PHOENIX (BP) — The 4,000-church strong National African American Fellowship (NAAF) announced new partnership initiatives at its June 12 business meeting to increase black church participation and leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention.
Partnership initiatives with Southern Baptist mission boards, intended to strengthen churches while advancing the Great Commission, are at various stages of development, NAAF Executive Director Dennis Mitchell said during his annual report. Initiatives with non-SBC but like-minded ministries valuable in the African American community are also underway, Mitchell said.
“Critical to NAAF’s success in delivering value to our partners is our ability to help our partners access needed mission and ministry resources,” Mitchell said of the 4,000 churches it represents. “Accordingly, NAAF has been actively initiating missions and ministry partnerships both within and outside the SBC.”
Through a new African American Leadership Development Pipeline in partnership with the North American Mission Board, NAAF has identified 20 African American leaders under the age of 40 to mentor for SBC participation.
“Most major cities have a process of identifying individuals who have high upsides, bringing them in, exposing them to the inner workings of city government, networking them, really fast-tracking them to prepare them for future leadership in the city,” Mitchell said. “That’s exactly what we’re doing with the North American Mission Board.”
In partnership with both NAMB and the International Mission Board, NAAF is developing the “contextualized and comprehensive” Great Commission Mission Strategy, Mitchell said, tailored to the unique needs of membership churches. NAAF will preview a pilot of the program with six churches at LifeWay Christian Resources’ 2017 Black Church Leadership and Family Conference July 17–21.
“In the black church, we’ve got so many things we’re doing [that] we need to have a kind of simple approach, a comprehensive missions strategy,” Mitchell said. “We don’t separate work with IMB and work with NAMB; missions is missions.”
NAAF, in concert with leaders of various SBC Executive Committee ethnic advisory councils, is meeting with SBC entity leaders and encouraging accountability in achieving greater ethnic diversity in Southern Baptist life. Messengers adopted the goal in 2011 in response to the Executive Committee’s two-year study, “A Review of Ethnic Church and Ethnic Church Leader Participation in SBC Life.”
“We have visited most of the presidents of the SBC entities,” Mitchell said. “The idea is we are partners. … We’re coming to see how we can help you be more effective in doing what you have gone on record of saying you want to do.”
Among NAAF initiatives with non-SBC entities is an outreach with World Vision to support clean water projects in developing countries, and efforts to develop a partnership with Prison Fellowship, Mitchell said.
NAAF annual banquet
At NAAF’s annual banquet on Monday (June 12), Byron Day delivered his NAAF presidential address, encouraging pastors to seek the Lords’ help in overcoming obstacles to spreading the Gospel abroad.
Day, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Laurel, Md., focused on King Jehoshaphat’s prayer before battle against three enemies of the Israelites in II Chronicles 20:1-15 in his address “The Battle is Not Yours.”
“When you make up your mind to really believe God and walk on some water, if you will, that’s when Satan comes,” Day said. “Anytime you try to do anything for Christ, you’d better expect a Satanic attack.”
Three nations came against the Israelites after Jehoshaphat instituted reforms, Day said. Not only that, but Israel’s enemies included their own cousins, the Ammonites and Moabites, descendants of Lot’s incestuous relationship with his daughters.
“Jehoshaphat looks at his army and he says, ‘We can’t take these guys. What in the world are we going to do?” Day said. “Even your family will come and say, ‘You can’t do that.’ But you’ve got to tell them, ‘Wait a minute. I can’t do it, but I know somebody, named Jesus, Who can overcome anything and everything. Nothing’s too big, and nothing’s too hard, and nothing’s impossible for Him.”
Day encouraged pastors to seek God’s guidance, just as Jehoshaphat led the Israelites in prayer and fasting, before going into battle against such enemies as the world, the flesh and Satan.
Jehoshaphat sought God’s face and led the Israelites in consecration and sanctification. He prayed “for such a time as this,” Day said, echoing the SBC annual meeting theme. After praying, Jehoshaphat patiently waited on God, his source of power, before entering battle.
“We have to pray in faith. You’ve got to know that you’re a child of the King,” Day said. “Not only pray in faith, but you’ve got to pray in humility.”
He likened pastors to gadgets that run low on power, but are rechargeable.
“I found out if I plug into the power source, I’m all of a sudden recharged, revived and reinvigorated, and all of a sudden have the power to do great things for the Kingdom of God,” Day said. “Saints, perhaps you feel like you’ve been knocked down, that you’ve been knocked down and stepped on, but you’re never knocked out. Understand that the battle is not yours, it’s God’s.”
Several SBC entity leaders greeted pastors at the banquet, including Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore, GuideStone Christian Resources President O.S. Hawkins, North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell, and Mark Croston, LifeWay Christian Resources national director of black church partnerships. Frank S. Page, SBC Executive Committee president and CEO, and Ken Weathersby, SBC Executive Committee vice president for convention advancement, also greeted banquet attendees.
In other business, NAAF reelected its current slate of officers. In addition to Day, they include vice president Marshall Ausberry, pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Fairfax Station, Va.; secretary Bucas Sterling III, pastor of Kettering Baptist Church in Upper Marlboro, Md.; treasurer Frank Williams, pastor of Wake-Eden Community Baptist Church and Bronx Baptist Church in the Bronx, N.Y.; parliamentarian Erik Cummings, pastor of New Light Baptist Church in Miami, and historian Robert Wilson, pastor of Light of the World Baptist Church in Atlanta.
Also returning are eastern regional director Brian King Sr., pastor of Ezekiel Baptist Church in Philadelphia; central regional director Jeffery Friend, pastor of Suburban Baptist Church in New Orleans, and mountain regional director Garland Moore, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Milan, N.M. Kevin James, pastor of New Creation Bible Fellowship in Tracy, Calif., was elected western regional director, the only change in leadership. A.B. Vines, pastor of New Seasons Baptist Church in Spring Valley, Calif., previously served.
Dennis Dunn, senior pastor of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Albuquerque, N. M., delivered the business meeting’s devotional message.