I'm Biased

A Review of the Northwest Baptist Missions Conference

If you have never been to a Northwest Baptist Missions (NBM) Annual Fellowship Meeting, you’ve missed out on one of the most unique, close-knit bands of preachers and their families anywhere in the country. No humbugs. No spiritual charlatanism. It is fellowship with a big capital F. Or should I say “family,” only in all bold letters?

Yes. We are unique and, probably to outsiders, quite an odd, mixed bunch. But just notice where we live and minister. Not every man who lives in a predominant Bible belt is cut out to fit the exact holes in such places as Rexburg in Idaho, Winnemuca in Nevada, or Nephi in Utah. Don’t you think? One-of-a-kind men are needed for such vividly singular places. Maybe that is why NBM get togethers tend to be just that–fun and colorful. You never know what is going to shoot down the pike or jump out from the sagebrush. This year, it happened to be good ol’ Aunt Martha (you have to watch out for some of those pesky relatives), who lovingly, playfully scolded Pastor Jason Ehmann and Pastor Dennis Rodgers right up on the front stage in view of a full auditorium. Some of the new preachers probably didn’t know what to think. Watching from the audience, Brother Dan Mauldin (and brand-new executive board member) was ready to invoke 1 Timothy 2:11-12.

But no worries; ol’ Aunt Martha and I go back quite a spell. We just want to make sure everybody is awake. Alert. On their toes. Better to meet Aunt Martha than some predacious six-shooter.

Ron Ehmann, the director of the mission, on the opening night of the meetings (Sept. 25 in Idaho Falls, Idaho), preached out of 1 Samuel 17. He spoke of Goliath snubbing the Israelite army, and I am paraphrasing Ron. “These men’s perspectives had been conditioned by the giant. The whole army was thinking the same way.” But then a new perspective came along in verse 26. Excellent. Because “we forget whom we serve. We get use to standing around and looking at each other.”

In verse 43, “the Philistine cursed David by his gods.” Big mistake! While Goliath was defying “the God of the armies of Israel,” David made sure “that all the earth” knew “there is a God in Israel.” In battle, there is no greater cause than to glorify God. And remember, “You don’t need a sword or a spear. You just need God.”

Jonathan Edwards, pastor of Marysvale Baptist Church and executive board member, followed Ron that evening with another challenging message from the Lord. He preached on the cause for holiness and opened with a quote that every godly preacher recognizes in ministry. “Frankly, holiness is hard on numbers.” And then brother Edwards spread before us Scripture from Proverbs, Luke, Psalms, Isaiah, Exodus, Deuteronomy, John, Mark, etc. He also brought up the book Holiness by J.C. Ryle, emphasizing one main point. “The more time we spend with God, the more likeminded we become.” Jonathan highlighted another book Set Apart by R. Kent Hughes, brought to his attention by a young, servant minister, Caleb MacGill, who had just relocated to the area to specifically help in the local fellowship. In conclusion, Jonathan launched into two areas of application for our immediate self-evaluation:

  1. The use of the television–“Isn’t most of television the antithesis of logizomai in Philippians 4:8?”
  2. The danger of Internet porn. Borrowing an August 2000 statistic, Edwards mentioned that 33% of clergy have looked at Internet porn. There is accessibility, anonymity, and affordability. Yet “how can a preacher have power, if he is a voyeur?”

On Tuesday morning, Chris Best, soon-to-be father of nine, public school math teacher, and co-pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho, taught us principles of worship from Genesis 22. Worship involves the following aspects:

  1. Obedience–obeying the Lord
  2. Sacrifice – involves personal loss
  3. Deliberateness–making plans
  4. Timeliness
  5. Separation
  6. Sadness/Puzzlement–not always an emotional high
  7. Difficulty–preparation/travel/not an easy task
  8. Hope and Trust
  9. Submission–Everything God does is right because of who He is; we are to submit our whys to Him.

He closed with, “If God had just created us, that is worthy of all our worship. But He has done so much more.” And then he quoted Richard Hartman, pastor of Mountain View Baptist Church in Lander, Wyoming. “Better worship God, or your service will be with grumbling.” By the way, we quote each other in the Intermountain West; it just gets that good.

Following Chris’s message, we broke into groups for about an hour to take requests and pray for all the various needs spread from Washington to South Dakota.

And then before lunch, Jim Welch, pastor of Victory Baptist Church in Montrose, Colorado, and a new, executive board member, spoke more on worship and the cause to trust God for His work in our ministries. Jim selected Acts 8 for his text. Being both a hunter and a fisherman, Welch noted that the eunuch was a big, big fish that the Holy Spirit was drawing to salvation. The eunuch was incomplete, influential, inquisitive, and empty. But God did His mighty work. God sent His prepared servant with a prepared word to a prepared person.

