Who speaks in your conference is very important if your church is to get motivated for missions more than in years past. The messages can literally make or break your missions conference.
There are two basic philosophies regarding speakers for a missions conference. They are the following:
1) Invite one special conference speaker who will do all the main preaching during the services of the conference.
2) Invite the missionaries themselves to share the preaching times, giving each missionary an opportunity to preach.
Each of these options has their own benefits. I have seen both of these options work very effectively. I would like to cover some of these benefits and then you can decide what is best for your own conference from year to year. I will also make some suggestions and give some opinions.
BENEFITS OF A SPECIAL CONFERENCE SPEAKER
A) Having one main speaker allows for continuity throughout the preaching times.
B) Since main speakers come with high recommendations or have already been heard preaching, then it can be assumed that this speaker will do a good job challenging your church for world missions. (This contrasts with the possibility that an invited missionary whom you have never heard speak should do a less-than-acceptable job in the preaching hour. I have seen this personally more than once, though I believe it to be fairly rare.)
C) Main speakers usually have many messages prepared for missions conferences and have delivered these messages in other churches before. Thus these messages have already been polished and shown to be effective through the years.
D) Main speakers have more experience in conference work and can usually be flexible in knowing what messages to preach for the conference and for the specific service in mind. They know when to change a message due to the circumstances. These circumstances may include: theme of the conference, goals of the pastor, emphasis of the music, emphasis of the previous missionary presentation, or need of the hour.
E) Main speakers have been in so many other conferences before that they can often offer much advice to the pastor regarding conferences in general, as well as evaluate objectively your specific conference, if you so desire.
F) Most main speakers travel the world extensively, or have traveled much in the past. Some were missionaries themselves at some time in their lives. Their experience and travels sometimes add a perspective to an international conference that missionaries limited to one field cannot bring.
G) Some main speakers were once pastors in the USA for many years. Now they are doing representation work in the churches while they speak in conferences. Their pastoral experience can be beneficial in helping them to relate to the host pastor and his vision for world missions.
BENEFITS OF USING MISSIONARY SPEAKERS
I will assume here that the missionary speaker is a good preacher in the pulpit. We all know, however, that not every speaker who walks into our pulpits is a good one, not even all missionaries.
A) The missionaries usually are all fired up for challenging your church since they are fresh off the field or are excited about going to the field for the first time.
B) The missionaries have special burdens that are on their hearts. Often, a 15-30 minute presentation isn’t sufficient time to relate all that is on the missionary’s heart. Most missionaries have a vision for different areas of their mission field that can’t be explained in a short testimony and video slot.
C) Missionaries like to preach, too. Often in a conference one man does all the speaking and the missionaries only give a testimony or show slides. Many missionaries are chomping at the bit to preach and bare their hearts through a message. This type of missionary is the kind that you want in your pulpit.
D) Missionaries have been on the field for the last four years, and for many more years in some instances. They have been involved in the lives of hundreds of nationals, if not thousands. There is so much to say, so much to share, that can’t be said in a testimony given in a slot before the speaker preaches. They want to preach and share more from their ministries. They want you and your church to hear more of how your prayers and support have been invested.
E) On the financial side of the conference, missionaries usually receive a love offering after the conference. However, the love offering for the missionary who preaches need not be more than the love offering given if he did not preach. This way the amount allotted for the expenses of a special speaker can be saved totally, used for other expenses, or divided up to go to the missionaries and their ministry. (This point is more important for smaller churches that are very limited in the amount they can spend on the conference.)
F) Using missionaries in a conference to do the speaking gives every missionary the opportunity to share about their own specific mission board, which will equalize the amount of exposure that any one-mission board may receive.
G) Missionaries who have returned to the USA on furlough tend to tell stories and illustrations in the messages that are fresh and personal, coming recently right from a foreign field.
CONCERNS REGARDING HOUSING FOR MAIN SPEAKERS
The question is often asked regarding hospitality for conference speakers. I will make some observations that should be helpful when considering inviting your speaker, if you should choose to go this route.
Most special speakers are very busy men. Many still have church, college, or mission responsibilities that need attended to during the week.
Most men who travel speaking in conferences around the country prefer to have time during the day to study, pray, rest, and to catch up on correspondence.
Most of them prefer to have some quiet and peace and prefer to be on their own timetable rather than the timetable of some host and hostess.
Often these men are up in years and sometimes have illnesses or physical limitations that must be kept in mind.
Some men travel by plane while others drive from meeting to meeting.
Some of these men travel with their spouses while others do not. A few of them travel with their families.
None of these men charge for their services and ministry. It is wise, however, Biblically to take care of God’s servants. Be sure to cover their travel and housing expenses, if possible, and give a love offering for their other personal needs and ministries.
(Note: Some men need to take their wife and or family along on ministry trips for different reasons. Some of these reasons may include health care, family time together, recent trips without spouse or family, and others. Thus, it is important to ask the speaker if he will be bringing his wife or family with him to your conference. If so, please, take note that this will be an added expense. However, it is generally an expense well worthwhile since the wife and family often minister to different people in your church during the conference in ways not even the speaker himself can do. If possible, let the speaker decide whether he will bring anyone along, even at your expense. God’s men seek to be frugal and will not take advantage of you. However, they know the benefits of having their family along in a conference. Personally I feel that I am much more effective when my family is present and I know for sure that my wife and children have a great missionary ministry in the lives of many with whom I do not even have direct contact.
If however, you feel that you just cannot afford to pay for lodging or transportation for the wife, or children, be honest with the speaker and let him know. The speaker may want to bring them anyway but pay for it out of his own pocket.)
