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600 at Black Leadership Week set sights on Acts 1:8 Challenge

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–The future of the church is outside its walls, speakers at the 13th annual Black Leadership Week said.

Roosevelt Broach, director of church planting and development for the Dallas Baptist Association, spoke about Kingdom growth, with an emphasis on reaching people where they are rather than getting them into churches to hear a sermon.

Broach suggested calling the people of the church “missionaries” rather than “members,” so they would better understand their purpose.

“Baptism is addition and immediate gratification; discipleship is multiplication and delayed gratification,” Broach said. “The first Reformation was about freeing the church. The new reformation is about freeing people from the church, the institution.”

These and similar statements by other speakers focused participants’ attention on Jesus’ last words to His disciples — to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the world, which Southern Baptist leaders have begun to call the “Acts 1:8 Challenge.”

Even Jesus’ disciples “couldn’t get outside the box of focusing on their own community,” said Dennis Mitchell, director of the strategic readiness team at the North American Mission Board. “They couldn’t break the chains that bound them to their own personal interest.

“God’s vision is wider and grander,” Mitchell continued during one of the afternoon doctrinal sessions on the Acts 1:8 Challenge. “I’m convinced that God’s agenda and the agenda of many of our churches is not the same.”

Nearly 600 pastors and church leaders from 31 states and the Virgin Islands gathered for the July 18-22 sessions at LifeWay Glorieta Conference Center near Santa Fe, N.M., conference, sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources.

Unique among many of the conferences hosted by LifeWay throughout the year –- both at Glorieta and LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina — Black Leadership Week showcases all of the SBC’s entities.

“We try to make this a week where we all work together,” said Elgia (Jay) Wells, conference director and pastoral ministry specialist at LifeWay in Nashville, Tenn. “The focus is on equipping and strengthening leadership in our churches, and people are better served because they can see us as one team supporting them. We want them to see they’ve got this big support system.”

Programming for the conference included highlights of Sunday School, discipleship training, missions in North America and around the world, evangelism, church starting, church strengthening, church finances, prayer and women’s ministry.

Robert Anderson, pastor of Colonial Heights Baptist Church in Randallstown, Md., used a morning Bible study on Nehemiah to challenge conference attendees to transform their communities.

“In order to rebuild the city, we need people,” Anderson said. “People need to move back to the city … get involved in the school system, urban planning, city renewal. As the city prospers, we prosper.”

“If we’re unwilling to change as the world is changing -– if we’re not willing to meet that change –- we’ll become ineffective,” said Leroy Gainey, professor of Christian education at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif., and pastor of First Baptist Church in Vacaville, Calif. “Biblical principles and Kingdom results don’t change, but what does change is church culture.”

Neighborhoods and communities have changed — so must churches that want to reach out, Gainey said, adding a warning: “You can lead in the wrong direction and be big. Big may not be best. Getting more [people] to the building is OK, but getting people to scatter is more effective.”