by Randy Harp
There is something special about a national meeting of the BBFI returning to Texas. For the third time in five years the mid-winter meeting was hosted in the Lone Star State. Central Baptist Church and Pastor Kim Beckham did an outstanding job of organizing and hosting a great meeting. The theme of the week was “Move” and most of those who attended would testify they experienced God move.
There were several things I was reminded of during the week.
We have great preachers in the BBFI. In the 1960s, Elmer Towns started writing about the largest Sunday schools in the country. He was amazed by the amount of BBFI churches on his list. After some personal visits to these churches, he concluded their growth was because of the great preaching in these churches. This is still true today. We were able to hear from both missionaries (Bruce O’Neal, Greg Lyons, and Max Kennedy) and pastors (Phil Hopper, Dan Sala, Jerry Thorpe, and Barry White). One thing they have in common — they can preach! If you were not able to attend the meeting, these messages are available via the BBFI mobile app and www.bbfi.org.
We have great unity in the BBFI. You read that correctly. The Fellowship comes together when it needs to. Yes, we are a group of independent Baptist pastors. And yes, every independent Baptist pastor has a different opinion on various topics with other pastors. This was seen during the Tuesday business meeting. But this Fellowship also works together. This meeting provided at least two examples of this. One came during the business meeting on Tuesday after I made an appeal for financial support for the Communication Office of the BBFI. The second example involved BBFI missionaries Ben and Raelene Walker. They recently found out they are unable to have children and have started an adoption fund. On Tuesday night, every pastor present was given an opportunity to invest in this family and “Baby Walker.” By the end of the night over $7,000 was given to this family.
We have great churches in the BBFI. I am amazed at the work that goes into hosting one of these national meetings. Central Baptist Church went above and beyond. The church was organized and communicated well in advance. The worship team did a great job. There were volunteers everywhere helping in any way possible. The facilities were always spotless. On Tuesday afternoon, every guest was given an envelope containing $15 for lunch along with a personal note from a church member.
We have great ministries in the BBFI. During each evening session the first speaker represented a different ministry found within the BBFI. Monday night Bruce O’Neal, founder of MANNA Worldwide, shared what God is doing through this ministry that currently feeds 20,000 children every day. Tuesday night, Greg Lyons, founder of Global Surge based in the Philippines, reported 480,000 of one million campers coming to Christ over the past 15 years. On Wednesday night, I was privileged to speak on the ministry of the BBFI Communication Office, which is reaching over 10,000 people per week via social media along with podcasts, blogs, and a mobile app to complement the approximately 22,000 Tribunes shipped monthly.
We have great fellowship in the BBFI. The BBFI is truly a place where no one stands alone. One highlight of each meeting is catching up and being encouraged by peers, colleagues, and friends. Statistics tell us vocational ministry is one of the loneliest professions. We need meetings like this. Whether it was chatting in the lobbies before a service, spending time in the student building, worshipping side by side, or enjoying some good Tex-Mex or barbeque, there were plenty of opportunities for fellowship.
Typically, there is no official business during the February meeting, but a specially called meeting was approved during the September meeting in Cape Cod. During the business meeting, pastors received reports from the Mission Office, colleges, and the Tribune. Mission Director Jon Konnerup discussed a few policy changes as well as promoted a new kidz4mkz VBS resource. It was also reported the Mission Office, Baptist Bible College, and Boston Baptist College were working together on new curriculum to help better prepare future missionary candidates.
Communication Director Randy Harp informed of the dire financial status of the Baptist Bible Tribune and gave an update on the Annual Tribune Offering. He reminded pastors that with the current financial commitments the Tribune would only be able serve the Fellowship a few more months. Texas State Chairman Mike Marcellus asked for the floor and challenged those present to make commitments right then. Within a few minutes, over $80,000 was committed. Decisions must still be made for the future of the Communication Office, but these commitments, when fulfilled, allow time for strategic planning.
