Friday, November 7, 2008

Inland Empire Meeting

In church life, meetings are necessary (I'll refrain from calling them a "necessary evil"). But we should never have meetings just for the sake of having meetings; time is too precious. And as much as possible, leaders should try not to make meetings long and boring.

Meetings, like every other aspect of church ministry, are an opportunity to worship God. They should be conducted joyfully, peacefully, and for the purpose of edification. And I believe this was accomplished at the Inland Empire Association annual meeting last week.

On Tuesday, Oct. 28, I and another family from our church attended the annual meeting for our Southern Baptist region. Here are three things I appreciated:

  1. Hospitality. This year's meeting was hosted by First Baptist Church (Primera Iglesia Bautista) of Moreno Valley. This church did a fantastic job of showing Christian hospitality. Young and old were working side-by-side to serve all the guests. No detail was overlooked. Parking lot attendants waved flashlights, greeting people and offering directions. A delicious Mexican meal was catered, complete with chips and salsa at every table. Tables were set up outside in the courtyard to create a nice 'alfresco' dining experience. Servers were standing by, offering coffee, and taking our plates as soon as we were finished. The whole atmosphere was relaxing and conducive for fellowship, which brings me to the second point.

  2. Relationships. If our association just wanted to give an annual update, they could save a lot of time and money by e-mailing everyone the Book of Reports. But that would miss one of the most vital elements of ministry: building relationships. One of the highlights of last week's meeting was carpooling with the Poes from our church, then visiting with Pastor Pete and his assistant Doug during dinner. Pete is a pastor in Ontario, and it was a delight to learn about his church and his passion for VBS and prison ministry. It was also nice to briefly see Walter Price from Fellowship in the Pass, David Sqyres from Palms Baptist Church, Tony Brown from One Eighty Ministries in Joshua Tree, and Rex Shaver and his assistant Michael from Wonder Valley Community Church.

  3. Organization. The meeting had a tight schedule, and for the most part, they did a good job sticking to it. From what I could tell, every report was limited to 3 minutes. These were interspersed with some congregational singing and a video presentation. The music was appropriately upbeat, though I would have appreciated a more cross-centered emphasis in the lyrics. Reports were pre-printed in the book, along with a calendar of events for the upcoming year. It was all sort of a whirlwind, but I think it was just enough to give us a sampling of what God is doing across the region. Some of the reports were repetitive from last year, which might discourage people from attending year after year, but thankfully the meeting only lasted two hours total. I wouldn't agree philosophically with everything these churches are doing, but it did illustrate the diversity of the Body of Christ and the importance of engaging the lost in each community.
Overall, it was a good meeting. I think our Director of Missions did a fine job planning and executing the event. I'd encourage others in our association to attend next year. Hopefully, we'll be back at First Baptist Church for more of those tamales!

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