All of them realize that there are churches that cannot afford to pay all their travel expenses or put them up in a nice motel. Do not let this disturb your plans of inviting them. God will meet the needs through others.
Be sure to ask the man invited regarding these issues. If you have any questions or concerns, please, ask each one upfront about his preferences, his timetable, his limitations, his needs, his travel arrangements, etc.
A) I suggest that, if it is financially feasible, you alternate yearly between the two options. One year have a special speaker do all the preaching, and the next year let the missionaries do the preaching. That way you get the best of both. You may want to do a variation of this by choosing to utilize a special speaker for two or three years and then allowing the missionaries to do the preaching in the third or fourth years, or vice-versa.
B) If you need or want a specific topic, like “Faith Promise,” covered in your conference then it will probably be best to invite a special speaker to do that.
However, remember that there are veteran missionaries on the field who deal with specific subjects like “Faith Promise,” and other topics, that can do just as well in your church as they do in the national churches on the field.
(It is interesting to note that some missionaries are used widely by the churches on the field to preach in special conferences but are used very little in the USA. I want to add another word at this point that some pastors may not have ever considered. Your missionaries, in many cases, are very experienced and have much to offer your church. Have you ever considered inviting your missionary to hold a revival for your church? Have you ever considered hosting a prophetic conference and inviting a missionary to do the teaching? Most missionaries have some kind of specialty that they utilize on the field to great success. Some are great youth speakers, others teach theology in Bible Schools, while others offer a variation of ministry specialties. Some missionaries make great Bible Conference speakers. Your people could benefit greatly from the ministry of these missionaries and would get to know your missionary in a much greater way, a way in which they had never known or seen the missionary before. As pastor, you could thus treat your people to great preaching/teaching AND expose your people even more to the life and ministry of your supported missionary and family. Imagine how much more your church would remember and pray for that missionary.)
C) If you want the missionaries to do the speaking and you want them to deal with a certain subject then make sure you give each one their assignment ahead of time in order to prepare for that.
D) If you do not want to invite a special speaker but you do want to limit the preaching to only one or two main missionaries then it is wise to schedule older, proven missionaries to preach.
E) There are younger missionaries who can do a great job preaching but it is usually best to have some type of recommendation regarding their preaching before you schedule them to preach in the conference. You do not want to be sorry about any message delivered in your conference that might throw cold water on the excitement and interest of the conference.
F) In using special speakers for your annual missions conference it is wise to schedule different speakers or representatives from various mission boards from year to year. This will give your church greater exposure to the vision, ministries, and policies of others who are also involved strategically in some way in world missions.
Some missions have a specific burden and vision. That is true of those who work primarily to reach those above the Arctic Circle, those who reach Tribal peoples, those who work with nationals, those who work with the Deaf, those who work with printing, those who work with translation, those who work with radio or mass media, and others. Your people need exposed to the men who can come with these special burdens. It may be that God will use one of them to call out someone in your church to one of these specific ministries because you, as pastor, invited someone from these types of ministries to be the main preacher in your conference.
Conclusion: Be sure to pray about whom you should invite to preach in your missions conference. Don’t make a decision based on tradition, simply because that is the way you have always done it. Although you have done it a certain way from year to year does not mean that there isn’t room to do it differently next year, if the Lord sees fit. Be open to what the Lord wants you to do. Pray about the matter before moving ahead with your traditional plans.
Remember, neither option is always necessarily the best. Choose what is best for you and for your church. Choose what is best for the coming year.
Be creative. Make your missions conference the most exciting time of the year in your church. Get your people excited about the man/men who will do the preaching. Then pray for that man/men regularly to be used by the Spirit in the lives of your people as he/they preach.
If you would like to add anything to this page, please, feel free to write us or call us and discuss the issue with us. We are always looking for help to be more effective for the Lord.
We are here to glorify our Lord and Saviour above all. God bless you.
Dr. Clayton Shumpert
International Representative for BIMI
Mailing Address: 113 Harrison Circle
West Columbia, South Carolina 29172
Home Phone: (803) 796-9448
Dr. John Halsey
International Representative for BIMI
Mailing Address: 1305 Hillwell Road
Chesapeake, Virginia 23320
Home Phone: (757) 482-3400
Dr. Les Frazier
International Representative for BIMI
Home Phone: (423) 892-6843
Danny A. Whetstone
President Worldwide New Testament Baptist Missions
Mission Address: PO Box 1234
Kings Mountain, North Carolina 28086
Office: (704) 730-1440
Wireless (704) 974-6111
John M. O’Malley
Vice-President Worldwide New Testament Baptist Missions
Mission Address: PO Box 1374
Kings Mountain, North Carolina 28086
Office: (704) 730-1440
Wireless (704) 974-6108
Dr. Ken Walters
Pastor Southside Baptist Church
Mailing Address: 1229 South Anderson Road
Rock Hill, SC 29730
Home Phone: (803) 324-9905
Church Phone: (803) 324-0627
Dr. Walters has some of the best missions conferences anywhere around. He has traveled to other countries and taught national leaders. He has taught at Ambassador Baptist College where he is on the board. He is also the Vice-President and an executive board member of Silent Word Ministries International. He is a member of the Board of Advisors of the Global Independent Baptist Fellowship. Dr. Walters can speak and also give much wise advice as to how to put together a missions conference.
BIMI Representative for Brazil
Mailing Address: 8 Eastcliffe Way
Greenville, South Carolina 29611
Office Phone: (864) 294-8369
Cell Phone: (864) 918-6710
International Missions Director for SWMI
Mailing Address: 330 Poplar Ave.
Trenton, Georgia 30752
Home Phone: (706) 657-8002
Cell Phone: (423) 322-7995
Office Phone: (706) 657-8000