It’s hard to believe that summer is nearly over. Denise and I have now marked three of Montana’s four seasons. They’ve been interesting seasons. We’re told, though I have to admit we’re withholding judgment, that this past winter and summer have been two of the most extreme on record. Maybe so. We’ll wait till next year to see if that’s so. And what’s with that Spring? I think we saw Spring. It was that day between 20 degrees and 100 degrees. It didn’t want to stick around for the summer heat, either, I suppose! But, now Fall is coming. The favorite time of year for both Denise and me. Soon, the trees will be changing color and the air will be crisp. And those will be signs that colder days are coming and the convection oven heat is nearly over. But, hey, we didn’t come here for the weather.
Denise and I came here for the church and its calling to make disciples of all the nations. And, when you look at the past year in that light, it’s been a remarkable eight months. We’ve been able to travel over most of the state and we’ve been in many of our MTSBC churches. It’s been an incredible blessing to be a part of what God is doing in our churches all over the state. Some of our churches are experiencing record years in professions of faith and baptisms. Pastors are coming alongside each other, and despite the loss of much of our associational structure, are bearing the burden of ministry together. Some of our churches finally have pastors and they are looking to the Fall with new enthusiasm. God is stirring in many of our churches, and it’s a privilege to witness that.
So, now we’re coming into the Fall, and we have one more chance to get together as a statewide convention of churches to be encouraged and challenged—to be refreshed. I hope you’re making plans to join us in Billings for our annual meeting on October 5-6. We have one of the finest preachers in Southern Baptist life coming to share with us. Dr. Stephen Rummage is the pastor at Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Florida. Not only will he be sharing the Lord’s word with us on Thursday night, he’s also going to be leading a workshop on preaching that afternoon. As a former professor of preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Rummage gives us the perfect chance to hone our preaching skills. I know once you’ve heard him talk about how he approaches sermon-preparation and delivery and then you’ve heard him preach, you’ll leave challenged by God’s word and equipped to be more effective in the pulpit, as well.
We’re also going to have a breakout session on evangelism. Too many of our folks are still not sharing the gospel with their families, friends, and neighbors. I know a major reason for that is that they are nervous about how to start a gospel conversation and how to lead a person to the Lord. We need to end that fear and replace it with confidence and boldness. If you have members in your church who have never been through a witness training opportunity or who need a refresher, this is the perfect chance to get them some of the training they need. I’m confident that as we train more people to share their faith, we’ll see even more of our churches have some of their best years.
In addition, Denise is working with some of our ladies to hold a tea for our pastors’ wives. When I was interviewing for the Executive Director position, one of the things Denise and I heard often from the search committee members is that our pastors’ wives battle with many challenges in the state. The combination of ministry pressures on their husbands, multiple demands on their own time and energy, and the sheer isolation of these long distances between each other adds unique challenges to our pastors’ wives. So, we have something special planned to celebrate them. We hope every pastor’s wife will join together for this unique time of encouragement and refreshing. We’re sure it will be a wonderful, memorable time in the Lord and fellowship with one another.
On top of all these, activities, we’ll have a special IMB report and reports from all our state staff about the great work God is doing here and around the world. And, during all of our time together we will be blessed to be led in worship by the fantastic worship team at Emmanuel Baptist Church. We’re grateful that Emmanuel will host our meeting this year. They are equipped to provide all the facilities our growing convention needs and to minister to us in the things of the Lord that will send us all home ready to tackle the next set of spiritual challenges. And to make sure we’re ready, we also have a dedicated time of prayer set aside on Friday morning. I didn’t attend all the meeting last year, but I was here for the prayer time. It was powerful. We’re going to ask God to meet with us again this year. I hope you’ll be joining us for that. I really don’t want any of you to miss that.
We’re going to pack a lot into those two days. We’ll be challenged, encouraged, equipped, and refreshed in the Lord as we come together in fellowship and the Spirit of the Lord. I look forward to seeing you there and to visiting with you this Fall as Denise and I continue to visit with pastors and their churches in the great state of Montana. Thanks for all you are doing to advance the Lord’s Kingdom. I and all your state staff are ready to serve you in whatever way you need. We look forward to this next season with you.