Posted on : Friday October 12, 2018

By Sharon Mager

COLUMBIA, Md.—The Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCM/D) and LifeWay Christian Resources partnered to host a date night on Sept. 27 for pastors and their wives, followed by a weekend discipleship conference for a targeted group, encouraging pastors and their families in their homes and the pulpit.

Dr. Kevin Smith greets and encourages pastors and their wives.

First Baptist Church, Laurel hosted the date night, transforming their auditorium into a romantic dinner setting with white tablecloths, Italian food, oldies music, and soft lighting.

BCM/D Church Planting Catalyst Dan Hyun and his wife, Judie, along with LifeWay Director of Pastors Mark Dance, and his wife, Janet, served on a panel, answering questions that couples texted to a special number, making all questions anonymous.

Hyun said he and Judie thoroughly enjoyed the evening. “I was grateful for LifeWay and BCM/D for loving our families,” he said. “There was a wide mix of couples and experiences represented,”  Hyun said one couple was married for 49 years, and others were almost newlyweds.

Both Dance and Hyun were pleased with the questions they received. The couples asked about establishing priorities when children’s activities conflict with church events. Wives asked about how to deal with criticism toward their full-time work when it leaves them unable to help out at church, and they wondered how to help minister to their husbands when they’re discouraged. Pastors asked how to make sure their wives know they’re not “second-place” to the church.

Hyun said he and other couples appreciated the “safe space” they had to discuss these issues. “Judie and I were pretty honest with things,” Hyun said. “We didn’t sugar coat anything or give the ‘expected’ answers. We shared our brokenness, and we were honest.”

Each couple left with generous gifts provided by LifeWay.

Pastors ate together, shared testimonies and bonded.

The following evening, LifeWay and BCM/D teamed up to offer a focused two-and-a-half-day “boot camp” program at the Baptist Mission Resource Center, “Pastors Essentials: Leading the Disciple-Making Ministry in Your Church.”

A diverse group of pastors attended, including many who are bi-vocational, representing Western Maryland, the Delmarva, and everywhere in between. BCM/D presenters included Executive Director Kevin Smith, Church Services Consultant Randy Millwood, and Children’s Consultant June Holland. LifeWay presenters were Mark Dance and Mark Croston. Topics included “creating a disciple-making culture,” “groups,” “closing the back door,” and children’s and student strategies.

Pastors gave their testimonies in small groups; they shared ice-breaking questions about whom they’d choose to sit next to on an airplane for a long flight (answers included Oprah, C.S. Lewis, Barry Gordon, Alice Cooper, and “a skinny introvert). They talked about their spiritual journeys, shared food, laughed a lot, and they bonded.

Smith, greeting pastors, said, “I want to celebrate and affirm your decision to get away.” He said that throughout the Bible, leaders took the time to be refreshed, including Moses and Jesus.

Reading from 2 Timothy 1, Smith encouraged pastors to remember their calling. The “glue” that holds a man to pastoral ministry must be the “will and the call of God,” he said.

Robert Kendall, pastor of Friendship Community Baptist Church, Dunkirk, enjoys getting to know pastors at his table.

“You have to remind yourself of why we do what we do,” he said. “We don’t do what we do to develop a platform; we don’t do what we do to get followers on Facebook or Twitter; We don’t do what we do so people can walk around and say, ‘that’s pastor so and so.’ We have to keep our purpose statement in our minds,” he said. Referring to the Scripture, Smith continued, “Paul says, I’m doing this for the sake of the promise of the life in Christ.”

Dance shared a quote from retired NBA star Ray Allen. In writing a letter to his younger self, Allen said his advice about the secret to success is, “There is no secret. It’s just boring old habits.”

“I flew all the way from Nashville to tell you to have your quiet time. To remind you to pray and read your Bible. It might seem selfish when you don’t text back immediately or when you don’t email back immediately, but when you’re in the Word, and you’re in prayer and put Jesus first…you’ve just fulfilled your highest calling.”

Croston, National Director of Black Church Partnerships at LifeWay Christian Resources, asked pastors, “Who discipled you?” Going around the room, pastors shared names of friends, church members, and parents.

Randy Millwood and Phil Graves, pastor of First Baptist Church of Brunswick, do some rhythm clapping to get folks attention.

Only one participant said a pastor had discipled him.

Croston said pastors can’t disciple all the people in the church. “Discipleship happens with one-on-one encounters.” He emphasized that all groups in the church can be organized to reach out and connect, to disciple, and to do missions.

“You can know all the Bible and not be a disciple. It’s not just behavior modification. It’s not about smart people. It’s not about good people. It’s about being transformed into servants.

“Discipleship is not an option.”