SBC of Virginia Young Pastors Summit

Adam Blosser and I were able to attend the Young Pastors Summit today at the SBC of Virginia office near Richmond, Virginia. I’ve attended this meeting every year since 2014.

The fellowship and networking is always refreshing. SBC of Virginia leadership does a good job of a putting together a quality program too. I know we had Tom Elliff a few years ago. Kevin Ezell joined us by video conference one year. This year Clyde Meador of the IMB was with us and Thom Rainer spoke by video conference as well.

The Young Pastors Summit is a helpful event that affords pastors the opportunity to gain wisdom and network with seasoned practitioners who desire to invest in the next generation of healthy pastors. There are few environments that presents a similar opportunity of invaluable leadership development.

– K.J. Washington, Church Planting Apprentice, Village Church at Chester, Chester, VA

Pastors Doug Echols (Bethel Baptist), Alan McFarland (Calvary Evangelical Baptist), and Matt Wilmington (Thomas Road Baptist) featured on panel discussion during lunch

It’s great to get to hear from and interact with guys who serve in different contexts or various size churches but who are thinking through some of the same issues or dealing with similar struggles in ministry.

–Ryan Brice, Lead Pastor, Nansemond River Baptist, Suffolk, VA

I love participating in these kinds of events and love hearing about them happening in other states and contexts. I know I’ve heard about, for example, that a young pastors network in North Carolina and I know examples could be multiplied (feel free to do so in the comments).

Let me encourage you to find opportunities like these for fellowship and encouragement, personal and spiritual growth. Seek them out and participate. For me it’s a two hour drive from Virginia Beach to Richmond so it takes me blocking out basically the whole day on the calendar, but it’s worth the time and God can really use the mutual encouragement that takes place at events like this.

Power of God – Resource for Sanctity of Human Life Sunday (1/20/19)

As we prepare for Sanctity of Human Life Sunday coming up in just a few weeks, I encourage you to make sure you’re incorporating that emphasis in your church’s worship service.

Here’s one resource I wanted to make you aware of. It’s a spoken word piece by a good friend, Nigel “Legin” Anderson. Legin is a Gospel rapper and record producer here in the Norfolk/Virginia Beach area. This spoken word, called “Power of God,” mentions various aspects of life’s brokenness and a specifically strong stance on abortion, and then heavily highlights the hope of the gospel to make all things whole.

Legin has offered the video for churches to show on January 20 for Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. Enjoy the video and consider if your church would benefit from seeing it in a few weeks.

You can find more of Legin’s music, podcasts, and ministry at rmmusic.tv/legin and linktr.ee/legintv. If you’d like to use Power of God for Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, you can download the file here (1080p, 1.09GB).

 

Related:
For Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, our ERLC has downloadable bulletin inserts available in addition to the Evangelicals for Life conference from January 16-18.

NAAF President Dr. Marshal L. Ausberry, Sr. Responds to SBTS Report on Slavery & Racism

As President of the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention, I commend Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Mohler’s commissioning the study and releasing the internal report on the history of slavery and racism at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is clear leadership akin to the men of Issachar. (1 Chronicles 12:32 (ESV) 32 Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do…) Dr. Mohler clearly understands the times and knows what to do!

I am sure that Dr. Mohler understands that he will face backlash in some corners. A leader does not stick his finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing to make a decision. Instead, a true leader makes a decision knowing the right thing to do and does it!

The reporting of the study should not surprise anyone! The history is the history! The Mother seminary of the SBC marches in lockstep with the SBC. The history shows that the Seminary as an institution reflected the political and social culture of its time. It is perplexing how otherwise godly men could miss the mark so badly. But, when culture and politics have such an unmerited influence, the reaping is the result of what has been sewn. Southern Seminary is not by herself, many institutions of that era were swimming in the same river of prejudice, racism, and elitism cloaked in the sheets of the idea of manifest destiny.

My hope is that the release of the report will not cause dissension or divisiveness. I hope that the report will facilitate healing and a sober recognition of how far we have come as a people. While we still have ways to go, we truly have come a mighty long way! We needed this history to be documented, as stinging and troubling as it is, because as someone has said, “If we do not know our history, we are apt to repeat it!”

For Southern Baptists, we embrace the message of reconciliation. When we are wrong we don’t hide it, we admit it, and move not to repeat the past, but to make a better future! We must learn from the past. As brothers and sisters of every hue, we can be reconciled to one another because of Jesus Christ!

Jesus Christ is our great reconciler. We reconcile to each other because that is the picture of Christ reconciling a sinful world to Himself. Southern Baptists have a golden opportunity to show the world how we can make peace with our past, and truly love one another, because the love of Jesus Christ binds us together. The history of the Seminary is like an antibiotic and a vaccine. As an antibiotic it kills the lingering infection of racism and as a vaccine kills a recurrence of the disease!

We have the advantage of history because we can look back and wonder, “How did those otherwise godly men miss the mark so badly?” When we allow the culture and politics to become idols, we always miss the true interpretation of the Word of God!

Again, I commend Dr. Mohler for commissioning and releasing the report on the history of slavery and racism at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I pray that it will be used for the betterment of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Dr. Marshal L. Asbury, Sr.
President, National African American Fellowship, SBC
December 15, 2018

The Missing Emphasis in SBC Life: Local Associations

Throughout the vast majority of my pastoral ministry, if I were to think about SBC life, I would first think about the local church and then the national entities. I’d think about the Annual Meeting, the notable pastors, the entity heads, denominational strategies, the Cooperative Program, Lottie, Annie, and all of this work that we do together. I’d consider the state conventions too, especially my own, and then I’d think about my local association, primarily quarterly when we’d have our executive meeting, which was always over lunch. I participated, but I didn’t put a huge amount of effort into it. When I thought about the SBC I thought small (local church) and big (national entity) and not too much in between.

