By Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS communications
NEW ORLEANS (NOBTS) – The voices of 1200 women from 15 states and 250 churches—a sold-out crowd—filled the chapel at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary as they gathered to praise, learn, and fellowship at the Abide Women’s Conference, Feb. 3-4.
Kelly Minter, Lifeway author, Bible teacher, and podcaster, headlined the third annual event that came days before the launch of her latest book, the 90-day devotional “The Blessed Life.”
“It has been our prayer that God would ignite a passion in the hearts of all that came for His glory,” said Tara Dew, wife of President Jamie Dew and one of three plenary speakers. “Whether in our homes, workplaces, neighborhoods, or among the nations, God wants to use His children as missionaries so that all may know Him.”
“Women Living Missionally” was the conference theme. Co-sponsoring aspects of the event with NOBTS and Leavell College were the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board. The partnering entities provided exhibits, door prizes, swag items and other gifts.
Other partners and exhibitors included: Lifeway; WorldCrafts, the compassion ministry of the National WMU; the Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions; the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board WMU; and the Women’s Missions and Ministry team of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.
Among the ten breakout session leaders were Sarah Farley-Beall, IMB’s Southeast/Gulf Coast Regional Mobilizer Next Gen Strategist on the Student Team, and Kay Bennett, Send Relief Missionary and Executive Director of the Baptist Friendship House (BFH), in New Orleans.
“We are grateful for the partnerships of other entities and state conventions in this great event,” said Jamie Dew, president. “It is exciting to be a part of a conference that is encouraging and equipping women to be all God has called them to be.”
Worship was led by NOBTS assistant professor of music and worship Nate Jernigan with guest vocalist Jaleesa McCreary, worship leader and worship team manager at The Austin Stone Community Church, Austin, Texas.
JESUS’ TOUCH CHANGES EVERYTHING
Kelly Minter pointed to the literary device “inclusio” found in Matthew 4:34 and 9:35 that “bookends” the Sermon on the Mount and ten accounts of healings and miracles. The inclusio shows that Jesus lived out what he preached, Minter explained.
“(Matthew) is showing us on both sides—in-between those verses—what Jesus just told us,” Minter said. “Matthew showed us what Jesus taught, he showed us what Jesus did, he showed us how Jesus preached the good news.”
In Matthew 8 and 9, Jesus restored the “unclean” and marginalized in society, a reminder for what it means to live “missionally,” Minter said.
“Jesus’ touch makes clean the unclean,” Minter said.
In her Saturday morning plenary address, Minter drew from Matthew 6 to remind listeners that in order to reach “the last, the least, and the lost,” believers must treasure God’s kingdom over earthly possessions.
Minter urged listeners to remember that God will provide for their needs.
Minter told of her work with Justice and Mercy International in the Amazon jungles of Brazil and showed a video clip of a Brazilian family who recounted having no food in the house one Sunday morning. Rather than going out to find food, the husband insisted they go on to church, though hungry.
In the video, the husband grinned as he related that as they boated over the swollen, flooded river a three-pound fish jumped out of the water and into their boat. The fish was big enough to feed his family not only that Sunday, but for the whole week.
“To seek God’s kingdom is to know God’s provision,” Minter said. “It is to experience the provisions of God.
Stephanie Lyon, NOBTS Women’s Life Coordinator and a plenary speaker, challenged listeners to remember they are ambassadors for Christ in world of need.
“Why the theme ‘Women Living Missionally?’” Lyon posed to the crowd. “Because there is an urgency. There is epic lostness all around us, hopelessness all around us … But He is alive. He has risen from the dead.”
Lyon, wife of Larry Lyon, associate professor of ethics and vice president of business administration, reminded listeners that their lives were a testimony to the “power of His resurrection” and encouraged them to use every opportunity to reach out to others with the gospel.
“Many women are hungry to be used by God ‘as they go’ (Matthew 28:18-20) in their daily spheres of influence,” Lyon said reflecting back on the conference. “We are praying that our lights (Matthew 5) will shine more brightly in the spheres of influence of the 1200 women … and for God’s kingdom to be eternally impacted by our time in worship and fellowship together.”
WHAT IT TAKES TO CHANGE THE WORLD
Kay Bennett, in a breakout session, shared stories of BFH’s work among the unhoused population (homeless), people in poverty, and trafficked individuals.
One man who had lost his family in a house fire and was angry at God slowly came to faith as BFH workers loved him and walked beside him as God worked in his heart.
Bennett also told of a nightclub dancer who came to BFH for help and found new life. The woman asked to cut up her dancing clothes in front of her new friends, a moving moment Bennett described as depicting that “old things are passed away” and a new life had begun.
Bennett encouraged listeners to remember they can “meet a need, build a relationship, and change a life for Christ.” She added, “It takes all of us, with all our gifts, to change the world.”
Traveling the farthest to attend were Jennifer Miller and daughter Abby Shepherd from Hyrum, Utah. Miller said she “loved” hearing Tara Dew speak earlier at a Utah church, and wanted to come. “This was really good,” Miller added.
Abide is “rich” in worship experiences, Bible study, fellowship and fun, Dew said.
“This conference truly meets a need for women,” Dew said. “The women who come each year are hungry to know God and to be like Him. We count it such an honor to serve them, to encourage and equip them, and then to send them back out into their churches and communities.”
In the closing plenary Saturday afternoon, Dew challenged the women to consider a question.
“What if this is more than just a two-day conference? What if this is more than just a theme of ‘Women Living Missionally?’” Dew said. “What if God wants to transform our homes, our families, our neighborhoods, and our workplaces, and the nations through you? What if this weekend conference is the beginning of a missional movement?”
Dew urged listeners to leave the conference devoted to the task God called each to do.
“God wants to use you, His power is greater than your own, your King is coming back,” Dew said in her closing charge to listeners drawn from Acts 1:4-11. “Let’s get to work.”
“Women of Prayer” is the theme for next year’s Abide, Feb. 23-24, with plenary speakers Donna Gaines, Bible teacher and wife of Steve Gaines, senior pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church, Cordova, Tennessee; Andrea Lennon, Women’s Ministry Specialist for the Arkansas Baptist Convention; Heather Johnson, Bible teacher and wife of Dr. Mark Johnson, professor of pastoral ministries, and Tara Dew.