A More Excellent Way...in the Coming Year
November 25, 2019
In July of 1977 our extended family gathered at the Alacca Bible Camp near Harpster, ID, on the Clearwater River. My great-grandmother, Arvella Adams, was 85 years old, and her nine surviving children (she birthed ten), gathered with their families for the only Adams family reunion of my childhood.
There were 85 of us; cousins and uncles and aunts, grandparents too. Some of us were close and saw each other frequently. Others met at the reunion. But we were all part of Grandma Arvella’s family and that was enough reason to gather. I remember it as a fun weekend, with food, games and stories. The following month some of us gathered again, only this time it was for the funeral of my 14-year-old brother, Mitch. None of us knew in July what August would bring.
In mid-November, several hundred Northwest Baptists gathered at the Great Wolf Lodge in Ground Mound, WA. On Monday we enjoyed a Great Commission Celebration alongside a missions event sponsored by Northwest Women, followed by our Annual Meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday. We conducted important business on Wednesday morning, but much of what we did was worship together, heard some of what God is doing through us, gathered information that will strengthen our ministries, catch up with old friends and make a few new ones.
The churches from which we convened are located in Idaho, Oregon and Washington. We have 508 affiliated churches and church plants, with about 140 of them averaging 30 or fewer in weekly worship, 250 averaging 50 or less, and about 90 churches averaging over 100 in weekly attendance. Remarkably, as we cooperate together, our churches -- large, medium and small -- give about $2.85 million to missions through the Cooperative Program, and another $950,000 through cooperative mission offerings internationally, in North America, and in the Northwest.
Over the past year, our cooperative mission efforts enabled us to plant 20 new churches in four languages.
Additionally, upwards of a thousand from hundreds of churches received training in small group ministry, Bible teaching, Vacation Bible School preaching, pastoring, evangelism, worship, disaster relief, chaplaincy, church planting, and missions. Many of our churches engaged in direct mission efforts in Asia and in other parts of the world. In July, 113 Northwest Baptists, from 23 churches, served as volunteers in an Asian megacity where over 1,100 IMB workers and their children gathered for an extended time of retreat and training.
And here’s something you probably haven’t heard about. Ivan Montenegro, who leads our Spanish language church planting, worked with farmers in Northwest Washington to conduct evangelistic meetings among migrant peoples. The farmers were extremely helpful in getting the migrant farm workers to the meetings. And in one glorious Sunday in September, 25 Spanish-speaking pastors baptized 1,500 people! (See photos on Page 17.) We know of nothing like it ever happening in the Northwest. Many of these migrant workers live in California, Texas and other places, and our Hispanic pastors are working to get them connected to Baptist churches where they live.
In our gathering, we celebrated with full hearts what God has done through us. We spent time reading God’s Word and praying. Children and teenagers led us in our public Bible readings. Moms, dads and pastors led us in prayer. Several gifted Bible teachers and preachers brought inspirational messages all three days that we gathered.
Those who gathered brought expectations, hopes and concerns. Hopefully, each was met with smiles and tears, praises and prayers. One addition to this year’s gathering was the provision of “soul care,” in which pastors, or pastors and wives, could schedule to meet with a fellow pastoral pilgrim whom God has equipped to listen and care for other pastors. This pastoral pilgrim – former Northwest pastor and our friend Joe Chambers -- has traversed some difficult trails and I’m so glad he was with us to offer a witness to the spiritual journeys some are experiencing.
It was a sweet time, Northwest Baptists. We don’t know what the next month or the coming year will bring for any of us. There will be births and deaths, joys and sorrows, victories and setbacks, but I believe this year’s Northwest Baptist Family Reunion helped prepare us for the year to come.