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6/13/97 Pastor named to open channels for churches to do missions

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–A pastor from a key church in Virginia has assumed a new position at the Southern Baptist International Mission Board to further open channels for churches to become involved in overseas work.
Al Gilbert, senior pastor for nine years of Liberty Baptist Church, Hampton, Va., has been named director of missions mobilization in the IMB’s office of public relations and development. In his new position he joins a team that relates the work of the IMB to churches throughout the Southern Baptist Convention.
Gilbert has led Liberty in extensive participation in overseas missions through the IMB. Not only is Liberty among the top 50 churches nationwide in giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions, but its members have worked on the field with IMB missionaries in volunteer projects ranging from pastor-training exercises to constructing churches.
“It’s no surprise to our people (at Liberty) that I made this move, because we’ve been a missions-minded church,” said Gilbert. The church stood to affirm him when he announced he was leaving to come to the board and even scheduled a worship service to “commission” him to leave the local church ministry and participate in international missions, he said.
“I want to say to churches, ‘Here’s a guy who understands pastors and knows how to help churches get involved in missions,'” Gilbert said. “I have the heart of a pastor and the love for the local church, but God has turned my heart to see what he is doing among the peoples of the world.
“My longing is to help churches see how they can be on mission with God and be a part of the life of missionaries … .”
In recent years, especially since Jerry Rankin became president, the board has looked for creative ways to expand direct access by churches to the international missions program. Gilbert hopes to continue to establish such channels of participation for the many churches that have not yet discovered how they can be a part of IMB efforts, he said.
Gilbert graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas, and Georgia College in Milledgeville. He is married to former IMB trustee Karen Gilbert.