HOUSTON (BP) — The National African American Fellowship named Elgia “Jay” Wells as executive director during its business meeting Monday (June 10), creating the paid position as one of several steps to make the group more responsive to its members.
NAAF President A.B. Vines announced the hiring of Wells in a package of initiatives, including planting 30 new churches next year, presenting two $5,000 college scholarships in partnership with LifeWay Christian Resources, and striving to initiate four regional conferences anchored by the annual LifeWay Black Church Week.
“I do believe with our new initiatives of planting churches, giving scholarships, regional conferences, it will show you that NAAF is worth supporting,” Vines said. “… We’re here to serve you, to make your church the best church God has called us to be.
“These initiatives were birthed out of a desire that NAAF would become a national force in our convention. Right now, we are one of the largest fellowships but we need to become more aggressive and more involved in more ways.”
Longtime denominational leader Wells, who retired in 2012 as LifeWay Christian Resources’ director of black church relations, pledged, “I will do all I can to assist you to become all that God would have us to be.”
Vines continued the theme of strengthening NAAF when he preached his annual sermon at the group’s banquet Monday night, also held at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston.
Vines took his message, “Let’s Finish the Wall,” from Nehemiah 6:15, using the prophet’s leadership in rebuilding Jerusalem’s wall as inspiration for NAAF and the Southern Baptist Convention to build a barrier against an expanding sin culture in America.
“So many times we’re so busy doing our own thing that we’re forgetting that across the street the walls are torn down and the gates are on fire,” Vines said in admonishing Christian leaders that they cannot sit idly by as America is being damaged by such issues as abortion, out-of-wedlock births and same-sex marriage.
Referencing Nehemiah’s prayer in Nehemiah 1:6, Vines said Christians must take responsibility for society’s deterioration.
“Nehemiah didn’t blame somebody else. Nehemiah didn’t blame the Congress. Nehemiah didn’t blame the president. Nehemiah didn’t blame the mayor. Nehemiah didn’t blame the school system. Nehemiah didn’t blame the police department,” Vines told a diverse audience of NAAF members, SBC entity leaders, denominational servants and their families. “Nehemiah said, ‘Lord, my father and I have sinned against You.’ It’s about time that we take direct responsibility that the walls are coming down and our gates are on fire. Nehemiah said, ‘I can’t blame nobody else…. I got to blame me.’
“We can’t blame nobody for our current state because, beloved, it happened on our watch,” Vines said. “On my watch homosexuality became the talk of the town. On my watch the family fell apart. On my watch abortion has happened.”
Help build this wall
Vines exhorted the group to stand together in fulfilling the Great Commission.
“We need everybody in the house to save America. We need the blacks, the whites, Asians, Koreans, we need everybody. Beloved, this is the time to show the world there’s a people of God that can break through race barriers, cultural barriers, economic barriers, demographic barriers,” Vines said. “Can we rise and build this wall?
“We can’t work unless we work together…. You need us. The world is turning urban more and more and you need us to define what’s going on in your own household. We no longer are just the cause. As quiet as it’s kept, we are the solution.”
Vines rallied those present to rise, grasp hands in symbolic fashion and commit to standing together to do the Lord’s work.
A proactive NAAF
At the NAAF business meeting preceding the banquet, Vines said NAAF’s new initiatives would require greater financial and physical participation of its members.
“It just can’t be Fred Luter. Fred Luter is one moment in time. Next year Fred leaves. After Fred leaves, after Dr. Luter leaves, what happens then?” Vines asked.
“If we don’t come together now, we’ll lose the momentum where God has put us at this moment. This is our time,” Vines said. “This is a sign of the times and we need you to help us serve and we can do great things in our convention.
To fund the executive director’s position, Vines encouraged at least 200 churches to give $400 a month to NAAF within the first year of Wells’ service.
NAAF has worked with LifeWay to establish two $5,000 scholarships to be given to male and female graduating high school seniors who are active members of churches using the YOU Sunday School curriculum, designed to reach urban audiences. The first scholarships will be presented at the 2014 Black Church Week in Ridgecrest, N.C.
NAAF is in dialogue with the North American Mission Board to establish a NAAF church planting network purposefully sensitive to the unique needs of African American church planters, Vines said.
In NAAF’s fourth initiative, the group’s regional directors are working to establish regional conferences to allow NAAF pastors and African American SBC members easier access to the type of information disseminated at Black Church Week.
NAAF approved current officers for second terms. In addition to Vines as president, they are vice president K. Marshall Williams, pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia; treasurer Mark A. Croston Sr., pastor of East End Baptist Church in Norfolk, Va.; secretary Byron Day, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Laurel, Md.; parliamentarian Frank I. Williams, assistant pastor of Bronx Baptist Church in New York; and historian Robert Wilson, associate pastor, Elizabeth Baptist Church in Atlanta.
Don Conley, pastor of Encanto Southern Baptist Church in San Diego, was chosen to represent NAAF’s western region, vacant the past year.
Returning regional directors are Brian King, East, senior pastor of Ezekiel Baptist Church in Philadelphia; Roscoe Belton, Midwest, senior pastor of Middlebelt Baptist Church in Inkster, Mich.; and Garland Moore, Mountain, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Milan, N.M.
Annual worship service
Terry Turner, president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and leader of the SBTC African American Fellowship, preached the annual NAAF worship service sermon Sunday, June 9, at Fallbrook Church in Houston.
Turner is pastor of Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church in Mesquite, Texas and a trustee of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Brea, Calif. Michael Pender was the host pastor.
Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ staff writer. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).