State Conventions have gotten a lot of attention over the past decade since the Great Commission Resurgence called for more Cooperative Program money to go the national entities like the IMB, NAMB, and our seminaries to train future pastors and leaders. So, many state conventions down-sized. That is good and I supported that, but I also support state conventions and think that they often do great work. I think there should be a middle ground there. Through Disaster Relief, church planting, children’s homes, colleges, and all kinds of other ministries, our state conventions play a prominent role in SBC life.

With 5 entity head positions open and SBC President JD Greear rightly calling for a day of prayer and fasting on Monday, October 8th for these search committees, we are also right to be paying attention to what is happening at top level leadership in the SBC. It is really important and I don’t want to take anything away from that.

But, with all that said and with a need before us of church planting, church revitalization, church health, discipleship, evangelism, local missions strategy, cooperation, and so much more that the local church cannot do by itself, have we missed the greatest tool before us that Baptists have devised to accomplish these things? Historically, before we ever had national entities or state conventions, we had local Baptist associations. Beyond the local church itself, the association is the fundamental organizational grouping of cooperative Baptist life. Yet, we often neglect it.

Do you ever hear a young minister aspiring to be a Director of Missions? Perhaps, but often not. If you step back from it, it seems like it would be an incredible job – to direct missional effectiveness for a network of churches across a region. The Montgomery (AL) Baptist Association where I live and serve has an incredible DOM in Neal Hughes. He is a former Montgomery pastor and NAMB VP who came back to Montgomery to lead our association in planting churches, reaching the lost, being healthy, making disciples, and addressing areas of great need and division in our city with a gospel witness. He is doing a great job and lives and works as a local missionary every day. If every association had a Neal Hughes as DOM, the SBC would be in a very different position, I think. (As a disclaimer, I’m on staff with Neal as a Missional Strategist for the MBA, so he’s my boss, but I’d say this even if he wasn’t.)

The truth is, though, I’ve met quite a few DOMs who share Neal’s heart for evangelism, church planting, church health, church revitalization, and global missions. I’ve met DOMs across the South who are really laying their lives down to do great Kingdom work. But, I’ve also met a lot of pastors who tell me that their association is basically not functioning. I’ve met DOMs who are past what we would consider retirement age, and while their hearts are good and their love for the Lord is genuine, their energy is declining. They need help, encouragement, and support. They can’t do all that is required by themselves and they need people to hold up their arms. And, unfortunately, there are other associations where there is division, lack of vision, and no energy at all. It becomes a monthly minister’s lunch with whoever shows up. That is a shame.

What if we refocused our energy, effort, resources, and some of our most gifted leaders on local association leadership? The Bible Belt is rapidly dissipating and the South has become a mission field. Did you know that the South grew by 21 million people between 2000 and 2015? At the same time, between 2000 and 2017, Southern Baptists have lost 1 million people. We are going backwards while our primary region is exploding in growth. The South is by far the largest region of the country and would encompass the 12th largest nation in the world and the world’s 3rd largest economy by itself. And, immigrants from all over the world have flocked to the South over the past two decades.

Almost half of all first generation immigrant growth in the United States the past 2 decades occurred in the US South, where we have the vast majority of SBC churches. While there has been significant reaction against that politically and culturally, have we considered that God might sovereignly be at work here? In Montgomery, for example, the IMB visited us a few years back and told us that we had an Unreached, Unengaged People Group (UUPG) living in Central Alabama – the Mixtec People from Southern Mexico. They came to us by the thousands over the past 20-30 years. The Montgomery Baptist Association adopted that people group missionally (I have been closely involved in this work over the past 4 years) and we have now planted a Mixtec church in our city with a pastor, baptisms, new believers, and disciples being made. The IMB no longer calls the Mixtec “unengaged,” in part, because of the work our local association is doing.

In the midst of this incredible era of opportunity, how much more could local associations LEAD out in church planting, missional strategy, engaging immigrant and refugee people groups with the gospel, love, and good deeds, and in church revitalization? While I’m happy for the work our national entities and state conventions do, it is sometimes easy to fly at the 30,000 foot level. But, we already have local associations all over the country who are doing great work on the ground and could be doing so much more if they had the resources and focus that some of our other levels of cooperation have had. And, we have many associations that desperately need to be revived and refocused.

Could it be that associational cooperation on the local level is the missing emphasis that could help revitalize older churches, reach the lost (including immigrant groups), develop new leadership, be the ground floor for racial reconciliation, plant new churches, and be a spring board to reach the nations in North America and around the world? There is always competition for dollars and when you have state conventions and national entities constantly needing funds, I know it is hard to stretch offerings. But, what if we saw a strong association as the FIRST thing that our local church focused on instead of what is often an afterthought?

At the MBA we always talk about “doing more with less.” There is no area of SBC life that I’ve seen a dollar go further than in the incredible work of the Montgomery Baptist Association. I know that this is the case elsewhere as well. As both a pastor for many years and now a staff member at our association, I’ve seen it from both sides. And, while I know that associations across the SBC are not all that they should be, what if they were strengthened and became local missions agencies with the purpose of helping the local church reach their region for Christ?

What are some of your ideas? I’d love to see the mission work and church strengthening of the local association grow into one of the strongest aspects of SBC life. How much healthier would we be if this focus was strengthened? How much more leadership could be developed? How could we better reach areas that still have strong churches but are quickly seeing the overall churched population dwindle?

I think there is a lot of good work being done here and a lot of potential for even more. I’ve talked with others about this who agree. I’d love to see a renewal of strong associational life in the SBC that helps bring local churches together to reach their region and grow stronger together. It can be done. What is stopping us?