Healthy Leaders Build Healthy Churches
The International Baptist Convention’s Ministry Leadership Conference was held 24-28 March in Vouliagmeni, Athens, Greece. The weekend conference provided pastors and leaders in IBC churches an opportunity to enjoy fellowship, relaxation, encouragement, teaching, and a trip to ancient Corinth. The theme for this year’s conference was “Healthy Leaders / Healthy Churches.”
Keynote speaker for the weekend was Martin Sanders, director of doctoral programs at Alliance Theological Seminary, in Nyack, New York, Sanders has served as a pastor, professor, and consultant with a focus on empowering leaders to become the best they were designed to be.
In his Friday evening message “Welcoming the Spirit,” Sanders encouraged those attending to create space in their suitcase (their soul). We each need to identify what is in our suitcase, create more room there, and fill it with the best “stuff.” Part of going to the next level, Sanders said, is to track your self-talk (what you say to yourself about yourself) and look at your personal limitations. “The next level of your effectiveness and faith lies just beyond your current experience,” he said. Welcoming the Spirit, Sanders said, means to welcome Christ’s freedom (Galatians 5:1, 13-15). We need to walk in His ways (5:16-23) and clean out the junk in our lives. We need to give Him control of our lives – remembering what our lives look like when He is in control and when we are in control.
In his Saturday evening message, Sanders looked at “When God Heals Your Soul,” based on Psalm 103. When God heals your soul, Sanders said, you are free and full and your capacity to love and be loved are expanded. God forgives, heals, redeems, crowns, and satisfies. We only have to receive and embrace God as Father — His compassion, understanding, and love.
In his third session, Sanders encouraged participants to update their views on holiness and embrace it as a theology in “New Perspectives on Holiness.” Look at the lives of people, Sanders said, and you will see their gods. “Let’s be the holy people,” he said. Colossians 3 gives guidelines for “putting on” the best of Christ. First, Sanders said, we must put our eyes on Christ (3:1-4). Second, we need to put off the old self (3:5-11). We need to be dead to sin of flesh and tongue and be renewed from within. Third, we need to put on forgiveness (3:12-13). We are chosen of God and have His Spirit within. Finally, we need to put on love (3:14-17). We need to have a perfect bond of unity and a peaceful existence in Christ.
In his final session “When Jesus Takes You to the River,” Sanders reminded the group of the power of water. One of the symbols of the Holy Spirit is water (John 7:37-38). We need to cultivate God’s presence in our lives, Sanders said. We need to “get into the river.” We need to pay attention to the things that dull our senses and to feed our spiritual hunger. Once we are in, we need to wade out deeper, Sanders said. We need to pay attention to the flow and the currents and remove any barriers that may prevent a free flow. We need to strengthen our capacity to love and to become a reflection of Him. Finally, Sanders said, we need to “stay in the flow” by being sensitive to His Presence. We need to guard our heart from hardness, excuses, and self-protection and let the fresh spring bring softness, contrition, and inner strength (Proverbs 4:23).
Ingrid Davis, a mentor and leadership coach with Global Leadership, spoke on Saturday morning on “Soul Care for Ministry Leaders.” She shared from her on experiences while serving as a missionary in Mali. Often, she said, we get into a “cycle of grief” where our activity determines our identity which leads to a drivenness that forms our acceptance or condemnation. Instead, she said, we should seek a cycle of grace where acceptance and sustenance forms our identity and brings a fruitfulness in our lives.
Sanders and Davis also led two of the seminars offered during the weekend. Sanders taught on the “Power of Mentoring” while Davis’ seminar focused on “Healthy Relationships/Skills for Leading, Living, and Loving Well.” Other seminars were led by Warren Reeve on ‘When It Blows Up on the Outside what Happens on the Inside?” and Ken and Melanie Driedger on “Growing Strong Souls for International Church Leaders.” Reeve and the Driedgers work with Missional International Church Network and have served in international churches in Indonesia and Kuwait.
An early morning Bible study was a new feature of MLC this year. Bob Marsh, well-known Bible teacher in the IBC, taught on “The Message of Colossians.” During the study he led the group to consider “Who is Jesus of Nazareth and why is He supreme?” and “Who are you, as followers of Jesus?”
On Monday, the group had the opportunity to visit Corinth’s eastern port Cenchrea and tour the ancient city of Corinth. Christian tour guides brought the sites alive by not only giving the history of the places but tying them to the biblical events.
The music team for the weekend was from First International Baptist Church, Copenhagen, Denmark, led by pastor Erik Nielsen.