This week I had the tremendous opportunity and great personal blessing of spending a couple of days with pastors and leaders from across the country at the Northeast Alabama Leadership Conference & Retreat. This group of men from Maryland to Texas and from Ohio to South Georgia have become a real encouragement and inspiration to me. I want to thank them for their friendship and fellowship over these many years. It was a great time!
We started by meeting together Tuesday for an afternoon of Quail hunting at the Circle W Hunting Preserve just outside of Anniston, AL. The weather was warm and sunny and so were our spirits as we enjoyed an afternoon afield behind braces of English Pointers and Setters.
After a fantastic country supper (“dinner” for those from up north) provided by the wonderful staff at the Circle W. After supper, Dr. Bob Pearle – Pastor of the Birchman Baptist Church in Fort Worth, TX – shared a very timely and thought provoking message from 2 John entitled, “The Loving Truth.” I was personally challenged and could not help but see the similarities that John addressed in those early days of the church and the issues currently facing our Southern Baptist Convention.
After the message we shared in a powerful time of testimony and prayer for our leaders, nation and convention. I was greatly convicted and humbled as I saw these mighty men of God open up their heart and share about the blessings and burdens of pastoring in today’s world.
Wednesday morning and afternoon we enjoyed more time of fellowship in the field behind the bird dogs. (I wish that more of the pastors worked on their shotgun skills like they do their sermons. Just kidding.) It was a wonderfully relaxing time and gave plenty of opportunity to discuss a wide variety of subjects and issues facing us as pastors today. Thankful for iron that sharpens iron.
Wednesday night saw the pastors preaching in various churches across Northeast Alabama. Steve and I were honored to spend the evening with the pastor and people at First Baptist Church, Heflin. Pastor Philip Morris was so kind and gracious to us. I preached a message from 2 Samuel 23 on how to make the impossible a reality in our lives.
After the services, many gathered back at the lodge to fellowship and discuss some of the very serious issues facing our denomination. As we thought and prayed about how to best help our denomination retain our core convictions and reach the world – Jerusalem to the Uttermost parts – I was encouraged to hear a practical, biblical approach begin to take shape. I know that it will not be easy and there will no doubt be very turbulent and trying times ahead for all, but the One who bought us and called us is well worth it.
This morning was again spent in God’s great outdoors and by noon we were all saying our goodbyes, promising to pray for each other and determined to move forward in making sure our convention’s best years are still ahead of her.
Five or so hours later, I’m home, enjoying a relaxing evening with my wife and children. I’m so very blessed. I have a family and church who loves and supports me, and in today’s volatile ministry world that is a tremendous and not overlooked blessing.
I can’t wait to preach Sunday morning on the story of the Widow’s Mite and share with you about the time “When Jesus Watched The Offering.” It’s going to be a life-changing message for many. Don’t miss it.