in this area, I hope to see you there!
Westminster Baptist Church
354 Crest Lane