Church leaders from 13 Midwestern states gathered in Springfield, Ill., this week to share success stories and struggles—and to encourage each other through both—at the Midwest Leadership Summit, a meeting organized every three years by Southern Baptist state conventions in the region.
“We share the same love for our communities and vision to see people come to Christ,” said Missouri pastor Tim Burgess, “and getting together is a great reminder that we are not working at this alone.”
Over three days at Springfield’s Crowne Plaza Hotel, around 1,000 people heard from their Midwestern neighbors on a wide range of topics: collegiate church planting, urban ministry, church revitalization, women’s ministry, and a host of others presented in more than 90 breakouts.
In large-group sessions, North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell interviewed four Midwestern church planters who have seen God grow their congregations from as few as one, into churches that welcome hundreds of worshipers each week. Jeff Iorg, president of Gateway Seminary, spoke on advancing the gospel in the current culture. And church planting specialist Darryl Gaddy shared from his experience in Detroit, calling leaders to be agents of change.
“Being a change agent means you have to give up your rights to someone else,” said Gaddy (right). “That someone else is Jesus Christ.”
At a luncheon for Illinois leaders following the summit, participants reflected on the most helpful, encouraging, and challenging things they heard.
Gary West, pastor of North Benton Baptist Church and director of missions for Franklin Baptist Association, said he gained new insight into how to extend the gospel to Millennials, the generation generally categorized as people born between 1981 and 2000.
“I’m re-looking at the dynamics of church and the things you used to do that don’t work anymore,” West said. “It’s not about religion, it’s about relationships.”
Look for more from the Midwest Leadership Summit in the Feb. 5 issue of the Illinois Baptist, online at ibonline.IBSA.org.