RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP) — Through a new initiative of the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention, consultants are available to help state conventions train church staff in discipleship, evangelism, missions and community ministries.
NAAF’s African American Ministry Assist Team (AAMAT) is designed to fill Southern Baptist resource gaps that NAAF said are widening for the nearly 4,000 African American churches in the SBC.
AAMAT will fill a critical need for both churches and state conventions, said NAAF President Marshal Ausberry Sr., pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Fairfax, Va.
“We just can’t keep walking on by as we see our brothers and sisters in need,” Ausberry said. “The overall goal is not only to stand in the gap, but to fill the gap by providing trained volunteer ministry consultants who will provide technical assistance to the local church.”
AAMAT consists of an initial group of 13 specialists aiding Southern Baptist state conventions in California, Georgia and Florida. State denominational leaders in Louisiana, Ohio and Oklahoma have expressed interest in the program designed for national implementation, NAAF leaders said.
Ausberry described AAMAT as a financial benefit to both churches and conventions, and said the initiative increases the conventions’ benefit to churches.
“State conventions in effect add church consulting resourcing personnel with a minimum financial investment. That’s just good management by the state conventions,” Ausberry said. “It also sends the message to the churches that their state conventions are proactive in providing high quality ministry consulting services from experienced practitioners — a tremendous benefit for being part of a local state convention.”
AAMAT, initiated in 2017 under the term of former NAAF president Byron Day, trained its first class of consultants July 16-20 during the 2018 Black Church Leadership and Family Conference at Ridgecrest, N.C. Initial participants are ministry specialists in states where conventions have expressed an interest.
“The ultimate goal is to establish a ministry assist team in every state where we have an existing African American fellowship,” said AAMAT project development team leader Eugene McCormick, pastor of Christian education at Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla.
Bill Agee, executive director of the California Southern Baptist Convention utilizing AAMAT, was among AAMAT training session facilitators at Ridgecrest. He described AAMAT as “a great tool” in helping churches identify needs and receive specialized training in targeted areas of discipleship, evangelism, missions and church and community ministries.
“I think it will bring a unifying factor to our churches,” said Agee, noting the diversity among California’s family of churches. “I think for them to know that they’re important enough that there is an initiative for them says a lot. Sometimes churches feel like they’re left out, for some reason, and we want them to know that they’re important, and we want to help them in any way we can.”
AAMAT allows the California convention “to reach into another segment of our population [where] the churches are asking for help. Having people willing to do that is a big deal.”
Between September 2018 and April 2019, AAMAT will partner and work with two churches each in California, Florida and Georgia, McCormick said, deploying consulting teams to each state.
Other ethnic fellowships may also find the program model beneficial, NAAF Executive Director Dennis Mitchell told Baptist Press.
“Our whole vision is that we can take this blueprint and hand it off to every other ethnic group in this convention,” Mitchell said, noting that other ethnic fellowships can use the same model to reach needs among fellow congregations. “Now that’s Kingdom.”
AAMAT members presented at Ridgecrest are Chuan Anderson, minister of education, First Baptist Church of Palm Coast, Palm Coast, Fla.; Nadine Ansley, children’s ministry director, Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Fla.; Bryon Barmer, pastor, Bright Hope Community Church, La Mesa, Calif.; Phillip Brown Sr., pastor, New Directions Church, San Diego; Adrienne Clay, member, Mt. Zion Church of Ontario, Ontario, Calif.; Robert Daniels, member, Grace Bible Fellowship of Antioch, Antioch, Calif.; Jackie Henderson, member, Green Forest Community Baptist Church, Decatur, Ga.; Freddie Hinson Jr., pastor, New Hope Baptist Church, Hudson, Fla.; Kevin James, pastor, New Creation Bible Fellowship, Tracy, Calif.; Brian Johnson, deacon, Green Forest Community Baptist Church; Jesse Nelson, senior pastor, Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church, Panama City, Fla.; Letra Smith, evangelism and discipleship director, Elizabeth Baptist Church, Atlanta; and Jean Ward, pastor, East Atlanta Baptist Church, Atlanta.