Linzy Slayden, his staff, and Friendship Baptist Church of Owasso, OK, did an outstanding job of hosting the BBFI September 18-20. The event marked the Fellowship’s return to Oklahoma for a national meeting for the first time in over 20 years and was blessed with good attendance and a great spirit. I am (almost) always encouraged after attending a national Fellowship meeting. I definitely was after this one. The focus was solely on God and His work in our churches, schools, and the mission field. There is a lot that could be said about the meeting, but here are my six takeaways …
1. A Ministry Done with Excellence
A core value I try to live by is, “Excellence honors God and inspires people.” This was demonstrated throughout the week. A statement similar to, “Hasn’t Friendship Baptist done an excellent job?” was heard multiple times. Excellence doesn’t happen without a lot of work. I know that Linzy Slayden began working on this event months ago. I met with him a few times and spoke with him on the phone multiple times. His staff knew what was happening. The church volunteers were ready to go. From the time you pulled into the parking lot until the time you pulled out, every detail had been thought through. I loved the cultural experiences before the services. I loved the meals. I loved the entertainment. The buildings were in great shape. The sound and lighting worked without a hiccup. The services were well planned. The presentations were honoring. In a culture where it has become common to just get by, or not give your best, it was great to see again what excellence looks like. (Colossians 3:23)
2. Everyone has a Story
Max Harmon shared the story of the early church proclaiming the name above all other names, the name of Jesus Christ. Lonnie Lehrman shared the story of Jonathan and his armor bearer. David Klass shared the story of the Israelites crossing the Jordan River and placing piles of stones as a memorial. Michael Woodworth shared God’s story, starting in Genesis ending with Jesus. Keith Gillming shared the story of the BBFI. Jerry Thorpe shared the story of Jonah and finding your Nineveh. A “creative access” missionary shared the story of refugees around the world today. Lance Gotcher shared the story of the Good Samaritan. And Duke Hergatt shared … well, he shared his story, which is quite interesting. The point of it all … everyone has a story much larger than they might imagine. In a lot of ways, we are all part of the same story. We are all part of God’s story.
3. It Was Good to Laugh
Proverbs 17:22 speaks of a cheerful heart being a good medicine. There was plenty of good medicine provided. To my knowledge, this was the first national meeting to welcome a comedian to entertain during one of the evening services. In this case, it was the nationally known Skit Guys. They had everyone rolling in their seats during their retelling of Adam and Eve. Illusionist Matt Fore also provided entertainment during the after-service event Monday night and the lunch on Wednesday. I did not get to hear Anita Renfroe but multiple ladies shared with me how much they enjoyed her session. I also love to listen to guys like Lonnie Lehrman and Jerry Thorpe preach. They will have you laughing one minute and crying the next and heavily under conviction after that. Outside the events at the church, there are always plenty of laughs during meals together as friends reminisce old times together.
4. It Was Good to Think
With ten options for breakout sessions on Tuesday morning, attendees were challenged in variety of ministry avenues and methods. A vibrant atmosphere in the sessions showed many BBFI ministry leaders are actively thinking about how to grow and improve the ministries they are called to. Over lunch, I was talking to a pastor friend who has started a Monday night service at his church. As he explained the logic behind the decision, I was shocked to hear him say their Monday night service is their fastest-growing service. It is good to think. (Proverbs 27:17)
5. It Was Good to Get Out of Our Comfort Zone
Most of us have challenged our churches to move beyond comfort zones, but it is much easier for us to preach that message than it is to live it out. I was both humbled and encouraged as Lonnie Lehrman opened up by reading an extended passage of Scripture … then sharing about his battle with dyslexia and fear of reading in front of people. A new touch to the national Fellowship meeting was our Facebook Live interviews before and after the services. It has been encouraging to see the thousands of views on the videos, but doing them pushed me well beyond my comfort zone. As the week went on, I sensed people starting to avoid me in the hallways, but I am grateful for those who stepped out of their comfort zone to get in front of the camera with me. Many of the newly approved missionary candidates probably faced some fears during the week, but they boldly gave testimony of God’s call on their lives and their willingness to answer that call. I loved what Michael Woodward said in his message on Tuesday morning, “God is omnipresent, but there is one place He doesn’t live. He doesn’t live in your comfort zone.”
6. A Healthy Ministry is Multi-Generational
The theme of the meeting was “Generations” based on Psalm 145:4. Not only was this represented in the varying ages of the guest speakers, but was also evidenced in the staff and volunteer base of Friendship Baptist. Pastor Linzy has done an excellent job of building a multi-generational church. He surrounds himself with a staff of all ages. He loves on both the old and the young in his church and they all love him. This was also represented in our Fellowship. Yes, there are a lot of grey heads in our Fellowship, but there are also a lot of 20-somethings and 30-somethings who God is using to build amazing churches … and they love the BBFI. It is great to see multiple generations worshipping and growing together.