The primary reason for the business meeting was to vote on the approved proposed Constitution and By-Laws presented in September. Two things happened in a single vote. First, changes were made to the education section of the existing By-Laws. These changes were made at the request of both presidents Milioni and Melton and researched by BBFI Second Vice President Doug Cox. Second, because changes were made to a few areas of the proposed Constitution and By-Laws, it was approved to postpone the vote to May 9, 2017, during the Fellowship Meeting in Springfield, MO. The new education section can be read in its entirety on page 24 and the updates to the proposed Constitution and By-Laws can be seen on page 26. A complete copy of the current and proposed By-Laws can be seen at www.bbfi.org/legal.
BBC President Mark Milioni informed the Fellowship that the entire HVAC system in the W. E. Dowell Fieldhouse needs to be replaced at a cost of $500,000. Since the repair work will not be completed prior to graduation, the May Fellowship Meeting will take place at Seminole Baptist in Springfield, MO. Those planning to attend should consider reserving a hotel room on the south side of town closer to the church.
UPCOMING BBFI MEETINGS
May 8-11 (Springfield, MO) – Seminole Baptist / Baptist Bible College
September 18-20 (Owasso, OK) – Friendship Baptist Church
February 19-21 (Fort Worth, TX) – Hallmark Baptist Church
Well, the planning is done. All the work is finished. The meeting is over and we’re all just a little bit sad here at Central. But, what an incredible experience! We hosted the Tribune meeting in Tyler, TX. I am glad so many were blessed and so many left refreshed and spiritually renewed. I hope everything our church put into it (in the way of time, energy, and love) was reflected in an improved love for God and a deeper walk of faith for all who attended. Our church had a blast putting it on and we cannot wait to do it again.
It’s only after a meeting like this you can take a moment to reflect. There’s always gratitude needing to be expressed to a hard-working team, dedicated church family, and the support of all the pastors who made it happen. Meetings like we just enjoyed remind us why we love the Baptist Bible Fellowship — the network of friends, family, and fellow servants fills us with joy each time we get together. And moments like the special gift given to the missionary couple on Tuesday night to help with their adoption remind us what we can do together that we could never accomplish on our own. I look forward to attending many national meetings in the future, and, when I do, I will be more aware of how much work goes into preparing for all of us to come. God bless you, Randy Harp, for your passion and leadership in keeping our communication and connections strong through the Tribune. Let me also personally thank you for allowing Central Tyler the privilege of hosting the meeting and for coming to visit us in the rose capital of the world here in East Texas. To God be the glory!
Kim Beckham, host pastor
The national meeting in Tyler was a great time. This was my first time attending as a state representative of Michigan and the first time my wife was able to attend with me. Central Baptist was a gracious and generous host. The speakers were encouraging and enlightening. The music was passionate. The breakout sessions I attended helped with practical ideas I immediately implemented. The meetings brought out honest dialogue but ended with a desire to see our movement strengthen and unify.
I love hearing preachers. We heard many good messages. I was once again reminded of why Jerry Thorpe is one of my favorite preachers. At 80 years of age he can still preach circles around most of us. Steve Stroope challenged our use of time. I have made decisive efforts to rest more and stop doing some good things so I can focus on unique things I should do. And Barry White (not the singer) challenged us to love our neighbors — so simple, yet so easy to overlook. You can read my blogs (gregburdine.com) or listen to podcasts of the sermons. It was great.
Another moment gave me great hope in our pastors and leadership. Randy Harp presented an honest evaluation of the future of the Tribune — it was not good. But as pastors and leaders processed the possibility of our movement without our greatest communication tool, they realized this problem needed to be solved. Thanks to Mike Marcellus for challenging us all. Within a few minutes, dozens rose to help with the financial challenge.
The meeting’s theme was “Move.” I was encouraged that our “movement” is moving in a good direction. But I was reminded what makes our movement unique — our pastors and missionaries. Our pastors can really preach and our missionaries get the job done! May God continue to bless our efforts as we reach our world with the Gospel.
Raelene and I have traveled the journey of infertility for five years now. We’ve gone through a lot of loss on this journey and had pretty much given up on starting a family. But, when we attended a mission conference at High Street Baptist in Springfield, MO, they asked if we would be willing to adopt. We said yes, but saw no way it could happen. During that conference, they inspired us with spiritual and financial encouragement to start the adoption process.
