– By MADELINE SCHINDLER, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tamarkus Cook, pastor of St. Smyrna Baptist Church in Newnan, had the unique opportunity to speak at the National Baptist Convention of America.
The first of the two annual meetings was held June 26-28 in Kansas City, Mo. at the Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center. Cook described this as the smaller of the two conventions. The next one, scheduled to meet in October, will focus on topics that affect every church.
According to Cook, there were more than 5,000 people in attendance at last month’s convention. The meeting, Congress of Christian Education & Discipleship/Youth & Children’s Convention, focused on encouraging youth in the church.
Speakers at the convention discussed youth programs as well as safety precautions, such as background checks for educators and appropriately securing church buildings for such programs.
“It was very informative and refreshing to see what other churches from around the nation are doing to engage their youth,” said Cook. “(St. Smyrna) is fairly new to the convention. We are still learning and finding our place, but it’s been a beautiful experience thus far.”
A church service was held each morning at 9 a.m. during the meetings. Cook was given the opportunity to speak on the last day of the convention.
“I was very fortunate to be able to preach at the morning service,” expressed Cook.
Cook’s sermon, “Fishing Without a Rod,” was derived from John 6:5-13, the story of “the two fish and five loaves of bread.”
During his sermon, Cook spoke about the situations in life that often present failure. The message was also about encouragement, especially for those questioning their faith.
“Whether blessed or broken, we encourage the children to stay in God’s hands,” said Cook. “In life, people want to be blessed, but not many are willing to be broken. Often there is a unique blessing that accompanies being broken.”
Cooks intends to incorporate things he learned from meetings at NBCA into St. Smyrna’s activities. He said his biggest takeaway from the convention is that “the church still has more work to do.”
“We have to be more willing to meet youth where they are, rather than asking them to meet us where we are,” said Cook. “We need to make decisions alongside of youth rather than making the decisions for them.”
Cook said he looks forward to representing St. Smyrna at future NBCA meetings.