Those four words say a lot to me not only as Pastor, but also as Executive Director.
As a pastor, I am reminded of the parable Jesus told: “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying?” [Matthew 18:12 NKJV]
Jesus used a simple illustration to communicate a directive to every pastor-shepherd. In order to truly disciple Christians into fully devoted, mature followers of Christ, helping them stay connected to the body of Christ is essential. Jesus made it clear that shepherds keep their sheep connected to the fold. For the local church this means we are to seek for straying sheep and help them reconnect to the fold of the church.
As Pastor, I’ve always viewed this shepherding task as a very important and serious responsibility. The spiritual lives of my sheep are dependent upon their connection to the church. A shepherding pastor must also strive to help members stay in the fold of the church. If they stay connected they are better protected from tragic pitfalls and hidden obstacles that await outside the church. A church is always stronger with 100% of its sheep in the fold than it is when even a few are missing.
As Executive Director, the words, Staying Connected, Staying Strong, also have a sobering effect on me. I am reminded that as General Baptists strive to advance the Kingdom, every mission field is crucially important to us. For we “are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27). We can never forget the sacrifices of missionary families who travel to different states or countries to spread the gospel. We can never forget the sacrificial giving of individuals and churches that help develop new ministries in the U.S. and around the globe.
I always feel a burden when I visit our mission fields. I want to make sure that our missionaries and national workers know that they have a larger General Baptist family in the United States who love them and want to stay connected with them. As a network of churches called General Baptist, we must stay connected to the ministries God has provided to us.
We try to maintain this connection by having our missionaries, and now some national workers as well, travel to the United States to attend the Summit. I want this to continue each year so the ability to meet with, pray with, worship with, and laugh with their greater General Baptist family will breathe encouragement into the lives of our missionaries, national workers and the mission fields they represent.
I believe Jesus is pleased with our General Baptist family when we seek to stay connected at the local, national, and international levels.
Local pastor, I know how tough ministry life can be. One weapon in Satan’s arsenal is isolation and separation. Pastors, we don’t want you to be disconnected, struggling to do ministry alone. We have designed conferences to equip you to do the work more creatively, efficiently, and meaningfully than ever before. Our Barnabas Project attempts to make personal connection to you. We offer services to help personal networking and maintain current communications.
Local church, regardless of your size, location, or budget, we value your connection to General Baptist Ministries. In light of the troubled state of our culture and the recent ruling by our U.S. Supreme Court regarding marriage and family, the time to stand strong together upon the Word of God is now.
Missionaries and national workers, we believe in your sacrifice and mission. We are dedicated to giving you our prayers as well as our financial support.
Staying Connected, Staying Strong. May these words stir every General Baptist. No Pastor can be left behind. No mission field can be forgotten. No local church can be cast aside. No General Baptist can be overlooked. You belong to a larger body of believers committed to helping you do more together than you could ever do alone.
Clint Cook – Executive Director
General Baptist Ministries