The countdown has started. We are just 5 brief days from the start of our 2019 Annual Gathering of the American Baptist Churches of Vermont and New Hampshire. This gathering is a great opportunity to celebrate, learn, pray, love, and serve together with Baptists brothers and sisters from all over the Region.
Everyone who attends is making a significant investment in time and money. So don’t come in cold and unprepared. There are some things you can do to help insure that you get the most out of your time at the AG. Not just for you, but for everyone in your congregation.
Pray that the Holy Spirit will encourage and strengthen our hearts for his mission.
The theme for this year’s Annual Gathering is “How will they know?” It is a question anchored in the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans chapter 10. “…how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?” (ESV). So as we consider the mission at our doorstep here in Northern New England, let’s pray that God will prepare and stimulate us to proclaim his good news to our neighbors right where we live.
Share a ride so you can talk about your experience with a friend.
Talking with a friend is the best way to process your experience after an event like the Annual Gathering. You can both share what you have learned, and how you think it might be helpful to you going forward. Your friend may have noticed things you did not, or attended workshops you didn’t and so can give you a perspective you missed. You will remember more of your weekend if you talk about with a friend, so share the ride.
Have conversations with 2 people you only see at the Annual Gathering
Some of you go to the Annual Gathering every year. You see the same faces over and over again and even though you only see them once a year, you count them as good friends. Make a point of catching up with them for more than a quick hello. Sit down for lunch or coffee and talk about what is going on in your churches. Pray together and keep in touch through the year.
Pray that the Spirit will convict you of something you need to do or stop doing.
God is certainly a God of encouragement and help. Sometimes the way he encourages and helps is to give us a good dope slap when we really need it. It hurts, but if it wakes us up to his will and draws us closer to him – it is a good thing. Pray that God will act to change your heart, even if it hurts.
Ask at least 2 Exhibitors how they can help your congregation
.The hallway will be packed with tables from exhibitors ranging from Regional Ministries to Credit Unions and Insurance companies. Don’t just pass these tables by. Stop and ask one simple question – how can you help my congregation? You may be surprised by the answers you get and come away with a few new ideas.
Have conversations with at least 2 people you don’t already know
I know your mother told you never to talk to strangers. Well, your mother isn’t here and you are now old enough to talk to strangers. This is actually one of the best parts of the Annual Gathering – making new friends. Introduce yourself and where you are from and then just start asking questions about your new friend. Find things you share in common and ask about their church. Make sure you pray for each other before your conversation is over and keep in touch through the year.
Pray for the Speakers that they will speak in the power of the Holy Spirit.
We have some great speakers lined up. They are preparing now, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to deliver to you the words you need to hear. Take some time right now and every day this week to pray for them, that God would put on their hearts and in their mouths the words that God knows we all need to hear.
Take Notes on the Speakers, and Share notes with your Congregation
No, this isn’t class and there will not be a test. So you do NOT need to brush up your shorthand, or record every point of the speaker’s outline. But have a notebook and pen with you so that when the speaker says something that does strike you, you can write it down. This helps you engage and listen, because you are listening for the good nuggets. Then be sure to share what you wrote down with someone else later. That way it blesses you and them a second time.
Listen to the Speaker recordings again within 2 weeks after the AG.
We are making plans to record the speakers this year so that we can publish their presentations on Social media and on our website. Sometime in the next 14 days following the Annual Gathering, go to our Facebook page or website and listen again the talks given at the Annual Gathering. Things you didn’t hear the first time will pop out. Things you heard and like will impress you again. Then make sure to share your favorite parts with someone in your congregations who could not attend. This adds value to the lives of all involved.
Pray that the Good News of Jesus will be proclaimed across Vermont and New Hampshire.
New England has a bit of a reputation for being unacquainted with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Lots of churches. Even a fair number of church people – but not much gospel. We are working to change that, praying for and laboring for gospel renewal and grace awakening in our cities, towns, and villages all over Vermont and New Hampshire. We must, however, soak all of or work and talk in prayer, calling upon the Spirit to empower us to be faithful, and to open the hearts and ears of our neighbors to hear. Pray now. Pray during. Pray later. Keep praying.
Find someone from a church similar in size to yours and talk about what your congregations are doing
.There are 140 or so American Baptist Congregations in Vermont and New Hampshire. If you are wondering what your church can be doing to share Jesus with your neighbors, you should start talking to people from other churches. You will find that you share many of the same challenges. You will also find that your new friends may have found solutions to those challenges. If nothing else, you will come away feeling a little less isolated and lonely. Make sure you pray for one another, and continue praying and talking through the year.
Commit to praying for one another all year long until the next Annual Gathering.
What we really want to be able to say next year is, “Look what God has done.” It is never about us, our plans, our programs, our resources. It is about God, working through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, proclaimed in the power of his Holy Spirit. When we pray, we call upon God to keep his promises to save. And when he answers – he gets the credit. So start praying now and keep praying all year long that God will show himself faithful in New Hampshire and Vermont during 2019. Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.
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