NORTHWEST BAPTIST CONVENTION: THE PDX EDITION

Please forgive that I have not posted all week, but I just returned from the three day extravaganza known as the Annual Meeting of Northwest Baptists.  This year our meeting was in Portland at the Embassy Suites near the Airport.  More on that later.

For those who might not know,  the word “convention” is not really what we are doing.  It is more like a conference.  I’ve always thought we needed a name change given the times we live in.  Convention is ComicCon or Air Compressor salespeople learning about sales strategies or new product.  What we do is more like a conference or an expo–there is a lot of preaching, music, and reports.  I usually skip the reports.  You can read about previous years reviews (Eugene, Eugene, and Tri-Cities)

So here are my thoughts/comments/perspectives on this years gala.

1.  I usually blog at the convention itself, but the stupid Embassy Suites where we were charged $10 a day for wifi so, being a a Baptist I decided to skip that.  I hope you understand.  No wifi really cut into my aimless Facebooking and Words with Friends addiciton.  The bed was comfy, but did I mention the airport was nearby.  How close was the airport?  I’m pretty sure I heard the landing gear scrape the roof, that is how close.  I did not sleep well at all because of the incredible amount of air traffic noise.  Ohhh, and I almost forgot, the loudest indoor waterfall in the world is in their lobby.   I could hear the faux waterfall from my room.  With the door closed.  And my Skullcandy earphones on.  Listening to Led Zeppelin.

2.  One of the things I appreciate about my convention, my tribe, is our radical commitment to facial hair.  Most of the men (and some of the women?) had completely spectacular beards.  Case in point–here is a snapshot of the praise band from Monday and Tuesday.  What awesome beards they have.  They were a great praise band too–which is probably directly proportional to the amount of beardage.  It makes me proud to be a Northwest Baptist.

PRAISING BEARDS PRAISE BANDS

3.  The preaching is always what pulls me in the most.   Jeff Iorg did a great job this morning encouraging us to keep to the basics of disciple making.  Our Convention president this year, Steve Schenewerk, gave last night’s message.  Afterward I took a photo of him because he looked like a mafia don.  I skipped today’s afternoon session because we had a long drive back and I needed to get back tonight for small group but I have heard on the Twitter that Barry Campbell did a great job.

STEVE SCHENEWERK:  PREACHER OR MAFIA BOSS? YOU DECIDE

4.  Billy Graham was the theme of the convention, I think.  Every preacher it seems told a Billy Graham story.  I kid you not, I would swear on a stack of Baptist Hymnals that one of them said something like, “If you don’t tell your lost friends about Jesus for their sake, or for the love of  Jesus, then do it for Billy’s Graham’s 95th birthday.”  That might be a little hyperbole, but not much of one.

5.  The best quote I heard–“your ability to lead a church is directly proportional to your ability to tolerate pain” by Gary McIntosh.

6.  The best part for me, always, is reconnecting with old friends whom I see far too infrequently.  I also sometimes make new friends, like I did this year.  It reminds me that the ties that bind us are not doctrine, methodology, or affinity but instead it is the only thing Jesus called a new commandment:  love for one another.

GARY MCINTOSH–MAKER OF QUOTES

7.  I felt like there was a lot of angst at the convention this year.  Not towards people or anger or anything, but a kind of despondency.  Most of the preachers referred to the recent elections in a negative way and wrung their hands and seemed to indicate that all is lost.  When that is paired with the usual tone of  “if your church doesn’t have 2,000 in worship on Sunday then you are doing something wrong” and people seemed to feel uptight.  As I left today I wanted to give everyone a big hug and tell them it would be okay.  Jesus is still King and our job hasn’t changed–to be faithful.  I wish I could just find a way to help everyone relax a little bit more and enjoy this amazing life of grace that we lead.

MORE REFLECTIONS ON THE EUGENE CONVENTION

I got in last night after driving five hours through what felt like monsoon conditions from our Annual Meeting of Northwest Baptists.  This morning has been a mad-dash to catch up on all the work I left behind.  Most of it has been the endless administrative stuff but I also spent some time working on the “Thanksgiving” sermon for Sunday.  It is a special one; and I’m eagerly looking forward to it.  But before I let the week pass it is good to review the three days we spent in Eugene, Oregon.

