By Troy Rust
Associational mission strategist, Holston Baptist Association, Johnson City
Like every Baptist association, most of our churches stood in need of revitalization when I arrived a year ago.
As I began to think through the requirements of revitalization, I was reminded that revitalization is the product of revival. When God’s people return to the love they had at first for Jesus, churches will focus once again on the work of the Great Commission.
I couldn’t help but remember the World Missions Conference of days gone by, and how I could recall decades later the testimonies the missionaries shared. Realizing that unhealthy churches often focus very little on the things that count for eternity, I saw that we needed to put “turn-key” missions opportunities before the churches of our association.
While we don’t want churches to ignore their immediate contexts, we know that God often uses missions opportunities to reignite a church’s passion and vision to reach its own area. Our goal was two-fold: to revitalize partnership missions in our churches and to connect local, regional, national and international missions and ministries to a potential volunteer army.
Not knowing what the size or shape of such an event might be, we simply began reaching out to reputable missions and ministries we knew, or at least had heard good things about, and found a mission-minded church to host the event. When the time came for our Holston Baptist Association Missions Conference & Fair in September at Heritage Baptist Church in Johnson City, we had 34 exhibitors from a wide variety of missions and ministries and four conference speakers representing Wycliffe Bible Translators, North American Mission Board, Bay Lakes Baptist Association in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and the International Mission Board.
Knowing that many of our churches have Sunday evening services, we placed the missions fair times at the beginning and end of the event and the conference portion in the middle. As a result, people who couldn’t stay the whole time could still experience the fair and part of the conference.
In addition to the missions conference, the speakers flown in for the event were able to speak at some of our associational churches that morning.
Pastor Jaime Velasco of Casa de Restauracion in Johnson City, who hosted IMB missionary Rusty Ford, said, “I thank God for the participants of the conference. It was encouraging for me as a pastor to continue supporting the mission work locally and across the world.” Pastor Zach Smith of Shallow Ford Baptist Church in Erwin stated, “The Holston Association Missions Conference and Fair inspired our church and me, as pastor, to continue working through the difficulties of the pandemic to reach others for the gospel.
The event was informative, encouraging, and insightful. Church planter Nate Vedoya of Edmonton energized the church Sunday through his humor, sincerity, and excitement for missions.”
While we promote regular giving to the Cooperative Program and seasonal giving to our SBC missions offerings, we also want to encourage hands-on, face-to-face missions. In addition to praying and giving, we want our churches to send people across the city, across the country, and across the world through committed partnerships that are always about making disciples and never about Christian tourism. We also want them to host missionaries and ministry leaders so they can build relationships with them, get to know their needs, and pray more specifically for them. B&R