By Sharon Mager
MIDDLETOWN Md. — A chilly rain couldn’t dampen the fun and fellowship at the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware’s (BCM/D)’s Pastors and Wives Appreciation events on May 24-25. Planned by the church services team, the event focused on giving pastors and their wives time to relax, worship, be encouraged, and have some fun.
Upon arrival and settling down a bit, the men had a mini-lecture on the battle at Antietam before donning rain gear and umbrellas to soak up some history onsite at the nearby battlefield.
The wives enjoyed a light luncheon. BCM/D Women’s Ministry Consultant Melody Knox encouraged ladies to use what they learned during the Covid lockdown as they move forward, be encouraged, and encourage their husbands.
Skycroft’s staff took care of providing both the finger foods for the ladies and bag lunches for the men, a sit-down dinner, and breakfast for those who chose to stay the night.
In the early evening, BCM/D Executive Director Kevin Smith, International Mission Board Director Dr. Paul Chitwood, and Brian Croft, the founder of Practical Shepherding, were guest speakers for an after-dinner worship service. Chitwood and Croft both shared via recorded videos. David Hall announced gift backpacks for all, including books and coupons, to HeBrews Coffee Shop.
Called to a peculiar task
Looking around the room, Smith smiled wide as he expressed his delight of seeing “Pastors in Maryland/Delaware singing and not thinking about what’s happening next.” He expressed joy seeing pastors stepping away from their churches, worshipping God, and distancing themselves from distractions.
Smith told pastors, “I want you to understand how important your work is.”
“Our society has suffered from the breakdown of institutions since the ’60 – family, home, church, community, government…” He emphasized, however, that the church is not just another institution. Churches are little pieces of God’s plan in the mission of the world.”
“Just has the church has a specific part in God’s plan, the shepherd or pastor of a congregation has a specific part in God’s plan.” Referring to Jeremiah 3, Smith said God was calling people back from idolatry, and unfaithfulness. “Note who the vehicle of that calling and restoration is — pastors.”
“Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion: And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” (Jeremiah 3:14-15 KJV)
“The pastor is a human, born in the image and likeness of God, who has been redeemed and now is being sanctified. But the charge in the mission he has been given is not just like anyone else. It’s a peculiar mission.” Smith said in a world of unfaithfulness, idolatry, divisions, hurt, and sinfulness, where the church and the world are really messed up, pastors are important.
“The church is God’s specific ‘plan A’ for the redemption of the world and the ushering in of the kingdom of God; it’s the center of the salt light influence of the world that Jesus talks about in Matthew 5. The pastor is the shepherd….the overseer who has been appointed by the Holy Ghost.”
Brian Croft, the executive director of Practical Shepherding, shared with pastors and wives to “press on.” He candidly told his personal story of being at a church where betrayal, slander, and other attacks eventually affected his health. “The emotional, physical, and spiritual stress was starting to affect my physical body in an alarming way.” He shared told how God, over five years, gradually changed situations and hearts and the church flourished for the next decade.”
“I share this with you, so you know this — I almost left after five years , and none of you would have blamed me. And God in year six began to bless our church.”
Croft said God was intentional in those years. “He was teaching me things. He was pruning and shaping our church in a way that was important to be able to flourish in the future.
“I share my story to tell you to stick it out. God may have more for you and your church if you stay.”
He read 1 Corinthians 16:5-8, “Now I will come to you when I pass through Macedonia (for I am passing through Macedonia). And it may be that I will remain, or even spend the winter with you, that you may send me on my journey, wherever I go. For I do not wish to see you now on the way; but I hope to stay awhile with you, if the Lord permits. But I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost. For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” (NKJV)
“(The Apostle) Paul stayed because the work was not done and because there are many adversaries. Paul takes a ministry paradigm that is unfamiliar to us and turns it upside down. Brothers, we often think adversaries are the reason we leave. But Paul said the adversaries are the reason to stay.”
Croft encouraged pastors — if the work is not done, press on.
Additionally, Croft emphasized the need for pastors to “unapologetically take care of yourself,” eating right, sleeping, and exercising. “I found myself in a health crisis because I didn’t know how to take care of myself in the midst of hard, really difficult ministry.”
Caring for yourself is crucial for you, your family and your church, he stressed.
Who Will Be the Spark?
Dr. Paul Chitwood addressing pastors and wives said, “Maryland/Delaware Baptists are touching the world as you pray, give, go and send through the IMB. At a time when there are more lost people on the planet than ever before, your witness among the nations is more desperately needed than ever before.”
Chitwood thanked Kevin Smith for his leadership, and he thanked pastors for “faithfulness in shepherding the flock of God in a very, very difficult season.”
He shared about taking his 13-year-old daughter on a wilderness trip. Without the Internet and cell phone service, she found a fascination in lighting matches — watching them spark and explode into flame. And it is fascinating, he said. You can light a campfire and keep warm. You could burn a house down — all with a spark.
He quoted Acts 8:4, “So those who were scattered went on their way preaching the Word.”
“They weren’t scattered by choice,” Chitwood said. He shared the account of Stephen, the first martyr of the church. His death resulted in leaders and believers exiting Jerusalem, taking the Gospel with them. “The fire of persecution resulted in the Gospel spreading like wildfire throughout the world.”
Stephen lit a spark. He said being full of faith and the Holy Spirit was the spark for the Gospel to spread from Jerusalem to the nations.
Who will be that spark in our day? Whose life will be so full of faith and the Holy Spirit? Whose life will be so full of grace and power that God will use that person to advance His kingdom? Whose life would be so marked by good works that the enemy would make the mistake of targeting that person for death, and the result would be the Gospel spreading like wildfire? “I want to be that person, don’t you? Whether God would choose to use us in that way is up to him, but I don’t want to do anything that would prevent God from choosing to use me in that way.”
Chitwood asked, is your church ready to be a spark for which the Gospel can spread like wildfire through your community? Spread from your community through your state? to our nation? to the nations?
Register for June’s Appreciation Event
Mark Dooley, BCM/D state director of evangelism, who oversaw the appreciation event with his team, said the response was excellent. Dooley said one of the highlights was spending time at Hebrews Coffee Shop just hanging out, eating snacks, and talking. “People enjoyed the fellowship and didn’t want to leave,” he said.
Wayne Ayer, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Pocomoke City in Maryland said, “When I got done preaching on Sunday, everything in me didn’t want to go (to Skycroft). When I got up there and experienced the fellowship and the partnership in the Gospel, I didn’t want to leave. God met with us!”
Cover Photo: Samuel Nuon, the pastor of First Cambodian Baptist Church of Maryland in the Montgomery Baptist Association and his wife Chamroeun enjoy spending time with Eli Choi, the pastor of Home Church, in Frederick, Maryland and his wife, Helen. (photo by Sharon Mager)