The Great Stuff:  The preaching was spectacular this year.  Ed Stetzer was one of the keynotes and he was awesome; even if he seems to have a phobia about Twitter.  Our very own Jon Fredericks from Discovery Community Church in Tacoma.  I cannot over state how great his sermon was, and how timely it was.  Wayne Cordeiro preached Tuesday night covering some material from his new book “The Irresistible Church.” I need to confess; I might be developing a man crush on Wayne Cordeiro.

The Good Stuff:  Much of the emphasis was on church planting.  Some people would say I should put this in the category of Great Stuff; because church planting is great, and we are actually working at planting a new church in Silverdale, Washington.  But this is only Good Stuff because it is beginning to feel; quite honestly, like there is no room for people like me and churches like mine anymore.  Only church planters seem to matter and they just can’t wait for us to get out of there way.  More than once this week I felt very much like I was being told, “If only you were as spiritual and cool as a church planter is.”  I don’t think that is the intention of anyone, but it sure is beginning to feel like Seattle and especially Portland church planters are “more equal” than others.

The Bad Stuff:  There were two bad things–one was very very bad and the other was just yucky bad.  I’ll start with the yucky bad–our hotel was a dump.  The staff were friendly and kind; but the property was very disappointing.  The meeting space was crowded and convoluted.  My bathroom was disgusting.  The ‘clean’ towels smelled bad.  I’ve had better stays at Motel 6.  the second bad stuff was that the final reality that 13 staffers were fired due to funding cuts from the denomination (NORTH AMERICAN MISSION BOARD) due to less revenue and restructuring.  It is amazing to me that our denomination talks about reaching un-reached people all the time, but in this region–perhaps one of the most unreached in North America, the word is given to lay people off.  Sometimes Baptists can be so stupid.

The really great stuff, though, is that I am back in my church where the real action is.  One of the great mistakes we can often make is to begin to think that what happens in the denomination is what is really important.  I don’t think it is very important at all, except in that it helps local churches fulfill their mission.

 

NOTE–PASTOR GREENBEAN THINKS YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN THIS BLOG POST ABOUT THE CONVENTION FROM OUR NEW PRESIDENT.

MORE PREACHERS THAN YOU CAN SHAKE A STICK AT

Pastor  Greenbean has spent the last three days at the annual gathering of his particular regional denomination—the Northwest Baptist Convention.  One of the things he always enjoys is connecting with old friends, swapping stories, and getting free books.  However, he noticed, there were fewer free books this year.  It must be the economy.  Now we have one more day to go, and the business session is yet to be had, but I would rate this as a very good convention so far.  Here are some of the things I’ve noticed.

The Good

  • The quality of preaching has been very high and it has been done by folks who minister up here.  In years past we’ve tended to farm out the preaching to people from the South, but this year, we’ve taken care of it ourselves.  I think that has been a great benefit.
  • There seems to be less anxiety this year than in years past.  Nothing controversial is up for discussion, no cluster of conspiracies forming, and in general a feeling of joy permeates the group. 
  • The music has been very good.  From what I’ve been able to see, there has been no attempt to “blend” the music.  Instead, what I think we’ve seen is just high quality music being led by people who love Jesus. 
  • The exercise room was sweet!  

The Bad

  •  My hotel has very poor wifi.  At first it was so poor I thought it didn’t exist.  This has caused me to not be able to stay in touch with the worldwide headquarters back home and running up my data usage on my cell phone plan.  I had to get this blog out here on carrier pigeon.
  •  There is a dearth of quality restaurants in the area here around Pasco, Washington—at least that I’ve been able to discover.  I think this area is beautiful; in fact I love the geography.  But there aren’t many great places to eat.

The Ugly

  •  The book store section is pretty thin.  I usually get a chance at the convention, at least in recent memory, to purchase titles I don’t otherwise see.  It seems like the bookstore only brought Christmas trinkets and Beth Moore products.  Is it wrong of me to assume that a convention of mostly preachers, they might want to serve our needs and bring a few more ‘pastoral’ themed books for sale?  I mean, really, I wanted to spend money but just saw nothing worth buying.
  • The worst part about this convention is that there are a lot of great people in this convention, but sadly, I will not see most of theme again until next year.  Somehow our convention must figure out a way to gather us more frequently.  I know that money and schedules conflict here, but we need to worship together more often and maybe without the pretense of ‘business.’