When we announced our intent to adopt on Facebook, we were blown away by the response. Within 74 hours, we raised over $30,000. It didn’t stop there. BBF pastors called us and sent checks for the adoption. While this was going on, my BBFI missionary friends encouraged me to attend the national Tribune meeting. We were exhausted and didn’t feel like going. But, you know what? Those missionaries can be pretty persuasive! So we decided to go.
On the second day of the meeting, Raelene and I went to separate buildings. I attended what turned out to be a very exciting business meeting while she attended a ladies’ event. At the end of the ladies’ meeting, they raffled off a $500 gift card. Guess whose name they picked? Raelene’s. As she went forward to collect the gift card, tears rolling down her cheeks, she told our story.
That night, at the end of the service, Pastor Kim Beckham called us on stage. He said he heard our story and felt moved to take part in our adoption, so the church gave us $1,000. He then asked the members of his church and the BBF pastors attending if they wanted to join in on the fun. They raised $7,130 that night for our adoption.
As we drove away from the Fellowship Meeting, two things impressed me. First, every individual or church who has joined our journey of adoption has been touched by the BBF. Whether a church, a college student, or a missionary, they are all linked together. That speaks to the far reach God has given this Fellowship. Second, unity is not what I thought it to be. It’s no secret many churches in the BBF have different values and convictions that can feel very opposite at times. And yet, on this night, pastors, missionaries, and church members from all across the spectrum achieved something amazing together. I left that night impacted by the beauty of our diversity and how God uses it to accomplish His work. A sincere, heartfelt thank you from the Walkers, missionaries to New Zealand.
Ben & Raelene Walker
Is it worth the sacrifice? I heard a couple of guys say they made great sacrifices to attend the Tyler meeting. Me too. My church isn’t large enough to take care of my expenses, so for years I’ve set aside part of my paycheck to pay for monthly South Texas BBF fellowships, Texas state BBF meetings, and the BBFI national meetings.
Was Tyler worth the sacrifice? Some go for the speakers, and Phil Hopper, Steve Stroope, and Krish Dhanam were certainly worth the trip, not to mention O’Neal, Thorpe, Lyons, and others who did an amazing job. However, I don’t go for the speakers. Some go for the breakouts and Pastor Kim gets a gold star for the great lineup he put together. Others go for the business, which goes without saying, is important, while others go for the cutting-edge worship. Again, music and worship isn’t what draws me to the meetings.
Why do I personally make the sacrifice? Fellowship! I love our Fellowship. I love spending time with some of the greatest men and women in the world and many with whom I was privileged to attend BBC. This is a great Fellowship filled with quality people, and there were young and old at the Tyler meeting. Thank God for the Baptist Bible Fellowship and men like Kim Beckham who sacrifice to lead their churches to provide a place to fellowship. The Tyler meeting was a great time of fellowship.
My wife, Cheryl, and I attended the meeting in Tyler. Pastor Kim, his staff, and members did a fantastic job of hosting the meeting. I particularly enjoyed the music. Peyton, their worship pastor, did a fantastic job of selecting the music. I enjoyed the songs they wrote, recorded, and shared with us.
Phil Hopper spoke on the “movement of the church” as if he and I were the only two in the room — just great encouragement and truth. The Lord used his message to encourage me and I’m sure many others also. It was a great reminder that “desperation and consecration” are needed to see God’s moving. The challenge was “keep the focus on the mission.” The church is a movement, a moving of God for those who are desperate for Him. He said, “Have a dream worth dying for.” He reminded us, “When we move for God, God moves for us.”
My favorite thing about the meeting was when Jodie Rohrbach, their children’s and ladies director, presented a need for one of our missionary couples who are trying to adopt a baby. Ben and Raelene Walker, missionaries to New Zealand, are adopting a baby and Pastor Kim asked the audience if they wanted to join in contributing to the adoption fund. It appeared almost everyone gave something and the Walkers were so grateful. It was a great God moment reflecting what our Fellowship is really about — people helping people.
Thank you Pastor Kim for your hospitality. Thank you Eddie Lyons for your leadership of our Fellowship. We are better together.