I was just thinking about the upcoming national meeting of the Baptist Missionary Association of America which will convene in Springfield, Mo. April 18-20. That caused me to also think about the task of the messengers from the churches. What exactly do they do? Many church members have little or no idea, so I want to share some of those things your messengers will do in Springfield:
• They convene. For several sessions, the messengers will convene in various aspects of the national meeting, but for the most part, they will be in a general meeting with messengers who represent churches from across our country.
• They listen. I have been attending the national meeting since April of 1965. I have always been amazed that people will willingly sit for hours listening to reports from the various departments that exist to serve the churches. The sessions are rather long, but the importance of knowing what is being done overrides the length. After all, that is why the messengers travel to these meetings.
• They vote. Messengers are representatives of their churches, and their responsibilities are to consider the information shared and the recommendations made and then to vote on how their churches think about such. In the BMAA, no matter the size of the church, every church can have up to three messengers as well as three alternates. Each of these must register in order to properly cast their ballots. Messengers not only vote for departmental or institutional recommendations, they also vote for the departmental leaders and presidents. As messengers of the churches, they must also consider the scriptural stances we Baptists take on certain issues and vote for or against pertinent recommendations.
• They serve. All BMAA departments or institutions have either boards of trustees or committees that represent the churches to those entities. These are elected by other messengers on rotating tenures of either three years or five years. No committee or board may have more than one representative from a church. This approach enables the churches to always be involved in the various ministries which serve the association annually.
• They worship. While business is certainly a strong focus of the meeting, worship is as well. Messengers and visitors are led in worship by wonderful singers and musicians in various settings during the meeting. Preaching is still a main aspect of the worship services. The President’s Message is presented on Monday evening. On Tuesday evening, the Annual Message is preached by one who was elected in the previous year’s meeting. That service is always a highlight of the meeting.
• They fellowship. In my 57 years of attending the national meetings, I have been blessed to become friends with people from all over the continental United States as well as other nations where missionaries have won people to Christ. It is a joy to see these friends from year to year. One of the places where much fellowship is enjoyed is the display area. That is where our departments, educational institutions and auxiliary ministries set up displays for messengers and visitors to learn more about the ministries and to interact with those who serve with the various ministries.
• They commission. Each Wednesday evening of the national meeting is dedicated to the ministry of World Missions. Not only do the messengers hear from the executive director of BMAA Missions, but they also see and hear missionaries from around the world. The evening is capped off with a commissioning service in which new missionaries are officially endorsed and sent out, as well as a renewal of commitment to the missionaries who may be home on furlough. It is a highlight of our associated work, and the messengers of the churches are integral to its effectiveness.
Would you take a moment after reading this to pray for our BMA of America meeting? Would you ask God to protect our department and institution leaders and their staffs as they prepare and travel? And would you pray for each messenger and visitor who will be traveling to and from the meeting in Springfield? Above all, would you pray that all the business, fellowship and worship that takes place during the meeting will be in accordance with God’s will and that Christ will be exalted through it all?