Speaking of causes and heart motivations, in an illustration near the end, Jim related the story of a missionary who had been shot through with an arrow by the ones he was trying to reach; but after being treated for his wounds, he went back to these people. So the question by Jim to the missionary naturally surfaced. “You must really love these people?!”

The missionary responded, “No, I hate them; but I love God.” At this point in Jim’s sermon, Aaron Young, sitting beside me, in a flurry of visible excitement, whispered, “There it is! A God focus!” Back in Acts 8, Philip set the example. Open the book and preach Jesus whom we love.

Tuesday evening, Dan Mauldin, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Farmington, New Mexico, and also a new executive board member, spoke on the cause for evangelism and discipleship. Having been a youth pastor for almost 25 years, Dan is now a senior pastor and tremendous supporter to the mission church plants under the umbrella of Northwest Baptist Missions. In introduction, he lamented, “I wished we had fellowship like this in New Mexico.” I just sat there thinking and tingling with excitement. “Wow, I bet New Mexico is also a vast, incredible opportunity for future church plants.”

In his sermon, Dan emphasized from Matthew 28 that sharing the good news and bringing Christians into maturity go hand in hand with each other. People need to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and then they need to grow. “Some are just interested in decisions; but God has called us to make disciples.”

And all the power resides in Jesus Christ. It is not in our personalities or our salesmanship.

And after fleshing out principles on both biblical evangelism and discipleship, Dan buttressed the message with further reasons for carrying on this great work:

  1. God is glorified–John 15.
  2. This world is sick with sin–Matthew 9.
  3. God is persistent–Matthew 22.

Finally, on Wednesday morning, Keith South, pastor of First Baptist Church in Nephi, Utah, took us to the theme of courage in Judges 11. Indeed, it was a remarkable message as he threaded in the real trials his family has been facing lately. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, Donna is a cancer survivor. But now she is battling Parkinson’s disease.

Keith is a father of four boys, and he can’t stand the environment of “the great feminizing of boys in America.” So he developed a series and preached it in his local church–“Raising Boys to Be Men in the Church,” specifically targeting 12 areas. In my note-taking, I was able to hurriedly jot down in my ministry journal 11 of the key issues vital for each Christian boy: to be firmly settled in his faith, to be a diligent worker, sexual purity, integrity, biblical worldview, emotional maturity, to articulate truth to others, to be a friend and make friends, to know God’s working, to teach others, and courage.

The message was worth its weight in gold. Bible commentaries often label the theme of Judges 11 as “Jephthah’s rash vow.” But Keith brought forth insights that greatly strengthened my heart.

Is it possible for us to raise boys with courage? The Christian life requires courage. We need to be confessing the Lord before all men (Matt. 10:32). If we do not have courage, we discourage others. But on the flipside, we can arouse courage in the hearts of other men. Think of 1 Corinthians 16:13. “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” Perform like a man. God can accomplish things far beyond your imagination.

Listen to these observations by Keith.

  1. The stage is set for people of courage to step forward and act. God is looking for men and women of courage.
  2. People of genuine courage place no confidence in the flesh. (God chooses the base things of the world. Parents are making a big mistake when they are telling their kids to put their trust in their own talents like athletic ability or educational prowess.)
  3. Center on building faith through hearing the Word.
  4. The Spirit of God extends our influence beyond all human effort.
  5. The courage of God’s people is always being tested (and often it is tested within our own families).

After three days, my heart was full. I listened to good messages by God’s choice men, engaged in “iron sharpening iron” discussions over all sorts of issues with dear friends, and watched with thankfulness the servant leadership in action among the brothers and sisters in my own local fellowship. I am biased. What else can I say?

Well, maybe one last thing. Pray. Pray for a new, brilliant outbreaking of the light of Christ in the West. Pray for the new executive board. Pray for the newly developed advisory board. Pray for each of the church planters in the Intermountain Region. The mission board can mail you a prayer card to put in your Bible, listing every one of them. And pray every week for a godly sister named Donna South in a strategic place called Nephi, Utah, on the “I-15 corridor,” one of America’s most unique and glorious opportunities for missions in the new millennium. God will triumph. And that last statement is no mere bias of Todd Wood.

Todd Wood is pastor of Berean Baptist Church in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He received his B.A. in Missions, M.A. in Theology, and M.Div. from Bob Jones University. But more than anything he hungers for the A.I.G. degree affixed to Apelles (Rom. 16:10). 

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