by Keith Bassham
Unusual and different are not words commonly used to describe fellowship meetings among Baptists, but the February meeting in Fort Worth, TX, was that from the beginning.
As an example, this would be the first February meeting in the States in two years. Last year’s winter meeting took place in the Philippines. And then hosts Hallmark Baptist Church and Pastor Mike Haley had little notice for planning the meeting. When it was clear the church originally slated to host the BBFI 2012 winter gathering was unable to keep the date, the executive officers scrambled to find a new venue. Fortunately for us all, Pastor Haley and the Fort Worth church stepped up to offer their beautiful facilities and famous hospitality. Finally, the tenor of the winter meeting has been changing the past few years to emphasize church planting and the BBFI National Church Planting Office, and where you have church planters, you are going to have less gray and more youth hanging out. And with the theme — Refire, Refine, Refocus — almost anything can happen.
Hallmark has a great history with the Baptist Bible Fellowship, and the church did all a church could to welcome and host their extended family — very nice meals, helpful church members manning the doors and information desks, spotless facilities, and a real attitude of servanthood made the meeting one to remember. And knowing this was all planned and accomplished on relatively late notice made it even more a labor of love.
Church planters were everywhere. They held workshops, gave testimonies, and a few preached in the services. In the opening service Monday, the church planters were led to the platform to cheers and applause as heroes, and throughout the week we heard about their new works and their future plans. Featured preachers Steve Stroope, Phil Hopper, Tim chambers, Rob Willis, and Linzy Slayden, having led the smaller churches that called them to become much larger congregations, spoke from experience to encourage the kind of persistence, courage, and faith necessary to build churches today.
The National Church Planting Office is still a newcomer and not very well known as BBFI institutions go. Led by Director Wayne Guinn (above, right front) who is assisted by Jason Todd, NCPO assists start-up churches, holds church planter training schools, consults with established churches about their finance needs, and otherwise provides needed support to connect established churches with church planters. In this meeting, Wayne Guinn unveiled the Gateway Project, a new outreach to help churches reach into ethnic communities. He introduced Steven Johnson and Ira Walton (left) who will be promoting the outreach and providing assistance to those who want to minister to this mission field.
Mornings were given to sets of workshops and a concluding message in Hallmark’s new sanctuary. The workshops, covering topics such as growth strategies, social networking, community connecting, student ministry, and stewardship were led largely by church planters and younger pastors. Two notable exceptions were the preaching workshop taught by Jerry Thorpe and the growth sessions led by Steve Stroope, both veterans with years of successful ministry. Shelly Switzer of Taylorville, IL, spoke during the Ladies Brunch held Tuesday.
There is no general business meeting held in the February meeting, but that does not mean there is no business. National directors, trustees, missionary committees, and other representative BBFI bodies held their own meetings throughout the week in preparation for business to take place in May. Significantly, the Baptist Bible College trustees met to interview prospective candidates for president of the college (a report from the trustees is published in this issue). The directors heard reports from the offices of the colleges, the Mission Office, NCPO, and the Tribune.
BBFI President Linzy Slayden, on behalf of the national officers of the BBFI, recognized Keith Bassham upon his tenth year as Tribune editor. He presented Bassham with a new Ipad, a certificate for a weekend getaway, and a letter of appreciation. The Baptist Bible Tribune raises an annual offering in conjunction with the February meeting. Although several states did not report their commitments at the meeting, and others had only an incomplete report, at the end of the meeting $95,000 had been raised and reported.
The next meeting of the Baptist Bible Fellowship International will take place on the campus of Baptist Bible College in Springfield, MO, May 14-17.