By Mike Hess
It was a chilly, foggy November morning in the small Southern Illinois town of Bunker Hill. I walked into my first-ever pastors’ fellowship not knowing a single person there. As I was introduced to my fellow pastors and interacted with them, I soon realized that my background was drastically different from theirs. I did not grow up in a GARBC church, nor had I at that time attended a college or seminary that networked with the GARBC. As the men chatted, many of the names and places they referred to were unfamiliar to me. I remember walking away thinking, “I just don’t fit in here, and I don’t think I’ll be going back to these meetings.”
But God prompted my heart to give it another try. Within a few months these monthly pastors’ meetings became a personal highlight for me. Older and seasoned pastors poured into my life and mentored me. We enjoyed sweet times of fellowship, prayer, and challenging discussions. A number of our families became close friends and enjoyed activities together. These men gave me valuable insights into preaching, counseling, conducting funerals and weddings, implementing change, valuable books, and personal accountability. I’ll forever be grateful for the time they took out of their busy schedules to invest in me.
They also gave me a crash course on the GARBC’s history, purpose, doctrinal commitment, and functionality—both locally and nationally. I could make a strong argument that it was the local and state associations that gave me a passion for the GARBC’s doctrine and mission.
Let me briefly share with you five reasons to invest in both your local and state fellowships:
- Reinforcing our mission. Meetings like these are reminders of the GARBC’s mission: making disciples through healthy local churches. Our state associations are complements to and extensions of our national fellowship’s doctrinal stand and commitment to the Great Commission.
- Mentoring opportunities. A pastor can get his toolbox filled with wisdom from seasoned and wise pastors on subjects such as preaching, conflict resolution, helpful books, counseling, marriage, church staffing, and administrative issues.
- Spiritual refreshment. Rarely do pastors and wives get to sit under the preaching of the Word for the sole purpose of having their own souls fed. Our state associations work hard at bringing in topnotch speakers who handle the Word in a faithful, accurate, and compelling way. If you have the privilege of facilitating these meetings, work hard at ensuring that these times are worth everyone’s sacrifice in time and resources. People should walk away from these meetings encouraged and reinvigorated.
- Personal involvement. Oftentimes, important votes and discussions take place, and you can provide valuable wisdom. Your personal involvement can help set a healthy direction for your state and local fellowships for years to come. Never forget, your presence at one of these things communicates something: that this meeting is important enough for you to attend and that you see meeting together as a worthy endeavor.
- Developing new relationships. Our fellowship provides a healthy context for growing and encouraging friendships within ministry. My network of ministry relationships provides a daily source of mutual encouragement. To this day, I still enjoy the fruit of relationships that began at that first pastors’ fellowship in Bunker Hill.
As you examine your calendar, please keep something in mind: your personal involvement and investment in your local and state associations benefit not only you, but also your church, other brethren in ministry, and our association as a whole nationally.
Mike Hess serves as national representative for the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches.